Whiplash, also referred to as neck strain or neck sprain, is a common result of an auto accident. Falls, assaults, or sports injuries can also cause whiplash. Unfortunately, in popular opinion, whiplash is often a punchline. Many believe that it is usually exaggerated or faked outright. Even legal and medical practitioners sometimes rely on this stereotype.

There are two reasons that whiplash is considered easy to feign. One is that the injuries are internal and usually invisible. The other is that whiplash symptoms may not appear immediately after an accident; they can take several days to manifest.

If you have suffered from whiplash, don’t let these ideas fool you—your injuries are real, and you deserve justice. What you need is immediate medical care and documentation of your whiplash and related disorders. And the sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can build a solid and undeniable case for damages.

How Whiplash Works and How to Care For It

When a human body is forcibly jerked forward and backward, like a cracked whip, the movement can damage ligaments, nerve roots, muscle tissue, and joints in the neck and back. The result is called “whiplash,” a term that covers a wide array of possible whiplash-associated disorders. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness in the neck or shoulders
  • Pain in the back, neck, or shoulders
  • Soft tissue injuries to muscles or ligaments
  • Paresthesia—tingling, burning, or numbness from nerve damage
  • Neurological symptoms such as memory loss or loss of concentration
  • Psychological symptoms such as sleep deprivation, depression, or mood changes
    (Source: National Institutes of Health)

These symptoms can take several hours to several days to become noticeable. In a charged situation such as an accident, the body is flooded with adrenaline and often does not feel the extent of injuries right away. Moreover, some of these symptoms, such as fatigue and psychological effects, only appear later.

For that reason, it is crucial that you receive medical evaluation and care immediately after the accident and check in with your doctor in the days that follow. Describe your experience and your symptoms as best as you can. Since whiplash involves so much soft tissue, an X-ray will generally not show it, but a doctor may order other types of imaging which often reveal evidence of injury not seen on x-ray.

Doctors describe whiplash-associated disorders on a scale of Grade 0 (no injury) through Grade 4 (severe pain and neurological effects). A mild case of whiplash may be treated at home with muscle relaxants, hot or cold compresses, and anti-inflammatory pain medications. Doctors also prescribe physical therapy, chiropractic care and other therapeutic treatments to improve the range of motion in the neck and shoulders, as well as cervical collars (padded neck braces). More serious cases may require targeted nerve treatments, injections or even spinal surgery.

Unfortunately, whiplash-associated symptoms can last weeks or months, and some people may never find complete relief from their pain or loss of function. Whiplash-associated disorders can cost you thousands in medical bills and lost wages due to pain and disability.

How to Get the Recovery You Need

The state of Washington has a “pure contributory negligence” law for personal injury recovery. If you had some degree of fault in an auto accident, even the majority of it, you can still recover your monetary damages from the other party in the accident. But your damages will be reduced by your own degree of fault in the accident. For example, if you were 80% at fault for an accident, you would still be entitled to recover 20% of the damages you sustained.

After an accident, insurance adjusters examine the evidence and try to assign a degree of fault for each driver. However, they often do this in a way that is advantageous to their own companies. To save money on payouts, they will often try to claim that you had as much fault as possible—even all of it.

You don’t have to accept that determination. An experienced auto accident attorney deals with insurance companies every day, and they can challenge an adjuster’s fault determination to get you the recovery you deserve. What is more, auto accident attorneys in Bellevue can present evidence necessary to present the best possible claim for your damages.

In order to demonstrate how much you have suffered from a whiplash injury, an attorney will need to see thorough documentation of your medical visits and your doctor’s notes. You should also provide evidence of your expenses incurred by:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Medical appointments and treatments
  • Travel to and from medical treatments
  • Rehabilitation, such as physical therapy and chiropractic treatment
  • Counseling and other treatments for psychological symptoms
  • Nonprescription drugs and health care, such as ibuprofen and braces
  • Lost wages or earning opportunities due to whiplash injuries or treatments

For an estimate of noneconomic damages—also known as “pain and suffering”—provide evidence of how your injuries have affected you, how have they impacted your ability to conduct your daily living activities, spend time with your family, and pursue your outside interests? Describe these consequences in your life.

As Washington car accident attorneys, we know how to help you through the process of proving your damages while protecting you from the pressure of insurance companies. Contact Cascade Injury Law today at 425-654-8121 to schedule a free consultation in our Bellevue offices.