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Whiplash, Fact or Fiction?

Whiplash is very real, and it can be painful and debilitating.  Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck (cervical spine) caused by a sudden motion, usually by force, which causes movement beyond the normal range of motion.  It strains or tears the neck muscles and it is commonly sustained during an impact from a motor vehicle crash, usually a rear-end impact.  Did you know that the property damage to your car is not relative to the severity of a neck injury?  A seat belted occupant of a car can sustain whiplash during impact going only 5 mph.

Symptoms of whiplash can vary from person to person, but it typically causes people to experience tenderness in the neck, which can often radiate to the shoulders; swelling; muscular spasms; nerve irritation; limited range of motion; headaches; and jaw pain.  In more severe cases, you may experience vision problems; ringing in the ear(s); irritability; the inability to sleep; and memory issues.

You may not experience any symptoms of whiplash immediately after a car crash.  Symptoms can appear within hours or days post impact.  The body typically releases stress hormones, specifically adrenaline and cortisol, after a car crash.  These hormones can initially mask the symptoms of whiplash.

How is Whiplashed Diagnosed?

Diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, can reveal any soft tissue damage or inflammation to the cervical spine.


Once you have been diagnosed with whiplash, your medical provider may prescribe one or more types of treatment.  Treatments vary and may include anti-inflammatory medications; ice/heat therapy; physical therapy; chiropractic therapy; acupuncture; and/or trigger-point injections.  Your medial provider may also require you to wear a neck collar to stabilize the neck.  These treatments are not mutually exclusive, and may be prescribed in tandem with one another.

Long-Term Consequences of Whiplash after a Car Crash

In addition to the pain you may be experiencing, your injuries can be life altering. Your injuries may prevent you from working, playing with your children, or taking care of your household obligations, such as taking the trash out and mowing the lawn.  You may also not be able to enjoy the same hobbies you did prior to the car crash, such as playing sports, crafting, or exercising.

Suffering a cervical spine injury is not only a strain on your neck, but it can also cause long-term or permanent financial strain for you and your family.

Steps to Preserve Your Potential Claim After a Crash

File a police report. A police report establishes the facts of the crash and provides documentation of the same.  In this day and age, almost everyone carries a cell phone equipped with a camera.  Take pictures!

  • Seek medical attention immediately after you have been in a car crash, first and foremost to assess your injuries. Seeking immediate medical attention will also relate your injuries to the crash.
  • Follow your medical provider’s instructions and treatment plan. This includes any follow-up appointments and referrals for further evaluation and treatment by another medical provider. Do not miss any appointments, but if you do, promptly reschedule. Failure to follow your medical provider’s instructions may not only delay your recovery, but it may minimize your injuries in the eyes of the insurance company.
  • Take all medications as prescribed and notify your medical provider immediately if your condition worsens.
  • Keep a written record (journal) of the car crash noting any details as quickly as possible while the memory and details are fresh in your mind. It is also helpful to record the effects the crash has had on you and your family, including the physical and emotional challenges.
  • It is important to keep accurate records of your medical treatment. If possible, keep a diary of your doctor’s appointments and get copies of your records after each visit. It is also imperative to get copies of all of your medical bills so that you can be compensated fully for your medical expenses.
  • Consult with an attorney as quickly as possible. Your insurance company, as well as the defendant driver’s insurance company, will most likely want a recorded statement from you. You should consult an attorney before giving any statements, written or recorded.
  • Do not sign any forms, OR accept a check form the defendant driver’s insurance company. Once you accept a check, you will be required to sign a release from the defendant driver’s insurance company releasing the driver and his/her insurance company from further liability. You will be forever barred from filing another claim related to the same crash.

The insurance company will look for any reason to devalue your claim, or deny it all together. They will scrutinize your claim and look for any indication that your claim may not have merit.  For instance, any gaps in medical treatment may infer that your injuries are not as serious as you reported.  DO NOT give the insurance company the opportunity to deny you the compensation you deserve.

Time Limitations

Each state imposes a time limit in which to file a claim for personal injury.  In North Carolina, you have three years from the date you sustained your injury to file a lawsuit in the civil court system. Failure to file a claim within the time limitations may forever preclude you from filing a lawsuit. Do not delay in seeking legal advise regarding your injuries and potential claim.  You may have more to lose than time.

Please contact us to discuss your claim.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can answer your questions.  We can schedule an appointment that works with you obligations and doctor's appointments.

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