Whiplash, which is comparable to cracking a whip as the head slams back or forward, or both, is one of the most common injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents and also be one of the toughest to prove in a court of law.
Typical symptoms can include neck pain and pain radiating to the back, or limbs, and headaches or stiffness. In many instances, the sudden movement of the neck can cause injury to the cervical vertebrae or the soft tissue, i.e. ligaments and muscles.
In severe cases, whiplash can lead to long-term symptoms such as forgetfulness, concentration problems, psychological complaints or chronic fatigue. These are known as “whiplash associated disorder” and may only become apparent after some time.
In a court battle for a compensation claim, lawyers representing insurance companies frequently argue that the victim’s symptoms were not caused by the accident. These arguments become particularly profound when forgetfulness, concentration problems or fatigue are cited as symptoms.
However, if a whiplash claim is successful, accident victims can expect to be reimbursed for medical costs, lost income and loss of future earnings.
Steps to take after your accident
If you have suffered a whiplash injury, it is advisable to begin collecting evidence immediately. This may include a statement from parties involved in the accident and photos and statements from any witnesses.
The sooner you visit a doctor, or specialists, to diagnose your injuries, the stronger your case will be. It is essential to keep all medical records.
Go to Australian Accident Helpline as soon as possible and begin to let the claim experts evaluate your potential claim and, if you wish to proceed, help you to get the ball rolling.
It is important to keep a record of all costs incurred, including hired crutches and pharmaceutical receipts, as well as lost income from being unable to work.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure, particularly when it comes to whiplash injuries that can have repercussions for victims lasting years after the accident.
A properly adjusted seat or head restraint could mean the difference between suffering whiplash, or not. Every vehicle is different, but overall a head restraint should be adjusted with the hard, focal point lining up with the driver, or passenger’s eyes. Experts also advise that it is best to place the head restraint at least 5 centimetres from the back of the head. This reduces the distance a head can travel backwards in the event of an accident and reduces the chance of whiplash
The optimal seat angle for safety from crash testing is set to a 100-degree incline, which keeps the body in the seat and supports the lower back in the case of an accident.
It is also a good idea to check the height of your seat and adjust it if necessary to ensure that your seatbelt is in the best position to prevent the body moving forward by stretching across the pelvis.
Ambiguity over whiplash injuries and the difficulty associated with proving the injury has led to a push to cut compensation in some jurisdictions.
In Britain a debate on the Civil Liability Bill in the House of Commons earlier this month saw lawyers warning that the NHS would have to pick up the tab for catastrophic injuries if the government went ahead with plans to cut compensation. If the bill is passed, compensation paid for whiplash injuries will be significantly reduced.
The issue has led to a heated debate with the Association of British Insurers lobbying hard for the law to be passed and striving to outmanoeuvre personal injury claim lawyers by charging that the public backs government plans to tighten up on “fraudulent claims for whiplash injury”.
But Brett Dixon, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, warned: “The upshot is that people will almost certainly receive less compensation and will have to make risky investments to try to make it stretch for the rest of their lives. There is every likelihood that the funds will run out, leaving them to rely on NHS care (if the bill is passed).”