What Is Whiplash?

October 17, 2023 | Ed Bernstein
What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a commonly misunderstood injury. This neck trauma often results from car accidents, but its varied and unpredictable clinical manifestations can perplex doctors and patients alike. That can make seeking compensation for whiplash difficult without the help of an experienced Henderson car accident lawyer

Your doctor and car accident lawyer will understand this condition. Your doctor will address its symptoms and underlying causes while your lawyer will handle the legal ramifications.

By recognizing the complexities of this condition, whiplash does not have to remain an enigma.

Understanding Whiplash

What Is Whiplash

Whiplash occurs due to a sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the head, similar to the cracking of a whip—hence the term whiplash. This intense motion can damage the soft tissues in the neck, including the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

While motor vehicle accidents, specifically rear-end collisions, are a common cause, whiplash can also result from physical abuse, sports injuries, or extreme amusement park rides. The symptoms and severity of the condition can vary significantly from person to person, making each experience unique.

How Whiplash Occurs

Whiplash is particularly concerning because it can occur even at low speeds. Sudden force, such as when a car stops or accelerates abruptly, can cause the head to jerk back and forth violently. This leads to an overextension of the neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range, resulting in whiplash.

Common Causes of Whiplash

Car accidents, especially rear-end collisions, cause most whiplash cases, but the injury is not exclusive to vehicular mishaps. Contact sports like football or boxing, where sudden hits regularly occur, can also lead to this type of injury.

Whiplash can even result from regular activities, such as riding a roller coaster or enduring a sudden fall. Events that involve a powerful jerk or kick to the body can induce a similar whip-like motion in the neck, causing these injuries.

Symptoms of Whiplash

A whiplash diagnosis requires an assessment of the signs and symptoms that develop following an accident or trauma. Many victims notice a sharp, sudden onset of neck pain or stiffness, often within hours or a few days after the traumatic event. There are often accompanying headaches, most commonly at the base of the skull, and reduced range of motion in the neck. You may also experience dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating.

Symptoms of whiplash do not always present immediately and may appear days or weeks after the collision. These could include irritability, sleep disturbances, or memory problems. Some people also experience a ringing in their ears (tinnitus) or exhibit symptoms of depression.

Chronic whiplash is a more serious concern, as it can last weeks, months, or even years, leading to long-term consequences and a significantly reduced quality of life.

Ongoing symptoms may include a constant ache or pain in the neck, severe headaches, and shoulder or back pain. Some individuals also suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, or depression.

Your car accident lawyer can explain the legal implications surrounding a whiplash injury, especially if you suffered harm due to someone else's negligence, such as in a car accident or a sports event.

Whiplash and Personal Injury Law

Personal injury law is a legal framework that compensates victims who have suffered harm due to someone else's actions or negligence. In whiplash cases, the injured person (plaintiff) can file a lawsuit against the individual or entity (defendant) responsible for causing the injury.

In such cases, you must demonstrate that the defendant's actions directly resulted in your injury. You can do this by showing that the defendant owed you a duty of care, which they breached, and you suffered whiplash.

The duty of care might be as simple as another driver's responsibility to travel at a safe distance to avoid a rear-end collision with your vehicle or a sports organization's responsibility to ensure your safety as a player.

If you suffer from whiplash due to someone else's actions, your medical records become vital evidence. Seek prompt medical attention after the event, even if you do not feel pain immediately. Whiplash can have delayed symptoms, so getting a medical evaluation as soon as possible can help in the later stages of your claim.

After you receive medical treatment, record all your medical visits, treatments, tests, medications, and other related expenses. This documentation will serve as proof of your suffering and the financial implications of your injury. This crucial evidence also allows your attorney to argue for fair compensation for your pain and suffering and financial losses.

Record your symptoms and how they influence your daily life. A personal injury diary documenting your physical and emotional struggles following your whiplash injury can serve as a powerful tool in your case.

Potential Compensation for Whiplash Injuries

The financial repercussions of a severe whiplash injury can be immense, often including medical bills for treatment, lost income due to inability to work, and other related expenses. Legal provisions allow individuals suffering from whiplash injuries to claim compensation covering these costs and associated damages.

