Whiplash: what is it and how is it caused?
A whiplash injury is a soft tissue injury to the neck, typically resulting from a road traffic accident (RTA) or accident at work. For instance, the victim may be travelling in a car, or stationary in the vehicle, which is involved in a rear-end shunt by another vehicle.
Whiplash is one of the most common forms of injury caused by RTAs. The physiological cause usually involves the head being thrown forward then backwards (or vice versa), or sideways, resulting in muscles or ligaments being stretched and or torn. Sometimes, the back can also be affected by whiplash.
The symptoms may include neck-ache and headaches; backache; blurred vision; memory loss and dizziness. The symptoms may manifest themselves immediately, while in other cases can take days to appear.
How long do whiplash injuries last?
Most whiplash injuries are mild and clear up after only a few days. In other cases, whiplash injuries may persist for weeks, months and sometimes years with long-running treatment and medication required.
How is whiplash treated?
To effectively treat a whiplash injury, the NHS recommends:
- keeping your neck mobile and continuing with your normal activities – using a neck brace or collar isn’t recommended;
- painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – stronger painkillers are available on prescription if these don’t help;
- physiotherapy, exercises and stretches;
- if symptoms persist, you may be referred for specialist treatment and support at an NHS. pain clinic.
Making a claim for whiplash injuries
If you have sustained a whiplash injury following an accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to be compensated, although a personal injury claim will not usually be made for very mild whiplash injuries.
If your injuries are such that a formal legal claim is necessary, it is important to gather as much evidence and information as possible in support of your claim, including:
- full details of the other driver, the vehicle, and their insurers. It is also useful to request contact details from any independent witnesses at the scene;
- any photographs of the vehicles and the scene of the accident;
- a police accident report/case number if applicable;
- seek medical attention if you have not already done so;
- contact the third party insurers and inform them of the accident and the fact you have been injured.
An experienced personal injury solicitor will be able to advise you on the merits of your claim; how much it may cost; and how long it might take. If you proceed, you will most likely need expert medical evidence to help your claim.
How much will I get?
This all depends on the extent of your injury. Most whiplash injury claims which get better within three months will receive between £1,000 and £5,000. Where there is neck pain that lasts for a few years, the range is around £5,000 to £8,700, while awards for permanent or recurring pain can be up to £16,000.
Currently, few whiplash cases actually reach court as insurance companies are keen to reach an out-of-court settlement and resolve the matter quickly. This means the insurer will avoid the costs of going to court. However, where there is a dispute about liability, it can take longer.
Whiplash claims reform
In June this year (2017), Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced proposals to reform the law relating to whiplash claims.
The government claims bogus whiplash claims add £1bn to insurance bills every year, so to curb this trend a cap is proposed which would limit the amount people can claim for whiplash from insurers to £425. She also wants to ban insurers from settling claims without medical evidence.