You know how this story goes: You’re stopped at a traffic light and the person behind you fails to notice your brake lights and rams into you. The damage to your car is extensive and your neck is sore from the forceful jostling the accident caused. Hundreds of accidents like this happen across the United States every day.
But what you may not know is that you could be suffering from whiplash, a soft-tissue injury common after car accidents.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash, according to the Mayo Clinic, is an injury to the soft tissue of the neck caused by “rapid back-and-forth movement.” The motion that causes whiplash may damage the bones, muscles, disks, nerves and tissue in the neck.
While most commonly seen in victims of motor-vehicle accidents, other physical trauma, like sports injuries or physical abuse, can cause whiplash as well.
The symptoms of whiplash often develop within 24 hours of the injury, and include the following:
- Tightness or stiffness in the neck
- An intense aching pain in the neck
- Balance problems
- Ringing in the ears
Though whiplash usually resolves itself within a few weeks, some people have further complications from the injury that lasts for months or even years. This can include chronic neck pain that worsens in severity, headaches and pain that spreads to the back and limbs.
Though you hope your injuries aren’t severe, there’s always the chance that whiplash after being rear-ended could seriously affect your life.
To protect your rights in the future, you should document all you can at the scene of the accident: the name, license plate number and insurance number of the other driver; the name and badge number of the police officers who respond to the crash; a detailed description of the accident, noting the time, location and other details; and be sure to save all medical records and medical bills associated with your injuries.
You may wish to speak to a personal injury lawyer who can help determine if you are owed any damages or compensation for the accident, and guide you on the path forward.