Among the most common type of injuries sustained in automobile accidents is the whiplash injury, also called flexion-extension cervical or lumbar injuries. A whiplash injury is a stretching or a tearing of the tendons, muscles or ligaments in the neck or the back. This type of injury typically occurs in a rear-end collision in which the driver’s torso is forced forward while the neck moves violently backward and then forward in a whipping motion.
A whiplash injury might not immediately manifest symptoms. The victim will usually begin to show signs within a few hours after the accident, although it is not uncommon for injured parties to have their first symptoms a day or two later.
The initial treatment usually begins with simple pain medications and ice packs to the affected areas. Within 24 hours, the victim might experience neck and/or back stiffness and pain, headaches, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and fatigue.
Many whiplash injuries will heal within a few days or weeks, but the more severe injuries will include more serious symptoms such as jaw pain (also called tempormandibular joint syndrome), tingling or numbness in the extremities and radiating pain from the neck to the shoulder blades.
Studies have found that up to 50 percent of whiplash victims will have lingering effects for months after the accident. If the pain does not dissipate, the individuals often seek treatment from orthopedic physicians, physical therapists or chiropractors. Medical imaging such as X-rays or MRIs can reveal damage to joints, disks and ligaments in the neck and the back.
Complications from whiplash injuries can include dependency on pain medications, leading to abuse and possible organ damage. The victim can become depressed and frustrated if unable to return to normal daily and recreational activities or to work. Disability can result in serious financial problems.
Individuals who are injured in auto accidents are entitled to compensation for their injuries. Damages include past and future medical costs, lost earnings and benefits and loss of earning capacity if the victim is disabled. They can also include payment for pain and suffering, which can be demonstrated by the severity of the symptoms; objective signs of ligament, disk or muscle damage; and the effect on the victim’s quality of life.