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What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a word used to describe several types of injuries that are all caused by trauma to the neck or upper back. It is not a medical term, but a catchall description for any injury that results when your head moves backwards and then moves forwards suddenly. The muscles, tendons and ligaments in your neck and upper back are stretched and pulled in a way that your body was not designed to handle.

What causes whiplash?

Whiplash is most common after a car accident, especially one in which you were rear-ended by another car that did not stop in time. You can also suffer whiplash after a ride on a roller coaster or bungee jumping. Being hit by an object or being assaulted can cause similar injuries.

Whiplash often is not felt until several hours, or even days, after the accident. Some people have symptoms immediately, but they are often ignored because of more obvious injuries or because the person is still in emotional shock. In many cases, it is only after the other injuries are treated and the person starts to calm down that the severity of the whiplash injury becomes obvious.

What are some of the symptoms of whiplash?

The Mayo Clinic website says the most common symptoms of whiplash are:

  • Pain and stiffness in your neck or upper back
  • Headaches
  • Any kind of dizziness or vertigo (when the room feels like it is spinning)
  • Fatigue (this can last long after the other symptoms are gone)
  • Memory problems
  • Problems falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability

If you have any of these symptoms you need emergency care. Go to the emergency room immediately or call 911:

  • Pain after you move your head
  • Pain that radiates down your arm(s)
  • Any numbness, weakness or tingling

Will my injuries be permanent?

Most cases of whiplash get better in a few weeks or months. Some people continue to have chronic pain and fatigue after whiplash. Your doctor can tell you about your options concerning medication, physical therapy, chiropractic and medical devices that might be helpful.

My insurance company wants to settle my case. Should I take the check?

Absolutely not. Many insurance companies want to settle your case within days of your accident. They do this because you have no way of knowing at that point how long it will take you to recover. If it takes longer than you thought, or you need expensive therapies, you cannot then go back to the insurance company and tell them that you want more money ― the form that you signed when you got your check included a waiver of any future legal action. Before you sign anything, you must consult with an Alabama attorney who is experienced in whiplash injuries.

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