Whiplash: A Common Car Accident Injury with Serious Consequences

Everyone knows that car accidents are potential risks which accompany every single trip. Car accidents can range in severity from simple fender benders to serious multi-car collisions; however, even the smallest of car accidents can cause medical injuries.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents and can cause debilitating symptoms that may severely impact someone's quality of life both in the short-term and for years to come. It is important that anyone who is involved in a car accident is educated on the circumstances surrounding whiplash and auto accidents. This knowledge may help to ensure that accident victims seek necessary treatment and rightful compensation for their injuries.

Understanding whiplash

Whiplash generally occurs when an abrupt change in speed of a motor vehicle impacts the physical position of the driver or passenger. Most commonly, whiplash occurs when a car comes to a sudden stop as it collides with another vehicle or object.

When the car comes to a stop and the body is strapped in place by the seatbelt, the head and neck will snap forwards and backward rapidly due to the conservation of momentum. The head will first continue to move forward, possibly striking the steering wheel or dashboard. The muscles in the neck will then recoil and possibly snap the head back against the headrest. This combination of movements severely strains the muscles and ligaments in the neck, contributing to the injury commonly known as whiplash.

Consequences of whiplash

Symptoms of whiplash will vary markedly depending on the severity of the injury. The most common symptoms are neck pain and headache due to the damage sustained by the ligaments and muscles in the neck. Unfortunately, these symptoms can last for weeks to months. If the whiplash is severe, the injury to the muscles and ligaments may run down the neck and into the back or shoulders. If these symptoms persist, they can result in trouble walking and carrying heavy objects. If the head struck the steering wheel or dashboard, people may notice irritation caused by bright lights or loud sounds. If any of these symptoms last for more than a day or two, they merit the attention of a trained medical professional.

The diagnosis of whiplash is largely a clinical diagnosis because there isn't any imaging technique that will firmly diagnose whiplash; however, this doesn't mean a physical exam and imaging won't be performed. The purpose of the physical exam and imaging scans is to make sure there aren't more severe injuries associated with the whiplash. If there is any head trauma or if there are tears in muscles or ligaments, these warrant emergent medical intervention.

The treatment of whiplash is largely based on controlling symptoms associated with the headaches and generalized inflammatory process. The recovery process will vary based on the severity of the injury but most people will recover in days to weeks. If the symptoms persist or cause severe, life altering changes in a person's quality of life, there may be grounds for legal recourse based on the circumstances of the accident and the expenses of the medical bills or lost income. It could be beneficial for people suffering from whiplash sustained in a car accident to speak with an attorney about the possibility of filing a legal claim.

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