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Whiplash Claims And The Difficulties Of Setting A Time Threshold

Man in car holding neck in pain
16th September 2013

One of the recommendations that contained in the report published in the recent Transport Select Committee (TSC) consultation into whiplash injury was the call on the government to adopt a “minimum time threshold” and a requirement for diagnostic proof, as used in European countries, France and Sweden. 

While it is crucially important for specialist medical experience and knowledge to be exercised in each and every case to identify the overwhelming majority of genuine whiplash claims, nevertheless, the TSC report stated that, having listened and read wide-ranging medical and legal evidence, “ There is no generally accepted objective test for a whiplash injury.” 

Ongoing, intensive medical research continues to find that whiplash injury and its symptoms are not always immediately identifiable, nor quickly or easily resolved. A legitimate claim for whiplash can be ongoing, subject to prolonged medical assessment. As many as one in five can also continue to suffer symptoms of varying severity for more than a year.

Delayed reaction and further development...

While short-term pain may be the result of a minor injury to the muscles, it has often been found that long-term whiplash symptoms are caused by nerve or bone damage and associated injuries. Delayed reaction and further development of symptoms can often mean that many more individual vehicle drivers or their passengers who have been involved in a collision weeks or even months previously may not even know they are suffering from whiplash injury until symptoms, such as excessive tiredness, persist or further physical problems emerge. Medical studies have also found that claimants are highly likely to develop longstanding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while waiting for or even following a medical examination. 

The body’s reaction is not always immediate and whiplash symptoms may only appear days, weeks or even months after a car collision. Recovery from whiplash injury, post medical or physio treatment can take much longer for some victims. So while most victims return to normal health between 4 - 6 weeks, others could take up to 16 weeks.

Acute to Chronic whiplash...

Around 1 in five of car collision victims diagnosed with “Acute Whiplash”, such as neck pain, bruising or swelling, which tends to appear six to twelve hours after an accident, can eventually develop into the more seriously debilitating Chronic Whiplash involving pins-and-needles in arms and hands, tinnitus, lower back pain, fatigue and memory-loss. 

Previous studies have found that around  2 in 5 of all victims of whiplash never make themselves known, despite latent whiplash injuries able to be diagnosed and proven in 1 in 5 people up to a year or more following a collision.