Types of Compensation

There are two broad categories of compensation for whiplash injuries: special damages and general damages.

Special damages compensate the victim for quantifiable financial losses linked to the injury. These include medical expenses, physical therapy costs, medication costs, lost income due to missed work, and any other out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury.

General damages, on the other hand, cater to non-economic losses that are not easy to quantify. These include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of companionship.

The compensation you receive depends on the severity of your injury, the consequences on your daily life, and the extent of your financial losses.

Given the complex nature of personal injury lawsuits, it is highly recommended to seek the advice of an experienced Henderson personal injury attorney. A lawyer can guide you through the complicated legal process, gather necessary evidence, and advocate for your rights to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Every case is unique, with no predetermined amount of compensation for whiplash injuries. A competent legal professional working on your behalf can significantly increase your chances of securing the maximum payment available in your case.

Statute of Limitations Following a Whiplash Accident

Dealing with a whiplash injury is challenging enough, but being aware of the relevant legal time frames is also crucial. These time limits, or statutes of limitations, dictate the time within which a person can take legal action after a whiplash injury. Missing these deadlines could result in losing the right to seek legal compensation for your physical and financial suffering.

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims

In personal injury law, the statute of limitations refers to the claimant's time limit to file a lawsuit. This period varies from state to state and depends on the type of claim. Some states allow up to two years for personal injury claims, while others may only give you one year.

The clock typically starts ticking on the accident date or from the date you discovered your whiplash injury—the discovery date. If you do not seek immediate medical attention, it may lead to a delayed discovery ruling.

Why Time Limits Matter

If you fail to file a lawsuit within the stipulated period, the court can dismiss your case, and you may lose your right to legal recourse for your injuries.

The passage of time may also lead to crucial evidence becoming unavailable or unreliable, potentially weakening your case. This could include medical reports, witness statements, or camera footage from the accident scene.

Importance of Contacting a Lawyer Promptly

Given the legal complexities surrounding whiplash injuries, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. An attorney can explain the statute of limitations in your case, advise on the best course of action, and ensure you do not miss any critical legal deadlines.

What to Do Following a Whiplash Car Accident

A blur of confusion and uncertainty can follow a car accident involving a whiplash injury. Knowing what steps to take can ensure your well-being and strengthen your legal claim.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

If you are an accident victim, seek immediate medical attention, irrespective of the perceived severity of your injuries. Whiplash may not present immediately. It could take days or even weeks to develop, so have a medical professional evaluate you as soon as possible.

Discuss any discomfort or symptoms with your healthcare provider, no matter how minor. Medical documentation can link your accident and resulting whiplash injury, which your legal case requires.

Collect Evidence

Effective documentation is key to building a strong legal claim. This may include photographs of the accident scene, witness statements, or detailed notes about the incident.

When you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, they can collect the following information to support your legal claim:

  • The contact and insurance details of the other driver(s).
  • Photos of all involved vehicles.
  • Photos of the accident scene, including traffic signs and road conditions.
  • The contact details of any witnesses.

Inform Your Insurance Company

Report the accident to your insurance company promptly. Depending upon your coverage, your provider may assist with vehicle repairs, medical expenses, and other accident-related costs.

Avoid making definitive statements claiming you are unharmed or feel fine, as it could jeopardize your claim if you develop delayed symptoms of whiplash. Only give the basic, required information to your insurer. Let your lawyer provide details—in fact, just let your lawyer report the accident so you don’t inadvertently say anything to sabotage your claim.

Hire a Personal Injury Attorney 

Insurance companies will dispute the severity of your injury and make your whiplash claim complex and challenging to navigate. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide you, advocate for your rights, and recover adequate compensation for you.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today

Review your case with a personal injury attorney after a potential whiplash accident. They can explain your legal options and fight for the damages you deserve.

An attorney understands the complexities surrounding personal injury law and the statute of limitations and will navigate the claim process to secure your rightful compensation.

Do not wait to seek legal advice. Reach out to a skilled personal injury attorney today for a free case evaluation, and find out how they can go after the money and justice you deserve.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.