Whiplash occurs when a car occupant’s head snaps rapidly backward and forward relative to the torso. Whiplash is often accompanied by a twisting motion of the neck and torso. Acting together, those motions produce a variety of whiplash-associated disorders (WADs).
Rear-end collisions are the most common cause of a WAD. Studies prove that even a relatively low-speed collision exerts powerful forces on the occupants of a car. The sudden forward motion of a car propels a seated occupant’s body forward. Unless the occupant’s head is touching a headrest, the head moves backward relative to the forward-moving torso.
As the car’s forward motion decelerates, the head moves rapidly forward. In less than a second, serious harm is caused to the muscles and nerves in the neck. The cervical spine (the part of the spine that travels through the neck) can also be injured by whiplash motions.
While rear-end collisions are the most common cause of WADs, side-impact (T-bone) collisions can also cause whiplash. While insurance claims adjusters often belittle whiplash claims, car accident lawyers, like car accident lawyers in Georgia, understand that a whiplash injury can have painful and lasting consequences.
Types of Whiplash-Associated Disorders
The term “whiplash-associated disorder” describes a collection of symptoms that primarily affect the neck and that result from a back-and-forth whiplash motion. Medical scientists have classified WADs into five categories:
- Grade 0: No symptoms.
- Grade I: Pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the neck.
- Grade II: The symptoms of a Grade I WAD are accompanied by musculoskeletal symptoms, including a decreased range of motion in the neck and point tenderness (pain caused by touching the injured portion of the neck).
- Grade III: The symptoms of a Grade I WAD are accompanied by neurological symptoms. These may be similar to musculoskeletal symptoms but are associated with damage to nerve roots and other parts of the neurological system.
- Grade IV: The symptoms of a Grade I WAD are accompanied by a fracture or dislocation of vertebrae in the cervical spine.
While a Grade III or IV WAD typically causes immediate and intense pain, studies have established that 12 to 48 hours will often pass before symptoms of a Grade I or II whiplash develop. In some cases, symptoms might not develop until a few days after the accident.
How Whiplash-Associated Disorders Affect an Injury Claim
Since it takes time for whiplash symptoms to appear, insurance claims adjusters have routinely claimed that the injury victim is basing a false claim on a fabricated injury. Insurance adjusters argue that the injury victim would have reported the pain at the time of the accident if the injury were real.
Claims adjusters also argue that a low-speed collision cannot cause a whiplash injury. Fortunately, recent studies by experts in biomechanics have demonstrated that collisions of just 8 mph can generate the forces that are required to produce a significant whiplash injury.
Studies show that as many as 40% of whiplash injuries are long lasting and that some even cause permanent disabilities. Since prompt treatment improves pain levels and increases range of motion, it is crucial to see a doctor as soon as symptoms appear. Prompt treatment also makes a record of the injury that can be used to counter an insurance adjuster’s assertion that the accident victim is faking a whiplash injury.
With the help of research by experts in biomechanics, neurology, and neck injuries, experienced neck and back injury lawyers are able to overcome the arguments made by insurance claims adjusters. While the insurance industry has tried to make whiplash a dirty word, whiplash injury attorneys are now armed with the information they need to persuade injuries that serious whiplash injuries deserve serious compensation.
Thanks to Butler Law Firm for their insight into what whiplash associated disorders are and how they can affect a personal injury claim.