Frequently Asked Questions - Can You Prove You Have Whiplash?
Whiplash is most commonly defined as an injury as a result of forceful, rapid, back and forth movement of the neck. Whiplash injuries can be sustained from motor vehicle accidents, most the often rear-end kind. While some symptoms of whiplash can develop immediately, some people may not experience any pain or symptoms until 24 hours post-injury. Associated symptoms of whiplash may include neck pain with tightness, stiffness, swelling, headaches, muscle strains, muscle sprains, muscle spasms, tenderness to palpation, and decreased ranges of motion. In addition to these symptoms, whiplash injuries can be associated with radicular symptoms to your shoulders, head, mid-back, and low back. Whiplash is generally referred to as a “soft tissue injury” consisting of ligament, tendon, and/or muscles that suffer from bruising, strains, and/or sprains that do not necessarily result in objective symptoms because there might not be massive swelling or bleeding, and you cannot see the actual torn ligament or tissue.
While the absence of objective findings as a result of a whiplash injury can make it difficult to prove, that does not necessarily mean that it can’t be done. Most often, medical providers will order imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, and/or MRI’s to determine if there are any torn ligaments or tissue, however, the absence of X-ray evidence of objective injury does not necessarily mean that soft tissues have not been injured. In addition to ordering imaging studies, medical providers administer various physical examinations to determine the extent or severity of the injury. That being said, most whiplash injuries can be incredibly painful as a result of muscle, ligament, or tendon damage.
Following any motor vehicle collision, regardless of the severity of the impact, it is imperative to see a medical provider, whether it is a local emergency room, urgent care, or primary care physician to determine and document the extent of the injury. While most whiplash injuries may not require immediate and/or extensive treatment, they can result in permanent injuries to the injured area, or areas, which are now more susceptible to re-injury as a result of the damage.
As whiplash injuries consist of a multitude of symptoms, seeking treatment from a medical professional is required to conclude the correct diagnoses and determine the appropriate course of care. Whiplash injuries can be substantiated with the appropriate course of care and treatment should be sought in an effort to better prove the injury was sustained. Proof of a whiplash injury must be documented by a medical professional, who may also recommend physical therapy, physiotherapy, and/or chiropractic treatment. Because whiplash injuries consist of objective findings, treatment from a medical professional for diagnoses should be sought immediately following the injury. Again, while some symptoms of whiplash may not be felt right away, waiting longer to seek treatment after the injury is sustained may make it more difficult to prove.
In addition to seeking medical treatment, it is equally important to communicate with the treating medical provider any and all symptoms that are or have been, experienced in an effort to ensure that all symptoms are documented to better prove a claim. The difficulty that most often occurs with proving whiplash injuries is most often due to waiting longer to seek treatment, making it appear as if the symptoms may not be directly related as a result of a motor vehicle collision. Even if a medical provider simply recommends ice, rest, and/or over-the-counter medication, should the symptoms return, or worsen, proving that additional medical treatment is required as a result of a motor vehicle collision will better ensure proof for a claim. Bearing in mind that people experience different symptoms and the threshold for pain tolerance varies with each individual, reporting to a medical professional as soon as possible following a collision helps to substantiate a claim.
While some people are most often immediately concerned about the damage to their vehicle, or perhaps the cost of going to the emergency room by ambulance or otherwise, seeking medical treatment and having symptoms documented is required for proof of a personal injury claim. Moreover, should any new or additional symptoms develop, the documented treatment initially received for a whiplash injury and associated symptoms will help to ensure that additional or extensive treatment is required, and can be directly related as a result of a motor vehicle collision. In addition to seeking medical treatment, photographs of the injured area, or areas, can be helpful in further proving a whiplash injury.
Furthermore, consistency in treatment for whiplash injuries and associated symptoms are equally as imperative. Large gaps in treatment, lack of consistency in treatment, or in seeking treatment at all only make it more difficult to prove the severity of the whiplash injury sustained, or prove that it was as a result of a motor vehicle collision. Due to whiplash injury complaints being subjective, consistency in treatment is a must. Whiplash injuries and symptoms, while subjective, can be proved through documentation of treatment and diagnoses by a medical professional. Imaging studies ordered by a medical professional will determine the correct diagnosis of the injury, and helps prove a whiplash injury was sustained for a claim. Common diagnoses of whiplash injuries sustained are cervical strains, cervical sprains, thoracic strain, thoracic sprain, or even lumbar strain, lumbar sprain. As only a medical professional can assign these diagnoses, seeking immediate medical treatment is important.
The difficulty in proving a whiplash injury is simply because of the subjective complaints and symptoms that occur as a result. Providing proper documentation that proves the severity and extent of the whiplash injury and associated symptoms will help with proving a claim to an insurance company. Additionally, while the severity and/or extent of a whiplash injury and associated symptoms vary with each individual, obtaining and providing proper documentation of the injuries sustained is what helps to prove a whiplash injury in a personal injury claim with an insurance company. As stated before, lack of diagnoses and treatment by a medical professional makes it only more difficult, as proving with documentation is hard enough. Whiplash injuries are the most common type of injury sustained as a result of a rear-end motor vehicle collision, and while they may not be the easiest to prove, it can certainly be done.