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What Should I Do if I Have Whiplash From a Car Accident?

July 26, 2021


While whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries, it is also often overlooked. Unlike bruises, cuts, and broken bones, signs of a soft tissue injury, like whiplash, are less obvious. All drivers should learn more about this painful condition, how it happens, and how it is treated to get the best care possible after a serious car accident.

Whiplash is a soft tissue injury that is caused by the sudden back-and-forth movement of the neck. The condition is named because the motion resembles the cracking of a whip. It is also referred to as a neck sprain or strain. Whiplash is common in car accidents because the jolt of one vehicle hitting another object causes the head and neck to snap backward and forward. Essentially, the neck stretches too far in one direction. That motion can damage the bones, disks, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and other tissues in the neck, which causes pain and discomfort.

It is important to mention that vehicles do not need to be traveling at a high rate of speed upon impact to cause an injury, like whiplash. Many car accident victims experience whiplash even in low-speed crashes. If one suspects they have whiplash, they should get immediate medical attention. It is also important to speak to a lawyer if the injury is severe.

What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

It is not uncommon for someone involved in a car accident to feel physically fine. Many car accidents injuries are not immediately obvious to the victim and to the medical team treating them in the immediate minutes and hours after the crash. Whiplash is a delayed onset injury.

It may take a few hours or even days to notice the signs and symptoms of whiplash, including:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headaches starting at the base of the skull
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Neck pain that worsens with movement
  • Shoulder pain and tenderness
  • Tingling and numbness in the arms

Some symptoms are rarer with whiplash but are still concerning, including blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and memory problems.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

Generally, doctors use physical assessments and imaging tests to diagnose whiplash. The doctor will ask the patient about their symptoms and if they flare up intermittently or seem more constant. During the physical exam, the patient will move their head, neck, and arms as the doctor evaluates their range of motion, tenderness, reflexes, and how movement causes or aggravates pain. The doctor may order imaging scans to rule out other conditions that may be causing the patient’s symptoms.

What are Possible Complications of Whiplash?

Most people with whiplash begin feeling better within a few weeks and do not suffer long-term complications. However, for others, pain, stiffness, and impaired mobility lasts for years, making it hard to go about their everyday activities, from getting dressed, driving, to caring for children and going to work.

Someone whose initial symptoms are fairly intense is more likely to suffer long-term chronic pain. This is also true for a person who has suffered whiplash before, had a pre-existing neck or back injury, or was moving at a high rate of speed when the car accident happened.

How is Whiplash Treated?

The goals of a whiplash treatment plan are to manage pain, improve range of motion in the neck, and allow the patient to resume normal activities. Listed below are some of the most common treatment methods for patients with whiplash.

  • Exercise to restore range of motion. Individuals with whiplash are likely to get an exercise plan from their doctor. A plan will include simple exercises, like tilting the head and bending the neck forward toward the chest to gently stretch the muscles and increase motion.
  • Pain management for whiplash. There are various pain management options for anyone suffering with neck pain and stiffness caused by whiplash. Over-the-counter medications and prescription pain relievers are among the most common medicines. Hot and cold therapy can help too, as well as alternative medicine therapies, like massage and acupuncture.
  • Physical therapy to rebuild strength. If home exercises and massage sessions are not enough to reduce stiffness and improve range of motion, the doctor may recommend physical therapy. The frequency and number of physical therapy sessions vary from person to person depending on the location and severity of symptoms.

When Should I See a Doctor After a Car Accident?

Even if an occupant in a car accident seems okay, it is always wise to get checked out by a doctor. Whiplash is one of the many injuries that tends to present itself hours or days after a crash. Early diagnosis for whiplash and other delayed onset injuries is often the key to preventing more serious complications down the road.

It is important to remember to carefully save and store any medical bills, records, and prescriptions. These documents are important evidence for anyone who decides to file a personal injury claim in the future.

Many accident victims hold off on getting the medical care they need because they are concerned about the bills. However, no one should forego treatment for car accident injuries due to cost. A car accident victim might be able to recover the costs of any losses sustained due to whiplash and other serious injuries.

How can a Lawyer Help Me if I Have Whiplash?

Whiplash is a legitimate medical condition, and it causes real symptoms that impact a person’s ability to work, socialize, and perform daily tasks. However, whiplash also tends to be viewed with a bit of skepticism by insurance companies. Insurance companies are more likely to dispute whiplash because it does not show up on imaging tests. That is where the representation of a lawyer is invaluable. When dealing with the insurance company, the lawyer builds a strong case to prove their client’s injuries, justify medical costs, and negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for a fair settlement.

If the case does not settle out of court, the injured party has the option to file a lawsuit. In Virginia, the plaintiff in a personal injury claim must show the following elements to prove their case against the defendant:

  • The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff.
  • The defendant breached that duty.
  • The plaintiff was injured.
  • The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Put these elements in the context of a distracted driving accident. Imagine the plaintiff is traveling and stops safely at a red light, but the driver behind them is looking down at their phone and hits their car. If that driver was traveling at a low speed, a soft tissue injury may result, such as whiplash. The plaintiff suffering from whiplash may be faced with appointments and bills for doctors and physical therapy.

In this scenario, the conditions seem to meet the threshold of a personal injury claim in Virginia. The at-fault driver had a duty to pay attention and drive safely to protect those around them. By driving while distracted, they breached that duty. As a result of the crash, the plaintiff suffered injuries. If all of these elements are present, the plaintiff might be able to receive compensation for their debilitating injuries and other losses.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Help Clients Suffering From Whiplash and Other Severe Injuries

It can be stressful and overwhelming to be faced with physical injuries and costly medical bills resulting from a collision, but an experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can help. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, our legal team understands the challenges that come with proving how whiplash and other invisible injuries have impacted your life. We will use every legal tool available to build a strong case. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910