The Gould Cooksey Fennell Blog

man holding neck after car accident

Dealing With Whiplash After a Car Accident

Florida often leads the nation with the most car accidents annually, with approximately 256,000 of those car accidents resulting in an injury of some kind. One of the more common types of injuries, especially in a rear-end car accident, is what’s called a whiplash injury.

What Is a Whiplash Injury?

According to the Mayo Clinic, whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. The rapid back-and-forth movement is typical of a rear-end car accident, which is why a whiplash injury is common in these kinds of accidents. During a rear-end car accident, the person’s body is thrown forward, but the head lags behind the body, resulting in hyperextension of the neck. Then, once the head and neck have reached their respective maximum extension, the neck snaps into flexion and catches up with the head. This back-and-forth movement happens so quickly that the person does not even realize what happened, until, of course, the pain hits the body.

The pain from an average whiplash injury is usually due to injury of the muscles in the neck, the intervertebral joints, and discs in the cervical spine. In more severe whiplash injuries, the person may also suffer injury to the nerve roots in the cervical spine, which often triggers neurological and cognitive symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash in Car Accidents?

Many people will not exhibit any symptoms at the scene of the car accident because of the rush of adrenaline and emotions that flow following a car accident. However, after the adrenaline rush passes, the most common symptoms of a whiplash injury are:

  • neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain that gets worse with movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headache, which usually start at the base of the skull

Less common, but equally serious symptoms may include blurred vision, sleep disturbances, and tinnitus.

Whiplash Injury Grades

Whiplash injuries are sometimes graded in terms of severity, with grades 1 and 2 being the mildest form of injury and with grades 3 and 4 including the most severe symptoms. In grades 1 or 2 whiplash injuries, the person will experience the above-referenced more common symptoms, such as neck pain and loss of range of motion in the neck.

However, in the more serious grades of whiplash injury, grades 3 and 4, the person may suffer a fracture in the cervical spine and experience neurological and cognitive symptoms. The most common neurological symptoms of a whiplash injury include prickling sensations and numbness in the arms and sometimes in the legs.

Besides neurological symptoms, in more severe cases some people experience cognitive problems, such as memory loss, anxiety, and irritability.

Testing for Whiplash Injury

A person involved in a car accident with a suspected whiplash injury should be evaluated by a trained physician as soon as possible. A standard evaluation would include a detailed physical examination of the neck specifically, and the entire spine in general.

During the physical exam, the doctor will likely test your range of motion by trying to move your head and neck in all directions to see if you have any pain. The physical exam is designed to test your range of motion, whether you experience pain on motion, and whether you have any tenderness and spasm in your neck.

Depending on the severity of the whiplash injury, the doctor may order diagnostic tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI of the neck and potentially the back to rule out other causes of your neck pain, such as fractures.

Treatment for a Whiplash Injury

Treatment for a whiplash injury depends on the extent of injury, including the presence of neurological and/or cognitive symptoms. In less severe cases, the injured person may need only over-the-counter medications, rest and the use of heat and cold therapy.

However, in more severe cases, the injured person may need prescribed medications, muscle relaxers and injections for pain, and physical therapy to improve range of motion. If neurological and/or cognitive symptoms are present, the injured person may need treatment from a neurologist and specialized medications.

Does a Whiplash Injury Go Away?

Most people who suffer a whiplash injury feel better within a few weeks and do not have any lasting effects from the injury. In fact, a 2009 study on whiplash injuries published in the Journal on Bone and Joint Surgery found that 66% of people with a whiplash injury fully recover, which means the other 34% suffer long term, with 2% of those people becoming permanently disabled.

While it is impossible to predict how each person will respond to a whiplash injury, you are more likely to have chronic, longer lasting symptoms when your initial onset of symptoms included immediate severe neck pain, limited range of motion, and neck pain that spreads or travels down to the arms.

Can I Sue For My Whiplash injury?

Yes, anyone suffering a whiplash injury from a car accident has the right to bring a claim for the recovery of medical expenses (in the past and in the future), lost wages (in the past and expected future losses), and in the case of a permanent injury, pain and suffering damages.

Florida Insurance Requirements for Licensed Drivers

Florida currently requires all licensed drivers to have $10,000 in personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits, which is available to pay medical expenses. Additionally, the at-fault drivers bodily injury insurance coverage (“BI”), and if the injured person has uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (“UM”), can be available to cover your damages.

In more severe whiplash injury cases, the standard $10,000 PIP coverage will be insufficient to fully compensate the injured person for their injuries and damages. In those cases, the at-fault driver’s bodily injury coverage and UM insurance will need to be pursued to pay medical expenses, lost wages, and to compensate for the pain and suffering that comes from such a serious injury.

Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

Whiplash can be a debilitating, long-lasting injury that has a devastating impact on someone’s life. If you have suffered an injury from a car accident, ask someone you trust for help. Ask the attorneys at Gould Cooksey Fennell about your legal rights. We have a dedicated team of experienced car accident attorneys in Vero Beach who are ready and prepared to help you get the compensation and justice you deserve.

Contact us for a free personal injury consultation.

About The Author

Share Now:

Subscribe To Our Newsletter


* Our attorneys and staff value your privacy and will not share your personal information with any third-party entities.