Frequently Asked Questions - What is a Whiplash or Soft Tissue Neck Injury?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 2.5 million Americans were hospitalized due to a motor vehicle collision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that more than 32,000 people are killed each year as a result of a motor vehicle collision. Non-fatal motor vehicle collisions may still result in serious and permanent injuries. For instance, it is not uncommon for motorists involved in a collision to sustain broken bones, spinal injuries, head and brain injuries, and neck and back injuries. One of the most common complaints amongst drivers recently involved in motor vehicle accidents is whiplash injuries.
Whiplash is defined as a neck injury caused by forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck. Rear-end motor vehicle collisions frequently cause whiplash injuries. Whiplash symptoms include neck stiffness, pain, and headaches. Whiplash may also be called a neck strain or neck sprain. Whiplash injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision often require therapy and medication to resolve. A whiplash injury may resolve in a few days or could last several weeks depending on the severity of the injury. A licensed medical professional should be consulted after sustaining injuries in a motor vehicle collision to assess the severity of the injury. To diagnose whiplash a doctor will examine the range of motion in the neck and shoulders, the degree of motion that causes pain, determine if there is tenderness in the neck, shoulders, or back, and test reflexes, strength, and sensation in the limbs. Whiplash injuries frequently require imaging tests to determine the severity of the injury. A treating physician may order X-rays to check for possible fractures or dislocations. Computerized tomography (CT) scans which produce cross-sectional images of bone may also be necessary to reveal possible bone damage. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also utilized to diagnose whiplash injuries. Magnetic resonance imaging utilizes radio waves and a magnetic field to produce detailed 3D images of the injured body part. An MRI can reveal damage to the spinal cord, discs, or ligaments.
Another common injury sustained in a motor vehicle collision is a soft-tissue injury. A soft tissue injury is defined as trauma to any skin, muscle, tendon, or ligament in the body. Common soft tissue injuries include contusions or bruises, sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, and strains. A contusion, or bruise, is an injury that is generally caused by a blunt force trauma. In a motor vehicle collision, a common cause of contusions is striking the interior of the vehicle. Seat-belts and airbags may also cause contusions in high impact collisions. Contusions from motor vehicle collisions frequently result in swelling, pain, and discoloration to the injured area. These symptoms are often treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
A partial tear to a ligament, frequently caused by a wrench or twist, is called a sprain. A ligament is a short band of fibrous flexible connective tissues that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint. A minor sprain may be resolved through rest, ice, compression, and elevation. A more serious sprain may require several weeks of physical therapy or even surgical intervention if the ligament is completely torn.
Tendonitis is the result of inflammation of a tendon. A tendon is a flexible cord of fibrous tissue attaching a muscle to bone. Tendonitis is frequently caused by repetition of a particular movement over an extended period of time but can also be caused by a sudden injury such as a motor vehicle collision. Tendonitis is common in the shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee, and ankle. Similar to a sprain, tendonitis may be treated through rest, ice, compression and elevation. More serious injuries may require anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. Severe cases may even require steroid injections if symptoms do not resolve through conservative therapy. If a tendon is completely torn surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.
Bursitis is caused by inflammation of bursa. Bursa is a fluid-filled sac that provides a cushion between bones and muscles or tendons. Bursitis can be caused by direct trauma such as a motor vehicle collision. Similar to the other soft tissue injuries previously discussed, bursitis can be treated through rest, compression and elevation. More serious injuries may require anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling or injections.
It is important to have whiplash or soft tissue injury properly documented by a medical professional following a motor vehicle collision. The full extent of a motorist’s injuries may not be immediately apparent following a collision. Some symptoms may resolve quickly, others may persist over time, and still, other injuries may not become fully apparent until several days or weeks after the initial trauma. A medical professional will be able to properly diagnose, treat, and document any and all injuries resulting from a motor vehicle collision. The medical records and notes from treating physicians will also be invaluable to a future civil claim for damages. Once a civil claim is resolved, through settlement or jury verdict, it may be impossible to re-open a claim even if new or previously unknown injuries are discovered. Therefore, it is imperative that a motorist involved in a motor vehicle collision be properly diagnosed and treated by a physician. Only after a physician has diagnosed all the injuries in the motor vehicle collision and placed the injured party at maximum medical improvement, meaning his or her condition cannot be improved with continued medical care, should settlement discussions take place.
Motor vehicle collisions, even low impact collisions, can result in whiplash or soft tissue injuries. If you believe you have sustained whiplash or soft tissue injury due to a motor vehicle collision a medical professional should be consulted as soon as possible. Prompt medical care can not only help improve recovery time but may also be necessary to qualify for the full extent of your automobile personal injury protection coverage. Under Florida law, you must obtain medical care within 14 days of sustaining an injury in a motor vehicle collision or your insurance carrier may deny the medical benefits under your insurance policy. An attorney experienced in whiplash and soft tissue injuries can help ensure you are compensated fully for a whiplash or soft tissue injury caused by a negligent driver.