How to Tell if You're Suffering From Whiplash After a Car Accident

Whiplash is a controversial injury.  Claims adjusters frequently argue that whiplash “isn’t real,” yet according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Americans file more car accident claims for whiplash than for any other type of crash injury.  Despite insurers’ stubborn claims to the contrary, whiplash is very real – not some imaginary condition – as numerous doctors, medical studies, and accident victims can tell you.  If you or one of your loved ones was recently in a car crash in the Oklahoma City area, you should contact the Oklahoma car accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook to learn about your legal options in a free consultation.  If you’re suffering from whiplash, the driver who hit you could be liable for compensating your medical bills and other expenses.

How is Whiplash (Cervical Sprain) Caused and Diagnosed?

The technical term for whiplash is a cervical strain or cervical sprain injury.  The word “cervical” refers to the neck, a strain injury is a stretched or torn muscle, and a sprain injury is a stretched or torn ligament.  (Ligaments are tough, stretchy bands of connective tissue that connect bones and assist with movement.)

Whiplash injuries, while common to all types of crashes, are especially likely to occur in a rear-end collision.  As the front vehicle’s occupants and impacted from the rear, the force of the striking vehicle causes a violent rocking motion of the neck.  This motion quickly pushes the neck’s muscles and ligaments past their physical limits, resulting in a whiplash injury.

Because it affects ligaments and muscle rather than bone, whiplash is categorized as a soft tissue injury.  Unlike bone fractures, which even an untrained eye can often spot with ease, soft tissue injuries don’t always appear clearly on medical images, including CT scans (computed tomography), MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging), and X-rays.  However, some injuries may be visible depending on their severity and the exact type of machine and procedure used to create the image.

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Additionally, there are other methods doctors can use to help diagnose a whiplash injury following a car accident.  For instance, your doctor will probably perform a physical exam to see how well you are able to move your neck and shoulders.  Your doctor may also perform physical tests to see if you have any loss of sensation or reduction in muscle strength.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash Neck Injuries?

The most obvious symptom of a whiplash injury is neck pain and loss of flexibility in the affected area, which may extend to your upper shoulders and lower back.  Your neck may also feel warm, stiff, and swollen to the touch.  However, there are also other symptoms which are easier to miss.

Other than neck pain, six warning signs you’re suffering from a whiplash injury include:

  • Blurred vision or other vision problems, which can also indicate a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Feeling tired or fatigued all the time, even after you’ve gotten a full night of sleep.
  • Headaches, which for most patients begin around the base of the skull.
  • Problems with short- or long-term memory, another possible warning sign of TBI.
  • Tinnitus, a condition where people hear ringing in their ears when in a silent environment. Some people hear buzzing, static, or other noises.
  • Vertigo, a sensation of spinning when the person is actually sitting down or standing still. Vertigo can be accompanied by dizziness or faintness.

When you’re in an emergency situation like a car accident, your body releases a flood of adrenaline, which temporarily blunts the perception of pain.  As a result, you might not feel any symptoms or discomfort right after an accident occurs.  However, once the flood of adrenaline begins to subside, you may start to feel intensifying pain and stiffness.  For some people, whiplash takes several hours to set in.  For others, it may take several days.

You should see a doctor immediately after being in an auto accident, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ve been seriously injured, so that he or she can promptly diagnose and begin treating any injuries that may have occurred.  Early medical intervention is key to minimizing the physical damage caused by whiplash (or, for that matter, any other injury).  As we wrote about in our article on the long-term effects of untreated whiplash, untreated neck sprains can lead to months or years of chronic pain for the victim.

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Contact Our Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyers

If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms described above, or if you’ve experienced any other type of pain or injury due to a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation depending on how and why the crash occurred.  Depending on the situation, compensation may be available for your income losses, pain and suffering, and various medical expenses, including ambulance rides, physical therapy, medical devices, hospitalization, and other costs.

If you haven’t already, you should make an appointment with your physician right away.  Then, call an Oklahoma City personal injury attorney of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation.  Feel free to call at any time, including late nights and weekends.  We are here around the clock to help Oklahoma accident victims get fair compensation for personal injury and property damage.