What is Whiplash? How Bad Can It Get?

Insurance claims from car crashes on the rise in the UKI read today how an increase in whiplash claims are being blamed in the UK for car insurance premiums going up by 82% in a year for some people. The sky news article said the AA has found that even with accidents having dropped there are 200 whiplash claims a day in the UK, wow! This got me thinking a bit more about whiplash and so I want to show you how whiplash is classified and what are some of the whiplash treatment options recommended.

Hopefully you should understand a bit more at the end what whiplash actually is, so you know why you have been quoted higher car insurance premiums. Oh and I found out examples of how much money these whiplash insurance claims can make at the bottom of the article.

What is a Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash is a condition best described as an acceleration-deceleration injury of the neck. Usually this type of acceleration-deceleration injury to the neck happens from a car accident, but whiplash can happen elsewhere like sport accidents. Think of heavy rugby tackles.

In car accidents, whiplash is typically a from a rear-end accident like this video.

But whiplash can happen from side-impact and front impact collisions like in the video below.

You can imagine that with whiplash accidents your head is whipped back and forth or side to side on your neck spine causing the whiplash pain.

Whiplash Symptoms

So you have just had a car accident or a bumper bash in traffic and now your worried you have a whiplash. Well here are some of the symptoms of whiplash you might experience:

People after a car accidents can feel some very different and a variety of sensations. Especially with the adrenaline pumping from an accident you would also go into a state of shock. This adrenaline shock can mask the symptoms straight after an accident also.

How To Classify a Whiplash Injury

Back in 1995 the public auto insurer in the Province of Quebec, Canada got the Qubec Task Force to look at whiplash associated disorders in more detail.

The Qubec task force came up with a whiplash classification system for doctors and insurers to use in assessing how to mange whiplash, which they call whiplash associated disorders or WAD.

The Qubec Task Force Whiplash classification is:

  • Grade 0 – No pain or discomfort. No physical signs of injury.
  • Grade 1– Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness. No physical signs of injury.
  • Grade 2 – Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness and some physical signs of injury such as point tenderness or trouble turning the head.
  • Grade 3 – Pain, stiffness or tenderness and neurological signs of injury, such as changes to reflexes or weakness in the arms.
  • Grade 4 – Pain and fracture or dislocation of the neck.

Whiplash Treatment Options

First thing to do is get checked out by a doctor after a car accident.

We all know that even at low speeds damage happens to our bodies. That is why car bumpers have all those euro NCAP rating features to soften the blow.

The Qubec task force came up with a protocol to manage the whiplash neck pain. It all depends on what whiplash grade from the above classification your doctor has diagnosed your whiplash as.

Do You Need X-rays?

You’ll find that most doctors will want a neck x-ray to rule out a fracture or dislocation. This is the worst case and is the grade 4 whiplash. This grade 4 would require seeing a surgical consultant straight away if diagnosed.

One of the orthopaedic signs a doctor would look for is a patient coming in displaying Rust Sign like this picture. The patient needs to hold their head still. This could be a neck fracture case.

Rust Sign Orthopaedic Test
The Rust Sign

You may see a straight neck curve on the x-ray this is because of a neck muscle spasm.  Most of the time a normal x-ray would be seen even with the neck pain. The x-ray only shows the bone not the soft tissues like muscle and ligaments that get hurt the most in whiplash.

Qubec Task Force Recommendtions

The Qubec Task Force gave their recommendations on the different treatment modalities patients can use to control pain which can be seen below:

[gview file=”http://www.whiplashprevention.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/Research%20Articles/Medical%20-%20Whiplash/GuidelinesDiagnosingWhiplash.pdf”]

In Australia at the University of Queensland they have also looked at the research out there as to what people with whiplash pain can do. You can see their extensive whiplash treatment table here.

The main points about what treatment to do for a whiplash injury would mainly be:

  1. Keep active and do what your normally do,
  2. Don’t wear a collar/neck brace for most grades of whiplash for more than 3 days,
  3. You’ll need different types of treatment not just one depending on your specific situation.

How Much Money Do Whiplash Compensation People Get?

So as if like the AA says that there are 200 claims being made a day why would so many people try put in a whiplash claim.

Well from what I have read in 2010 the whiplash claim amounts guidelines being touted were:

1. Minor whiplash injuries

  • Neck pain between a few weeks and a year – £850 to £2,800.
  • Neck pain lasting up to two years – £2,800 to £5,000

2. UK compensation for a moderate whiplash

  • Neck pain for a few years with a risk of the pain returning – £5,000 to £8,700
  • Permanent or recurring neck pain and stiffness – £8,700 to £16,000

3. UK compensation for a severe whiplash trauma

  • Neck pain is severe and there is permanent damage to the cervical spine – up to £95,500

Then you can claim other costs like fuel loss, car damage, lost income etc… There is a lot of money in the no win no fee law world that’s for sure.

I hope that has helped you to understand a bit more exactly what a whiplash is, what are some of the symptoms of whiplash and how you could treat a whiplash neck pain and know how bad it is. Oh and I hope your car insurance premiums haven’t shot up recently.