“Whiplash” injuries are among the most commonly seen injuries in automobile accident and often are not apparent until several days after an accident. Although many of these injuries will respond favorably to a few weeks or months of physical therapy or chiropractic adjustments, there are times that whiplash injuries result in long periods of disability. All whiplash injuries should be taken seriously, and the expenses for the treatment of such injuries can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Q. What is a whiplash injury?
A: A whiplash injury is a form of spine injury that is almost always the result of a sudden application of force from behind, as in when a stationary automobile is struck from the rear. This results in the head and neck being first violently thrust backward and then forward. These sudden motions subject the neck muscles and the cervical vertebrae to stretching. As a result of this stretching, the neck muscles may become damaged to the pint that they are no longer able to maintain the vertebrae in their proper positions. This can lead to the vertebrae shifting position and compressing the nerves that exit the spinal cord and thus cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms such as muscle weakness, spasms, and pain.
Q: Are whiplash injuries serious?
A: Since a whiplash injury involves the vertebrae of the neck, the discs that cushion the vertebrae, and the nerves that exit the neck, these injuries can be very serious. It is not unusual for whiplash injuries to take months to heal and some injuries may eventually require spinal surgery years after the injury happened.
Q: If I have a car accident and get whiplash, can I sue?
A: The answer here would depend on the circumstances of the accident and who was found to be responsible for causing that accident.
Generally speaking, anyone injured in an accident has the right to sue the party that caused the accident. The person that caused the accident is responsible for any injuries or property damage that resulted from the accident. If you caused the accident you cannot sue because, in essence, you would be suing yourself. In most circumstances, if you were injured in an accident that you were found to have caused, your insurance company is responsible for the cost of treating your injuries. However, your insurance company’s responsibility exists only up to the amount that is specified in your policy.
Q: I wasn’t the cause of the accident. What should I do?
A: If you were injured in the accident, whether you were the cause of the accident or not, you should seek medical attention. If you initially declined to go to the hospital and symptoms occurred later, you should contact your primary care provider to arrange an office visit for treatment. In addition to protecting your health, getting medical attention creates a permanent “paper trail” of medical records that document the fact that you were injured.
Q: Can I just see a doctor or someone else for treatment of my whiplash without getting involved in a lawsuit?
A: Yes, that is certainly possible if that’s what you want to do. It isn’t a wise choice because many people aren’t aware of the possible long term effects of these injuries. If you deal with an insurance company on your own, you will be dealing with an organization that could care less about you and your injury. An insurance adjuster is only concerned with limiting the amount of money his employer will lose by paying your claims. Obviously, an insurance company will not be working for you not will they be looking out for your best interests.
Q: I received a whiplash injury in an auto accident. What should I do now?
A: Anyone involved in an auto accident which resulted in an injury, whiplash or otherwise, would be wise to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Personal injury attorneys are familiar with the problems that can arise after a whiplash injury and also know that these injuries can be very difficult to correctly diagnose and treat. An injury that may seem minor now can lead to health problems like arthritis, nerve root compression, muscle weakness, and limited range of motion years in the future.
A personal injury attorney can relieve you from the often time-consuming task of dealing with insurance companies as well as helping you coordinate your medical care among different providers. Above all else, a personal injury attorney will be representing your best interests.