Whiplash Compensation Claims
Finding a Whiplash Solicitor to Represent You
The Importance of Having a Whiplash Lawyer
If you have an injury that you believe could be whiplash, seek medical attention and get an accurate diagnosis. Since the whiplash reforms in May 2021, claimant’s can no longer claim legal costs on soft tissue injury claims worth less than £5,000.00, which is the new limit of the small claims court in whiplash associated disorder claims. Previously, all personal injury claims fell outside of the small claims court (known as the small claims track) if the injuries were worth £1,000.00 or more.
The importance of this legislation is that in the small claims track there is no entitlement to legal costs, therefore unless and until symptoms of whiplash extend beyond at least two years of an accident, the value would likely be determined as being less than £5k, and therefore a solicitor would not be entitled to claim their costs for representing you. Claims for whiplash can now be brought by individuals through the new Official Injury Claims Services (OIC) without the need for legal representation. There are some law firms who would manage this for you on a percentage of damages retainer.
In a lot of short-lived injury cases, where symptoms resolve within a few weeks, this system is likely to be appropriate and efficient. Where symptoms are protracted, there is a fear that people using the OIC service may be undercompensated, particularly if they receive their compensation and then never recover.
The government decision to increase the small claims court limit to £5k, unashamedly favours the insurance industry. Our advice if you have a whiplash injury, apart from seeking help via your GP and treatments like physiotherapy and your symptoms remain very intrusive beyond two years of the injury, look to instruct a solicitor. It is likely the value of your injury compensation would exceed the small claims limit and given the extended nature of your symptoms, the injury might be described as chronic and could be permanent.
We are experts in chronic pain and understand the long term impact of pain that subsists after an injury. It may be if you have suffered whiplash and your symptoms subsist for many months, get worse or remain static over time and are perhaps associated with fatigue and loss of concentration, that you may have developed a chronic pain disorder secondary to your whiplash condition. We understand the interconnectivity between our bodies and minds and understand the consequences of trauma and how that can impact on the human body.
The right solicitors will know exactly how to assess the financial losses you’ve sustained, as well as losses from pain and suffering.
At FT Chronic Pain Solicitors, we are leading and award-winning experts in chronic pain conditions who will fight for you. Unlike other law firms, we do not operate with brick-and-mortar constraints, and we don’t dilute our focus with other areas of the law.
We are a modern law firm with an agile working ethos that allows us to be where you are, and our attention is solely on helping clients who suffer from chronic pain conditions like whiplash. Whether you are seeking counsel for the first time or you wish to move your personal injury claim to a firm that understands whiplash, FT Chronic Pain Solicitors is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is often presented as a cliché in movies and television shows, used for comedic effect. For anyone who has ever experienced whiplash pain, however, it is very real, and it is no joke. It is a very real medical condition, with painful symptoms that usually develop within days of an injury caused by a forceful, back-and-forth movement of the neck (hyperextension/ hyperflexion). But what is whiplash? Here, we offer information about this condition, including whiplash treatment and possible complications that can occur.
Whiplash typically happens when a person is in a rear-end car accident, because the force of being rear-ended causes the neck to snap back and forth. That is not the only way it happens, though. Accidents that happen in contact sports like football can cause whiplash. So can physical abuse, and this is one of the injuries seen in shaken baby syndrome. Other kinds of traumas can also cause whiplash, which is sometimes referred to as a neck sprain or strain. However, those terms also apply to other kinds of neck injuries, so they are not entirely accurate.
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
In the early whiplash stages, within a few days of the injury, people often experience neck pain and stiffness that worsens with neck movement. There may be a loss of range of motion in the neck, as well as headaches, pain in the shoulder or upper back, or pain, tingling, or numbness in the arms. Fatigue and dizziness are also common whiplash symptoms. For some people, symptoms of whiplash also include blurred vision, ringing in the ears, sleep disturbances, irritability, difficulty concentrating, memory trouble, and depression. The problem is that many of these symptoms are also found in other medical conditions. That’s why it’s important to see a healthcare professional and get an accurate diagnosis in order to be successfully treated.
If you are suffering from neck pain and think it could be whiplash, your instinct may be to power through without seeing a doctor. This would be a mistake, though, because complications can arise if whiplash is not treated promptly and effectively. While most people who sustain a whiplash injury recover within a few weeks, with no lasting repercussions, some can continue to have pain for several months or even years after the injury occurred. Often, those who suffer from whiplash for a long time experienced very intense symptoms that started quickly after the accident. These symptoms include severe neck pain, limited range of motion, and pain that spreads to the arms. A person is at higher risk for poor outcome after a whiplash diagnosis if he or she has risk factors that may include a prior case of whiplash, older age, or existing back or neck pain. If the injury occurs at high speed, it’s likely to cause a more severe case of whiplash.
What are the Causes of Whiplash?
