Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from car accidents, it is also one of the most overlooked when considering the long-term implications of the physical damage sustained.
If you thought that whiplash was just a generic term for a little temporary neck pain, you are not alone. Sadly, a whiplash injury can be long-lasting and lead to a host of additional complications.
There are an estimated 1.2 million annual cases of whiplash in the United States. The majority of whiplash injuries stem from vehicle accidents.
If you or someone you love has experienced a whiplash injury due to someone else’s negligent behavior, you may wonder about your legal options. Knowing the potential long-term effects of whiplash may change how you view your recovery and the fairness of any potential settlement offers.
What Is a Whiplash Injury?
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck. In some cases, it may also be referred to as a neck sprain or strain. Under normal circumstances, the body is able to control movements of the neck and head, which allows muscles and ligaments to expand and contract within normal ranges.
Whiplash is a type of injury that occurs when the body is abruptly forced in one direction and the head and neck follow at a slower speed, causing a whipping motion. This motion places severe strain on the muscles and soft tissue supporting the neck as they stretch apart and snap back together without any control.
The snapping motion can damage important components of the neck and back, including ligaments, discs, cervical muscles, joints, and nerve roots.
Common Whiplash Symptoms
Everyone experiences whiplash a little differently depending on factors such as speed and angle of the collision, where they were facing, posture, and even the neck strength and size of each individual. The most common whiplash symptoms include:
- Neck pain,
- Ongoing headaches,
- Neck stiffness,
- Ringing in ears,
- Jaw pain,
- Myofascial injuries,
- Shoulder or back pain, and
- Paresthesia (an abnormal pricking or burning feeling)
These are just some of the physical indicators, but there can be other signs that are more difficult to correlate. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, some people with a whiplash injury may experience cognitive, somatic, or psychological conditions, such as memory loss, nervousness, irritability, concentration impairment, depression, or sleep disturbances.
How Is a Whiplash Injury Diagnosed?
Unfortunately, because of the wide range of symptoms and the fact that whiplash is a soft tissue injury, it cannot always be detected using medical imaging such as a CT scan or x-ray. It is not uncommon for a doctor to choose to order these diagnostic procedures to rule out other injuries.
Most doctors will evaluate the range of motion in your neck and arms, which is often significantly impeded. Other indicators of whiplash may include pain points throughout the body and reflexes. It is important to keep an accurate record of all doctor visits, diagnostics, treatments, and other medical expenses associated with your whiplash injury.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Whiplash?
Over the years, several studies have evaluated the long-term effects of whiplash, a number of which demonstrate that a significant number of people still feel the effects of whiplash one to two years after the accident occurred.
- A 2016 study found that five years after an accident resulting in whiplash, the injured victims had poorer quality of life than other accident victims with milder different injuries. The decreased quality of life was related to pain from whiplash.
- A 2022 review of existing research evaluated the prevalence of anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and post-traumatic stress at six and twelve months after the injury and found symptoms present at a rate of over 30%.
- One older study reported that 40% of participants experienced long-term effects of whiplash ten years after the accident that caused the injury. The most frequently reported symptoms included pins and needle sensations in limbs, headaches, and dizziness.
There are plenty of instances where whiplash symptoms subside in weeks or months, without complication, but it is important to recognize that each situation is unique.
Prognosis for Long-Term Effects of Whiplash
It is imperative that you are diagnosed by a medical professional and follow up on all recommended treatments. Your treating physician should be able to provide a reasonable prognosis as to your rate of recovery, the general progression of your ailment, and if it is likely that you will continue to experience pain from your whiplash injury.
In many cases, your whiplash attorney will seek the opinion of an expert to serve as meaningful testimony. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from whiplash fail to take the long-term implications into account when trying to understand the value of their legal claim, leaving them under-compensated in the long run.
How Long Do You Have to File a Claim for Whiplash
In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury claim. If the at-fault party is the government, you only have two years to file a claim. Failing to meet this deadline means that you will be barred from legal recovery.
In some cases, three years may seem like plenty of time, but it passes quickly. The sooner you can engage the help of experienced legal counsel, the better your chances will be of making a strong case with the availability of all relevant evidence.
When you have a serious injury, you need a law firm that is serious about getting you the compensation you deserve. The team at Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C., understands how difficult this time can be, and the physical pain only compounds the stress you may be under.