Whiplash - How You Get It and How to Prevent It


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290,607 road users were killed or injured in the UK in 2003, 188,342 of those were the drivers or passengers in cars (Department for Transport). With the amount of cars on our roads multiplying by the year it is not surprising that accidents are frequent and that injuries such as whiplash affect so many people. Around 20% of rear end accidents result in a whiplash injury.

The incidence of neck injury to front seat passengers is higher (16 per cent) than for rear seat passengers (10 per cent) in rear end collisions, and front-seat passengers fare worse for neck sprains (19 per cent) than drivers (15 per cent). (What a Pain in the Neck – dotpharmacy.co.uk)

A whiplash injury is caused when the car driving behind you crashes into your rear end. The impact of the two cars colliding throws your body forward so that your neck and shoulders are under your head; your head extends forward and tips down a little. When you slam your foot on the break your head and body fly back in the opposite direction. This vigorous process happens extremely quickly and often results in an injury.

Many people suffer from neck pain or tenderness after an accident but find that these symptoms disappear relatively quickly. Other people are not as lucky and can go on to develop serious neck pain. There are several symptoms of whiplash to look out for. These are often experienced in the days preceding an accident.

o Headaches
o Neck pain
o Back pain
o Shoulder pain
o Ringing in the ears
o Sleeplessness
o Pain in the arms or hands
o Abnormal sensations such as burning or prickling, called paresthesias
o Depression

So what is whiplash?

Whiplash is an injury to the soft tissue in the neck. Areas of the neck which can be affected are the discs and ligaments, cervical muscles, intervertabral joints and the roots of the nerves. Most injury to soft tissue cannot be seen with an x-ray so specialised scans may need to be carried out if symptoms persist into the long term. Treatment for people with whiplash used to involved immobilisation with a cervical collar, nowadays early mobilisation is encouraged instead. A soft collar may be worn but only for short periods at a time. Patients may also need to take pain medication, muscle relaxants and anti-depressants.

How can it be prevented?

According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States, only eight out of 97 car seats tested went any way to preventing whiplash. It is thought that the height of the head rest is a crucial aspect of preventing injury. The cars that came out top in the tests were.

o The GM brand Saab, the 9-2X and the 9-3
o The Volvo S40, S60 and S80
o The Jaguar S Type.

Drivers should be reminded however that car manufacturers do not have sole responsibility for the prevention of whiplash. Until such a time comes when all vehicles are built with car seats like those in the Saab 9-2X, drivers should take a few steps to protect themselves. A head rest at the correct height for the passenger or driver can reduce the risk of whiplash by around 40-50%. The Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends that the centre of the headrest be slightly above the top of the driver's ear. The top of the headrest should be at least as high as the top of the driver's head. Ideally, the distance between the headrest and the back of the driver's head should be 5-10 cm (2-4 inches).

Whiplash and compensation

If you have been involved in an accident and have sustained a whiplash injury you can normally claim compensation. Liability for the accident is not usually an issue when a driver has rear-ended you. Once the whiplash has been proven by medical reports damages can be claimed for loss of earnings, car damage and any special medical care that you require.

www.car-accident-claim.com provides assistance to people who have been involved in non-fault traffic accidents in the UK. They act quickly to get people back on the road in a replacement car and if people have been injured then Car Accident Adviceline can help them to claim their maximum compensation entitlement.

Editorial notes:

Car Accident Adviceline www.car-accident-claim.com is an independent company that works towards claiming compensation for people who have had a non fault car accident. Their services are completely free to use as all car hire charges and legal fees are recovered from the person at faults insurance company or written off.

About the author:

Sophie Evans – Car Accident Adviceline http://www.car-accident-claim.com - Claiming compensation for people involved in non-fault accidents.


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