“Whiplash” is a kind of catch-all term to describe injuries that occur after an incident that causes a person’s head to violently snap back and forth. Probably the most common cause of whiplash is when a vehicle is struck from behind by another car or truck, but sports injuries and slip, trip and falls can also result in whiplash injuries. Whiplash injuries can range from mild to severe depending on how severely a person’s neck hyperextends or compresses as a result of an impact. Moreover, symptoms may not be immediate or even appear for several days following a trauma to the neck.
So what are the symptoms of whiplash? It really depends on how a person’s head, neck and spine react to the trauma or impact that caused the whiplash. Less severe whiplash may result in minimal or no pain or stiffness. Mid level whiplash may cause pain radiating to areas such as the face, head, back and shoulders, as well as possible muscle spasms that cause difficulty in moving one’s head and/or neck. More serious whiplash can cause quite devastating symptoms including numbness, weakness, headaches, dizziness, vision and sleep disturbances, as well as neurological problems associated with trauma to the vertebrae, discs, and nerve roots in the spine.
The types of treatment and length of treatment for whiplash type injuries is generally dictated by the severity of symptoms a person experiences after sustaining trauma to the head and neck. For less severe instances of whiplash, one or more of the following may be all that is needed: Anti-inflammatory medications, pain medication, muscle relaxers, immobilization and/or physical therapy. For more severe instances of whiplash, a person may need some or all of the above plus electrical nerve stimulation, injections and in some cases, spinal surgery. Obviously, the time and potential for a full recovery will depend on the severity of the damage caused by the whiplash event. Some may recover in weeks. Others may have permanent damage and never fully recover.
If you sustain whiplash type injuries in the State of Michigan, you may be entitled to compensation from the person or entity that caused your injury, i.e. the at-fault driver. Aside from various insurance coverage issues that will be the subject of another blog, in order to recover money damages from an at fault driver, the whiplash injuries need to be what is defined in Michigan Law as a “serious impairment of a body function.” That is defined by MCL 500.3135 as follows:
“serious impairment of body function” means an impairment that satisfies all of the following requirements:
(a) It is objectively manifested, meaning it is observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions by someone other than the injured person.
(b) It is an impairment of an important body function, which is a body function of great value, significance, or consequence to the injured person.
(c) It affects the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life, meaning it has had an influence on some of the person’s capacity to live in his or her normal manner of living. Although temporal considerations may be relevant, there is no temporal requirement for how long an impairment must last. This examination is inherently fact and circumstance specific to each injured person, must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, and requires comparison of the injured person’s life before and after the incident.
“Objectively manifested” can range from simple things like muscle spasms to other tests like X-rays, CT scans and MRI studies that can objectively show trauma to different areas of the body. An “important body function” is simply a body function that is valuable and significant to the injured person. Depending on the person, things like moving one’s legs or arms, bending, stooping, twisting, turning, sleeping, etc. may be of great value, significance or consequence to satisfy that requirement. The last requirement is that the injured person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life is somehow affected. Every case is different and the court will compare a person’s pre-crash life with his or her post-crash life. If the impairment of an important body function has any influence at all on a person’s capacity to live his or her normal manner of living, that should meet the requirements of the statute to allow recovery against the at-fault driver.
Whiplash type injuries can be very serious and should not be taken lightly. If you have sustained a whiplash injury, it is important to seek appropriate medical consultation as soon as possible to determine the extent of the injury and appropriate testing and treatment. If the whiplash injury was caused by an at-fault driver, it is also important to contact a qualified attorney who recognizes the value of these types of claims and will work hard to make sure you receive top dollar compensation for the harm caused by the negligent driver. Call (248) 865-7740 or email us at Neil@NDavisLaw.com for a free consultation.