A UK whiplash injury compensation claim usually arises as a result a motor accident although the injury can occur because of an accident at work or during impact in contact sports. It is usually caused by a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head which results in strain that affects the bones, discs, muscles, nerves, or tendons of the neck. The injury results when unexpected force suddenly jerks the head backwards and then in a reflex reaction forwards whereupon the muscles and tendons may become torn or stretched. This condition rarely causes permanent damage although a small percentage of vulnerable people will suffer long term whiplash symptoms.
Whiplash injury is more accurately called cervical acceleration/deceleration trauma or syndrome which describes the rapid movements that can injure the neck. Most people respond well and recover fully in a matter of a few months; however a substantial percentage will suffer whiplash symptoms for much longer and a small number of particularly vulnerable people, including the elderly and those suffering from arthritis, may develop chronic long term problems which may never resolve. Chronic conditions should be investigated further and might require surgery to repair any damage or to fuse the neck vertebrae.
Aches and pains can often linger for a considerable period of time however this does not mean that the injury is serious. The discomfort does usually get better over time but a small percentage of people will suffer long term residual symptoms which are usually minor and do not interfere with normal life. The long-term outlook following this injury is good and serious injury is usually detected early following an initial medical examination.
Diagnosis is based on observation of the patient’s symptoms, consideration of the medical history, physical examination, and neurological difficulties. Serious injury is usually apparent immediately after the accident and pain which develops slowly over the course of a few days usually indicates that the neck is not seriously damaged. Whiplash injury treatment is tailored to each individuals needs and the current mode of treatment is to encourage early mobilisation.
The weights of the vehicles involved in an accident have significant influence and generally the occupants of smaller cars have more severe whiplash injury however occupants who are aware of an impending collision generally have less severe injuries. Whilst wearing a seatbelt reduces the incidence of serious head injury there is an increased risk of minor and moderate neck injuries. Headrests will reduce injury except in the case of collisions from the side which usually produces more severe injuries than rear end collisions. Any occupants who are looking towards the side or down at the time of the collision may increase the risk of facet joint injury.
Soft Tissue Injury
Injury to the neck known as acceleration/deceleration syndrome or more usually referred to as whiplash is now the most common injury to form the basis of a road traffic accident compensation claim. In the past this was not the case, due to the difficulty in providing evidence of soft tissue injury using only x-rays or radiographs. Advances in technology including CAT scans, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound methods have enabled soft tissue injury to be detected. Although this form of injury rarely requires surgery and most people fully recover, some vulnerable individuals, including those with pre-existing neck conditions or the elderly, may not recover fully and may exhibit permanent whiplash symptoms and suffer long term pain or a chronic neck condition.
Acceleration / Deceleration Syndrome
Whiplash symptoms occurs when the neck is injured by sudden acceleration or decelleration of the head followed by an involuntary reflex reaction in the opposite direction which can stretch and tear the nerves, muscles and ligaments of the neck. In a motor vehicle colision, in the absence of a headrest, the injury can be made more severe because there is nothing in place to reduce or prevent hyperextension of the neck. In more detail, the initial flexion of neck muscles when the head is forced backwards or forwards is followed by a reflex action in the opposite direction whereby the individual’s muscles contract. This contraction is generally over-compensatory, stretching and tearing nerves, muscles and ligaments and may also involve the vertebrae’s discs bulging, tearing or rupturing and moving out of position leading to whiplash symptoms.
The emergence of whiplash symptoms sometimes occurs immediately after an accident but for some individuals can take days or weeks. Whiplash symptoms may include :-
- neck pain or stiffness or both
- difficulty in swallowing
- blurred and disrupted vision
- increased irritability
- dizziness or tiredness
- pain occurring in or between the shoulders
- pain in the limbs, or feet and hands
- lower back pain or stiffness
- ringing in one’s ears
- numbness, tingling, vertigo
- pain in the jaw and other facial discomfort
Whiplash treatment may include:
- immobilising the neck in a soft cervical collar for a short term or on an intermittent basis
- early mobilization and gentle exercise
- return to work as soon as possible to continue mobilsation
- return to ordinary life
- painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants
- physiotherapy which may include the use of moist heat, ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and exercise to restore range of motion and build strength
- cervical traction
- trigger point injections to alleviate pain
- surgical intervention in severe cases
UK Whiplash Injury Solicitor
A whiplash injury solicitor can deal with a wide range of motor accident claims and will arrange home or hospital visits, urgent medical examinations and private whiplash treatment at short notice, to assist recovery, with some of the most eminent medical consultants. If you’ve been involved in an accident you should speak with a whiplash injury solicitor who can help you to preserve your legal right to compensation. Most UK solicitors offer a free initial consultation for advice to find out whether you have a good case, how to go about claiming and how much your compensation might be worth. A qualified lawyer will give you clear unequivocal advice about your chances of success and the anticipated value of your claim.