- Why the stigma around whiplash is preventing genuine victims from making a claim
- What whiplash is and the impact it can have on an individual’s life
- How to make a claim for a whiplash injury
The media often report on stories of whiplash being associated with ‘ambulance chasing’ solicitors who encourage crash victims to claim for non-existent injuries. As a result of this negativity surrounding whiplash, many people who are genuinely suffering from the condition may not feel confident enough to make a claim and you could feel stigmatised if you do decide to claim. Unfortunately, the stigma around whiplash claims is exacerbated by people who don’t actually have the injury making claims, although thankfully they aren’t always successful. In the past couple of years the government has begun to ‘clamp down’ on fraudulent claims. Actions such as banning referral fees and introducing independent medical screening for victims all indicate that whiplash victims should think twice before making a claim and undermining the authenticity of genuine injuries. However, if you are genuinely suffering as the result of a whiplash injury then you have every right to make a claim.
In this article, we take a look at what whiplash is, how it affects people and what you can do if you’re suffering from the condition as a result of an accident which wasn’t your fault.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a neck injury caused when the neck and shoulders are forced to move suddenly, causing the tendons and ligaments in the neck to overstretch which can result in neck pain, reduced movement and headaches. Road accidents commonly cause whiplash because of the sudden stopping motion which forces the head forward (or backwards or sideways depending on the direction of impact).
Although whiplash is a common injury, it is also very painful. In many cases the pain will only be short term and won’t lead to any deliberating long term affects, for some people though the pain lingers, and it impacts on people’s ability to enjoy life. How long a person suffers, and how badly they suffer, will depend on the severity of the accident, and how their body copes. This is why it’s unfair to categorise all whiplash cases as ‘scams’ or even that it’s a ‘mild’ injury as for many people, the injuries caused by whiplash can have a negative long term impact on their lives.
There are new rules relating to whiplash claims for accidents on or after 31.5.21. The new law defines all soft tissue injuries to the neck, back and shoulders as ‘whiplash’.
How common is whiplash?
Although 500,000 whiplash claims are made in the UK each year, true statistics on whiplash are hard to come by as not everyone who has experienced whiplash will report it and some people who aren’t suffering from the condition unfortunately will.
The number of cases of whiplash have increased over the years as cars have become safer as tougher cars increases the likelihood of neck and back problems, even though there are far fewer fatal crashes.
How is it diagnosed?
Whiplash is usually diagnosed through a discussion of your symptoms and a medical examination rather than any extensive testing. In some cases, a GP may request that you have a neck and shoulder X-ray or MRI scan, to check for serious injury.
How is whiplash treated?
Whiplash is difficult to treat but normally an injured person will gain advice from a doctor, who can suggest a course of pain relief, often involving anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen and to undergo gentle stretching exercising to encourage normal movement in the neck. A doctor will usually suggest that the patient returns to normal activities as soon as possible, after assessing that they are safe to complete their regular activities at work. They may also recommend that you apply ice or heat packs to the painful area, avoid strenuous activities and try gentle massage and, in more severe cases, physiotherapy may be recommended.
What are the long-term effects of whiplash?
According to an article published in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, two-thirds of people will recover fully from whiplash within three months. However, around a third of people will suffer from their symptoms after three months and the condition will become chronic and affect their daily lives. Unfortunately, in 2% of cases, whiplash causes a permanent disability.
Although in many cases whiplash can just result in a sore neck for a few days, in some cases the sufferer can experience prolonged pain including headaches and muscle spasms which can last for months or even years. It’s important not to underestimate the effects that whiplash can have so see your doctor after the accident and then log your symptoms and any hospital or doctor’s visit so you have a clear idea of how the injury is impacting on your life.
Can I make a claim for a whiplash injury?
Whether you have to take a few days off work or if whiplash impacts on your ability to work long term, you have a right to cover the costs of an accident that you weren’t to blame for by claiming whiplash injury compensation. If the injury does have a major impact on your life then money from a whiplash accident claim will help to cover costs of hospital visits, time away from work, and other expenses.
To make a claim, keep a record of the details of the accident and any treatment you’ve received or appointments you’ve attended as a result of the accident. Also, keep a record of any time you’ve had to take off work and of any duties you can no longer complete at work due to your injury.
How is the claim valued?
Whiplash damages are to be fixed depending on the severity for all accidents where an individual was an occupant of a motor vehicle. This concerns accidents on or after 31.5.21, with a value below £5,000.00 or 2 years of pain.
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