What You Need to Know About Whiplash

Have you suffered whiplash in an accident? Here’s what you need to know about whiplash, including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and how to claim whiplash compensation.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a type of neck injury. It happens when the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck are strained. Usually, this occurs because the head has been suddenly ‘whipped’ backwards and forwards. This causes the soft tissues to stretch beyond their normal range of movement, resulting in damage. In medical terminology, this is called hyperextension.

What causes whiplash?

Whiplash can be caused in a number of ways. Really, it is anything that forcefully moves the head backward and forward, or from side to side, in turn damaging the soft tissues in the neck. A common example is car accident, such as a rear end collision. Even if a vehicle is hit at very low speeds, it can lead to whiplash. Other causes include sports accidents, bicycle accidents, and slips, trips and falls.

Whiplash symptoms

Following the incident, you might not experience any symptoms at all. This is quite normal, but you may still have suffered whiplash. Often, it takes several hours or even a whole day for symptoms to appear. This is partly because endorphins and adrenaline mask the pain. When symptoms do develop, they include –

  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty moving your head
  • Headaches
  • Tenderness in the shoulders, upper back and neck

Diagnosing whiplash

There is no test that can diagnose whiplash, in the same way that an x-ray can detect a broken bone. Instead, a diagnosis is based on the fact you have recently experienced some kind of trauma (such as a car accident) and you now have symptoms consistent with whiplash. This is known as a clinical diagnosis.

It is still worth seeing a doctor if you develop whiplash symptoms. A doctor may want to send you for additional tests to rule out other injuries, such as a neck fracture. It is also useful if you do later make a whiplash claim, as it helps link your injuries to the accident.

Whiplash treatment

Whiplash will heal of its own accord, over time. There are ways to minimise your pain and speed up your recovery. Painkillers, anti-inflammatory medication and applying ice to the neck can help to reduce swelling and improve mobility. Complementary therapies such as massage, osteopathy and chiropractic treatment may also be beneficial.

Recovering from whiplash

Whiplash usually resolves within days, weeks or months. It all depends on the extent of the damage and your general health. Some people will still be experiencing symptoms six months following the incident. This is known as chronic whiplash.

ICBC whiplash compensation

If you have suffered whiplash in a car accident which was not your fault, you could be entitled to make a personal injury claim. ICBC classes whiplash as a ‘minor injury’, so the compensation awarded for your pain and suffering is capped is $5,500. You will also be awarded compensation for your lost earnings and the cost of your medical treatment.

If your symptoms persist for more than a year, your whiplash is no longer considered minor. This means there is no compensation cap.

How to claim compensation for whiplash

If you are involved in a car accident which was not your fault, please contact our ICBC lawyers straightaway. Accidents must be reported to ICBC within 24 to 48 hours. We can do this on your behalf. Or, you can report the accident, after which you can contact us for advice.

At this stage, you might not realise the full extent of your whiplash injuries. However, it may soon become apparent that you have sustained some kind of damage. We can ensure your injuries are properly investigated, getting you the full amount of compensation. We do not recommend settling your whiplash claim directly with ICBC, as you are likely entitled to a greater sum of compensation than the figure on offer.

To make a whiplash claim, contact us now a free consultation. Either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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