Call me back

The most common whiplash myths debunked

Cartoon doctor showing x-ray
7th November 2014

Whiplash is the most common injury associated with car accidents, but the pain doesn’t stop with whiplash itself. It can lead to a number of other disorders that can cause a serious amount of pain and suffering for victims following a crash.

A lot has been said about the validity of whiplash claims over recent years, with many stating that the cost of compensation is placing a burden on the insurance industry and innocent drivers.

In this article we’ll separate fact from fiction to establish what whiplash is and how it can affect you long after you’re involved in an accident.

What is whiplash and how does it happen?

Whiplash is usually caused when a car is struck from behind. The impact of the crash violently hurls the car forwards, but while the car is quick to respond to the crash, there is a slight delay for the people in the vehicle, who are naturally flung forward a little later. The torso and shoulders accelerate forwards about 100 milliseconds after the car, but the head, due to its weight, lags behind and is then catapulted forwards. The crash can force the neck to move outside its usual range of movement, damaging ligaments, muscles and tendons.

Although it is less common, whiplash can also occur following side-on and head-on collisions, as the neck can still be forced to move in a way it is not used to. 

whiplash symptoms

Usually, when someone is suffering from whiplash they’re forced to endure serious neck pain and often find it difficult to move their neck as they normally would. There are a number of other disorders that are often associated with whiplash. These whiplash associated disorders can cause damage to other parts of the body; such as the spine, head, and in some instances, can even affect the patient’s mental health.

The effects of whiplash are not often felt straight away, and most victims are able to walk away from the crash without any immediate symptoms. But with symptoms beginning to show anywhere between the next few hours to days, the pain can soon become unbearable for some. 

How can whiplash affect you?

Whiplash can cause a range of problems for the victim, who may suffer from pain, stiffness and restricted movement in the neck and surrounding areas. Muscle spasms and pain in the shoulders or arms are other symptoms that can cause long term problems for sufferers.

In more severe cases, the injured person may have to endure nausea, lethargy, memory loss, concentration problems, tinnitus and depression. 

People with pre-existing neck or back pain are often at a greater risk of whiplash and chronic neck pain following a road traffic accident.

Anatomy of the neck

The muscles of the head and neck perform many important tasks, chewing, swallowing, speaking, facial expressions and eye movement. When any muscles or tendons are damaged in this area, there can be problems completing these tasks.

When your body is subjected to trauma, the neck is one of the most vulnerable areas. Not only can strain in this area affect the ability to conduct basic movements, but it can also impact the spine, another delicate aspect of the human body that controls a wide array of actions.

The spine extends from the base of the skull to the tailbone and is made up of bones, discs, muscles and ligaments. Around the neck area, the cervical spine supports the head while protecting the nerves and spinal cord from damage.

What can I do if I am suffering from whiplash?

If you are suffering from whiplash or a whiplash associated disorder following an accident that wasn’t your fault, then you may be entitled to compensation. Compensation won’t undo the problems, but it can offer a small comfort following an accident while helping to pay for treatment, transport and lost income if you’re out of work as a result of the crash.

whiplash no win no fee

If you were a driver rather than a passenger, you can make a claim against the insurance company of the driver responsible for the crash. If you were a passenger in a car involved, you will also claim against the insurance company of the person to blame, even if it means claiming against the driver of the car you were in.

How is whiplash treated?

In most cases, whiplash and similar neck injuries can be treated using painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication, doctors may advise their patient to exercise their neck to keep it active and speed up the healing process. Time off work may also be necessary until the injury has fully healed.

In some cases further treatment or physiotherapy may be required if the injury is severe, and if the problem is not resolved quickly and effectively, pain can be long-lasting and debilitating.

whiplash diagnoses

What is the claiming process?

If you think that you are suffering from whiplash following an accident that wasn’t you fault, it’s important to seek expert advice as soon as possible so that you can gain access to the compensation you deserve. If you haven’t already, it’s also best to see a medical professional, particularly if your symptoms are affecting your ability to work or carry on your everyday life as usual.

Claiming doesn’t have to be a struggle. When you first get in touch with a solicitor they’re likely to ask you a few simple questions about the accident or the injuries that you are experiencing. Your initial chat with the solicitor shouldn’t last too long, and so there’s no need to worry if you don’t have every detail at first. You’re not likely to be asked about the other people involved in the crash until a later stage in the process.

If your solicitor decides that you have a case for making a personal injury claim they can discuss your options with you to try to find a solution. Your solicitor or legal executive will work on your behalf to put together a series of evidence for the case. This may include witness statements, police records, photographs or details of your injuries from a medical professional. 

whiplash solicitors

Why is whiplash so controversial?

Whiplash is an injury that is often surrounded by controversy and judgement, predominantly due to the cost that insurance claims have on the economy. It’s estimated that there was around half a million whiplash claims made in 2012, costing insurers around £4,000 per payout, in compensation and legal fees. 

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) whiplash claims are costing the insurance industry more than £2 billion a year, and in an effort to lower this cost, they’re requesting that all low value claims are stopped in order to drive down the price of drivers’ premiums and tackle what is often wrongly referred to as ‘compensation culture’.

Whiplash claimants are occasionally painted as insurance cheats by the media and angry drivers faced with rising insurance costs, but whiplash is a serious injury that can have a long-lasting impact on the victim, sometimes preventing them from going to work and leading a normal life.

whiplash claims

According to one study quoted by the NHS, on average, it takes up to 32 days to recover, but a fifth of sufferers still have symptoms up to a year later. Additionally, the risk of depression, anxiety and stress increases for those who suffer from long term problems following a car accident.

Here at Your Legal Friend, we understand the importance of ensuring that all whiplash claims are factual, but we’re concerned that a change in the law or an end to small claims could discourage honest people from making a claim following an accident that wasn’t their fault. Innocent people suffering from injuries should be allowed easy access to the justice they deserve, without fear of being judged or criticised.

Whiplash and whiplash associated disorders can be seriously debilitating for patients. Without support, victims’ struggles can be made even worse, often leading to anxiety, depression and even loneliness. It’s important that sufferers are able to gain fast access to both medical and legal assistance in order to quickly overcome whiplash before problems escalate.

If you’ve been in a car accident and you’re experiencing any of the symptoms expressed in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of professional and friendly solicitors who can work with you to find a solution and win the compensation that you deserve.