A whiplash injury is a type of injury to the neck, caused by the sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways. It happens when soft tissues in the neck become stretched or damaged, similar in nature to a sprained wrist or ankle. Unlike a wrist or ankle, which is immediately noticeable though, whiplash victims may experience symptoms some hours or even days after the incident that caused it, even if they felt fine at the moment of the trauma. According to Australian statistics, it is the most frequent injury in motor accident compensation claims, though it can also be caused from a sudden blow to the head such as from sports like boxing or rugby, or from a fall where the head is jolted, or by being hit by a heavy object. Whiplash will normally improve in the days and weeks after the accident, though for some people it can be very severe and last significantly longer.

Whiplash diagnosis

People who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident generally suffer some degree of whiplash ranging from neck stiffness to arm pain and numbness. If you subsequently experience neck or shoulder pain, it is important to make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. Ensure he knows you have been in an accident, inform him of the circumstances and describe in detail the symptoms you have been experiencing since it happened. You may be eligible to make a claim for personal injury compensation, so it is vitally important you have evidence that any injury has been brought to your doctor’s attention and that you have followed any instructions he gave you. In extreme cases you may be diagnosed as having a whiplash associated disorder or WAD. This may be severe neck pain and stiffness, numbness or pins and needles in your arms, or even nausea, drowsiness and confusion. You may also experience a lack of improvement in your condition.

Treatment for whiplash

Whiplash will normally get better on its own after a few weeks or months, though the exact path to recovery is difficult to predict. It may be painful to start with, but keeping it mobile will improve its movement and speed recovery. You will not cause more damage by doing so. Using a neck brace is not recommended, nor is lying immobile for lengthy periods. Painkillers as prescribed by your doctor can help and some physiotherapy may be suggested if your symptoms are persisting for some time.

Compensation claims for whiplash

You can file a claim for compensation under the motor accident compensation scheme, for vehicle related accidents, if the accident was not your fault, or you were only partially to blame.

The level of compensation will depend on the severity of your injury and if you have subsequently been diagnosed with a WAD. At minimum, your medical and rehabilitation expenses will be covered and you may be entitled to more. If you have been in an accident and are suffering whiplash, it is advisable to discuss your case with a good local solicitor, who will often provide you with your first consultation free of charge, to assess and advise you on how to proceed.


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