Attorney or Paralegal?

Whiplash Injuries: Far More Serious Than Most People Think

A lot of people are afraid of being seen as greedy -- so they hesitate to head to an attorney's office when they've been in what they think is just a minor car accident. However, a lot of those people are suffering severe injuries to their necks, called whiplash.

Yes, whiplash. While insurance companies would like you to believe that whiplash is a minor injury and the favorite thing for someone to fake when they're not really injured, whiplash can actually be a serious condition. This is what you should know.

How Whiplash Happens

Whiplash usually occurs when you've been rear-ended by another vehicle. In particular, if your car is stopped and the other car plows into you, all of that force of motion has to go somewhere. Your upper body is held tight by the seat belts, but your neck and head are not. This causes a hyperextension of your neck followed by a hyperflex, both of which forcefully exceed the norm for your range of movement.

It isn't unusual for someone with a whiplash injury to have strained or pulled ligaments in their neck or even displaced vertebrae that can press on delicate nerve bundles leading down your shoulders and arms. Victims can also suffer from chronic headaches, jaw pain (especially if they clenched their teeth), and dizziness. It's important to realize that you can actually suffer severe whiplash injuries even if the car that hit you was only going 5 miles an hour.

How Whiplash Is Treated

Your insurance company would probably prefer that you treat your symptoms with ice and bed rest for a few days until the swelling goes down -- at which point they can pronounce you cured and settle your claim.

In reality, you should be treated by someone who has experience with whiplash injuries as rapidly as possible following the car accident. X-rays or an MRI may be necessary to rule out hairline fractures. A chiropractor is a good bet for treatment because he or she can assess the soft-tissue damage as well as feel for any displaced vertebrae or other bones.

Treatment is generally conservative -- but that means that it may take a long time to heal. It isn't unusual for whiplash injuries to take weeks or months to heal properly.

How Long-Term Damage Happens

Not getting treatment -- especially because you've been led to believe that whiplash is a minor or even made-up injury -- is the worst thing that you can do. Studies that followed whiplash victims indicate that 40% of those studied were still in pain 3 months after their accident. After a year, 50% were still experiencing neck pain. The rise in percentage between the two dates indicates that some people probably left treatment too soon and weren't really healed. Worse, 12% of those studied were actually unable to fully return to work because of their disabling pain.

If you've been injured in even a minor car accident and you have whiplash -- take it seriously. You have every reason to be concerned for your future health and no reason to let the insurance companies convince you to sign away your rights until you've spoken to an attorney, like one from Gregory R Heline & Associates Law Office.