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What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

Always Seek Medical Advice about Whiplash Symptoms

If you experience any of the whiplash symptoms mentioned below, you should seek medical advice. The symptoms of whiplash are not exclusive to people injured in road traffic accidents. You may be experiencing similar symptoms if you have fallen, had something fall on your head, or been injured in a sporting activity. Children who have been shaken often display whiplash-related symptoms, along with more serious brain or spinal cord injuries.

The purpose of seeking professional medical advice is two-fold. The first – and primary – consideration is for your health. Whiplash symptoms can mask more serious injuries that only a doctor can identify. If you undergo a medical examination at the earliest possible opportunity, any micro-fractures or dislocations that you may have suffered can be diagnosed before they deteriorate into more permanent conditions. The early treatment of these injuries – and of your whiplash symptoms – can accelerate your recovery.

The second purpose of seeking professional medical advice about whiplash symptoms is to support an injury claim. Injury claims for the symptoms of whiplash have to be justified with a doctor´s report highlight the injuries resulting from the event that caused them. If you suffer any injury, and fail to seek prompt medical attention, your claim could be contested on the grounds that you made your injury worse by your own lack of care. If you intend making injury claims for the symptoms of whiplash, it may be advisable to seek legal advice.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is an umbrella term used for a number of soft tissue injuries to the ligaments, muscles and tendons around the neck and upper back (known in medical terms as the cervical spine). The injuries are caused by the sudden forward-backward movement of the head, which places intense strain on the soft tissues in a short space of time. The exact mechanism that causes whiplash injuries is not yet fully understood but most symptoms of whiplash can be distributed between the following categories.

Common Whiplash Symptoms:

  • Tenderness over the neck muscles.
  • Neck pain and stiffness.
  • Reduced and painful neck movements.
  • Headaches.

Less Common Whiplash Symptoms

  • Blurred vision.
  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Pain, numbness or pins and needles in your arms and hands.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Vertigo.
  • Memory loss.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Irritability.

Symptoms of Severe Whiplash (Chronic)

  • Persistent headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Pins and needles in the arms and hands.
  • Neck pain and stiffness.
  • Psychological and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

Whiplash Syndrome

A minority of people who experience severe whiplash symptoms may see them develop into a long-term condition which is known as whiplash syndrome. The symptoms of whiplash they may experience include:

  • Continuous headaches and pain.
  • Restricted movement at the back of the head.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sleep Disruptions.
  • Lumbar pains.
  • Tingling in the arms.
  • Reduced libido.

Diagnosing Whiplash

It is very difficult to diagnose whiplash even when clear whiplash symptoms are evident. Your doctor will attempt to identify the exact nature of your injuries by asking you about the circumstances of your accident in which the injuries were sustained. In order to establish whether you have suffered a soft tissue neck injury, a hyperextension injury, or a cervical strain, your doctor is likely to conduct the following procedures:

  • The doctor will look for external signs of trauma, like bruises, cuts, or abrasions
  • He or she will press the skin in specific areas to establish the location of tenderness of pain.
  • You will be asked to move your neck in various directions.
  • The doctor may check the reflexes of your arm and leg joints.

As there are no exact tests for most symptoms of whiplash, your doctor will depend on your responses to help him or her diagnose of the exact degree of injury and determine the appropriate medical treatment. An X-ray will be taken if a fracture or dislocation of the cervical spine is suspected, although whiplash itself cannot be detected on an X-ray, CT or MRI scan.

Faking Whiplash Symptoms

Under no circumstances should you attempt to fake whiplash symptoms in order to claim injury compensation. Insurance fraud is a crime in Ireland and offenders face a maximum fine of up to €100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison. Even if you exaggerate the symptoms of whiplash, this can be classed as insurance fraud and the same penalties may apply.

Those who attempt to fool their doctors in order to make injury claims for the symptoms of whiplash are giving their doctors little credit for years of medical experience. Patients faking whiplash symptoms can be easily recognised by doctors due to the patient complaining of too many symptoms or seeking medical advice for injuries that have allegedly manifested too soon after an accident.

Thousands of cases of suspected insurance fraud are investigated each year. Consequently, you should only seek to make injury  claims for the symptoms of whiplash if you have suffered a genuine injury due to the negligence of a third party who owed you a duty of care, and who was in breach of that duty of care when the event occurred which resulted in your injury.

Settlements of Injury  Claims for the Symptoms of Whiplash

Settlements of injury claims for the symptoms of whiplash are usually calculated by the Injuries Board or by your solicitor during negotiations with the negligent party´s insurance company. Under no circumstances should you accept an unsolicited offer of compensation directly made to you by an insurance company. This is because, if the settlement of your claim proves to be inadequate, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask them for more.

When applying to the Injuries Board for an assessment of your claim, the extent and permanence of your injury will be assessed according to your doctor´s medical report. You may also need to undergo an independent medical examination to assess how well you are recovering from your injury. The Injuries Board assessment of your claim should not only take into consideration the pain and suffering you have experienced, but also the impact your injury has had on the quality of your life and the financial consequences of suffering a whiplash injury.

Because you will need to communicate the full impact your injury has had on the quality of your life, and justify the financial consequences of your injury in order for the Injuries Board to account for these factors in its assessment, it is recommended that you seek the professional legal help with the compilation of your application for assessment. A solicitor will be able to guide you through the process of making injury claims for the symptoms of whiplash.

Whiplash Symptoms: Summary

  • Whiplash symptoms are caused by the sudden jerking back and forward of the head which causes the muscles, and other soft tissue of the neck and upper spine, to hyperextend.
  • Symptoms of whiplash manifest most commonly after a read-end car accident but they can also develop in many different scenarios and can mask more serious injuries.
  • You should see a doctor as soon as the symptoms of whiplash manifest, as the prompt treatment of your injuries can accelerate their recovery.
  • Most whiplash injuries can be treated by a doctor using painkillers and physiotherapy, although it may take a number of years to successfully recover from whiplash syndrome.

Always Consult a Solicitor to Make Your Claim

While we strive to ensure all the articles on this site are factually accurate you should never solely rely on the information supplied here. Every accident and injury case is different and, while reading one of our articles can provide you with general information, you should always get expert advice and consult a solicitor before taking any action that may have legal consequences.