So, what causes whiplash? We know it’s the result of the head being thrown forcefully back and forth, but what is the actual damage that causes the pain and other symptoms? The injury itself is poorly understood. Typically, it involves damage to the muscles, discs, nerves, joints between the vertebrae, and tendons of the neck. To gain some clarity, it is helpful to know something about the anatomy involved:
The neck is an extension of the spine. That is why you will hear doctors refer to your neck as the cervical spine. It is made up of seven vertebrae that protect the nerves in the neck and spinal cord, and these vertebrae are smaller than those found lower down in the spine. They do the important work of allowing the neck to be flexible while also strong enough to support your head. In between the vertebrae are six intervertebral discs. You can think of these as shock absorbers for the neck; their job is to absorb the shock and pressure that everyday life exerts on the head and neck.
Whiplash can cause injuries to the components of the spine. The discs can be stretched beyond their limits, and can sometimes even rupture. These injuries to the discs can cause it to weaken and put pressure on the nerves, causing tenderness and pain that can extend into the arm as well as the neck. The vertebrae themselves can even be damaged, particularly since they are significantly smaller than vertebrae in the lower parts of the spine. It’s important to have an accurate diagnosis quickly to rule out any dangerous injuries to the spine.
Facet joints in the back of the neck vertebrae allow for fluid movement. They let your neck move backwards, forwards, and in rotation, but they also prevent it from moving excessively. This is because all the parts of your neck work together house and protect the spinal cord and support your head, and excessive movement could be damaging. Still, the neck allows your head to go forward 90 degrees, backward 90 degrees, and 180 degrees from side to side.
The soft tissue structures of the neck provide stability. There are several muscles supporting the cervical spine, as well as the associated ligaments and tendons. When whiplash occurs, these soft tissues can end up strained or torn. Sometimes, it can take several days for the person to feel the pain from this type of injury.
The neck contains eight different nerve roots. Branching out from the spinal cord, these nerve bundles are responsible for major motor function and the sensory ability of various parts of the body. Sometimes, these nerves are compromised as the result of a whiplash injury, and this can lead not only to pain, but also to loss of function.
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Typically, whiplash is diagnosed following a physical examination by a physician, where the symptoms are described and the mechanism of how the symptoms arose is established. Often, no further investigations are commissioned. If there were concerns about secondary symptoms like tingling in the fingers or referred pain down the arms, an x-ray might be commissioned, which uses electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues and bones on film. Unfortunately, much of the damage caused by whiplash occurs in soft tissue that can’t be seen on x-rays. Therefore, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is used to make detailed images of damage to organs and tissue that can’t be examined with an x-ray. Computed tomography (CT) scans are also performed for this reason. While other imaging methods make horizontal images of your body that are often referred to as slices. A CT scan works differently, creating more detailed images of the parts of your body. Using these diagnostic tools, the doctor can determine the extent of your injury in order to create an effective treatment plan.
What Whiplash Treatment is Available?
How is whiplash treated? There are different ways of treating whiplash, but they all have the goals of controlling pain, restore movement and normal range of motion, and help you get back to your regular daily activities. The extent of your injury will factor into the treatment plan, as some people can manage whiplash at home, while others may need prescription medication and specialised care.
Ice and rest are usually the first line of treatment. For the first 24 hours, the doctor will probably recommend the application of ice. For a day or two after your injury, rest may be helpful, but too much bed rest is a bad idea, because it can delay your recovery.
Cervical collars are no longer considered the best route to healing. Instead, gentle movement after 24 hours has passed will help to keep your neck and shoulders from becoming stiff. Your doctor will probably prescribe stretching and movement exercises, like rotating your neck in both directions, tilting it from side to side, and rolling your shoulders, to help restore your neck’s range of motion. Before exercise, many people find it helpful to apply moist heat or take a warm shower to help relax the muscles.
Over-the-counter medications will be recommended first. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines like ibuprofen can help control mild to moderate whiplash pain. Your doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxing medications for short-term use, but these medicines can cause sleepiness. In some cases, the doctor may inject a numbing medicine into painful muscles to allow you to do physical therapy. For severe pain, prescription medicines may be given, particularly certain antidepressant drugs that have been demonstrated to alleviate nerve pain.
Physical therapy can help with ongoing symptoms. A physical therapist can guide you through strengthening exercises that will also help improve your posture, restore normal movement, and prevent further damage to your neck and surrounding structures. Some physical therapists also use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which applied a mild current to the skin to temporarily easy pain and increase muscle strength.
Alternative medicine helps some patients. The research is limited on the efficacy of these treatments, but you might want to discuss them with your doctor if you have ongoing pain. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and mind-body therapies like yoga and tai chi are all alternative treatments that have allowed some patients to find relief from their whiplash symptoms.
Can Whiplash Trigger a Chronic Pain Condition/Disorder?
The simple answer to this question is yes. It has long been established that chronic pain can arise out of a single event, be it a physical injury or an extreme reaction to a stressful event. It is understandable that someone would obtain a diagnosis of whiplash associated disorder if they had recently been in a road traffic accident. In the majority of cases, symptoms resolve either on their own over a relatively short period of time with following some physical therapy and pain relief. When symptoms persist beyond 3 months of the initial injury, the medical profession would describe such symptoms as chronic in nature.