When you’re involved in a car accident, you might not realize you’ve been injured immediately. Symptoms of whiplash, the most common type of injury people suffer in motor vehicle accidents, could take hours or days to develop. This delay in recognizing the injury can cause you unnecessary pain and compromise your accident claim. What is this mysterious injury? Whiplash.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you should immediately seek medical treatment. Then, you should call the New York car accident lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C. to discuss your rights and legal options.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash results from the muscles and tendons of the neck being stretched and twisted too violently, and then swelling and stiffening in response. Whiplash does not involve the spine or spinal cord, but the pain can be excruciating and lead to headaches, fatigue, and sleeplessness.
If untreated, the neck muscles will remain stiff and painful and eventually involve the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. As the muscles pull your spine out of alignment, you can develop migraines, chronic shoulder pain, and even degenerative disc disease.
How Does Whiplash Occur?
Your neck is a series of seven tiny bones stacked on top of each other, with a twelve-pound skull balanced atop them. A mesh of muscles keeps your head carefully positioned on your neck. When there is a sudden impact from one direction, as in a rear-end collision, the twelve-pound weight of your skull becomes too much for your neck muscles to control, and it “whips” forward on your spine and then rebounds backward.
This straining of your neck muscles pulls them loose from their anchors along the spine and from each other, resulting in bruising and tearing of the muscle tissue. This is whiplash. It is the same effect as when your foot gets caught on the soccer field, and you sprain your ankle, except your neck joints are smaller, and the forces involved in a car accident are greater.
Signs You’ve Suffered Whiplash
A “minor” accident may cause a “mild” case of whiplash, what doctors might call a neck strain. Realistically, it will hurt just as much, whether a strain or a sprain, and will be treated the same way. Some of the first signs you have suffered whiplash will be:
- A feeling of tightness in your neck
- Stiffness or decreased range of motion
- Pain and tenderness
- Swelling, knotted or tense muscles, or bruising
- Dizziness or headache
Some people experience concussion-like symptoms of ringing in the ears, numbness or tingling in the hands and arms, muscle weakness, or blurred vision. In severe cases of whiplash, it is possible to suffer a “coupe/cont recoup” brain injury, where the brain “sloshes” against the interior of the skull. There is no such thing as a minor case of whiplash.
What To Do If You’ve Suffered Whiplash
Because whiplash is a soft-tissue injury (the bones are not involved), you may not realize you have been injured in a car accident until hours or days later. Therefore, it’s essential to seek medical care immediately after an accident, even if you “feel fine.” If you believe you have suffered a whiplash injury, for instance, if you recall your head snapping forward and backward during the accident, you should take a few extra steps at the scene to protect yourself.
- Remain still. Try not to move your neck. Stay in your vehicle until paramedics arrive
- Follow all doctor’s instructions regarding treatment for your whiplash
- If the doctor orders any follow-up treatment or therapy (such as chiropractic), be sure to complete it
Failure to follow the doctor’s instructions could result in your claim being delayed or denied. Always follow the doctor’s orders or seek a second opinion before doing anything differently.
Compensation For Whiplash Injuries
Even a mild neck injury can result in pain and debility for many months after the accident. Following a car accident due to another person’s negligence, you will be allowed to file an insurance claim and subsequently bring an injury claim against them. You might be eligible to recover:
- Medical costs, such as hospital bills, surgery, therapy, and medications
- Lost wages and income
- Future medical costs, including any necessary therapies and surgeries
- Lost future wages and financial opportunities
- Loss of consortium
- Wrongful death
Sometimes victims fail to take legal action because they were partially responsible for an accident. Even if you are partly at fault, you may still be able to recover partial compensation. New York courts follow a “pure” comparative negligence rule when assigning responsibility. This means that your payment will be reduced according to the percentage you are found to be responsible for the accident.
Don’t be afraid to seek the compensation you’re owed because you think your actions might have contributed to the accident. Contact a New York personal injury attorney right away and let the legal professionals sort out what happened. Your attorney knows what to look for and what documents to obtain to determine who was responsible for your accident.
Contact a New York Whiplash Injury Lawyer
In New York, you have a limited time to bring a personal injury claim. The statute of limitations for car accidents is three years from the date of the injury. There are a few exceptions, but the longer you wait, the less time your attorney will have to investigate the accident and gather information about the case.