Whiplash After Car Accident (What to Do and How to Treat)

Whiplash After Car Accident (What to Do and How to Treat)

Car Crash Injuries

When you are in a car accident, you may not realize right away that you are injured.

If you are a victim of whiplash, you may not seek treatment until your symptoms have become so bad that you have no choice. The pain in your neck, head, or back may grow worse by the day, and even everyday living can cause your injuries to get worse.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries after an auto accident, and it is important to understand what to do if you suspect you have a whiplash injury.

Neck Pain

Besides working on your physical recovery, you will also need to find a way to get your medical bills paid without using your own resources.

You don’t want to let what seems to be a neck sprain in the beginning cause you to suffer financially.

Immediately After an Accident

Even if you don’t feel as though you have been injured after an accident, it is always safer to go ahead and get checked out. After you explain the circumstances to a medical professional, you will have a better idea of what to expect and how to treat any symptoms that develop.

The reason you don’t feel pain right away after a motor vehicle accident is that your body releases adrenaline and cortisol as an immediate response to the trauma, as both of those hormones will help you deal with the stress and fear of a sudden traumatic event.

The adrenaline will speed up your heart rate immediately after you realize you are in a stressful situation, while cortisol, which takes a little longer, will help regulate your blood pressure and other body symptoms.

Both of those chemicals working together will help you deal with the accident by managing your stress, but they will also keep you from feeling pain right away. By protecting you, your body’s defenses can keep you from seeking medical treatment right away.

How Can You Tell If You Have Whiplash?

Unlike broken bones and bruises, whiplash injuries are more difficult to see and diagnose. They involve inner soft tissues, such as muscles and ligaments, that you use all the time in everyday activities.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of whiplash:

  • Neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and/or head pain
  • Stiff neck, and difficulty reaching your normal full range of motion
  • Swelling in the neck or related areas
  • Soreness in the neck and/or back area
  • Numbness in the extremities, such as an inability to feel your toes
  • Dizziness, tiredness, that “pins and needles” feeling
  • Blurred vision
  • An inability to concentrate, or sleep disturbances like an inability to fall asleep at night
  • Jaw pain

The symptoms of whiplash can vary depending on how the accident happened and how your body reacts, so it is important to be vigilant after an accident and immediately seek treatment if you suspect you have a whiplash injury.

What Kind Of Medical Treatment Can Help a Whiplash Injury?

The first thing your physician will do is document the injury, with information as to how the impact occurred and the circumstances around the crash. Many of the accidents that result in whiplash injuries were rear-end collisions.

For instance, the doctor will note the direction from which you were hit, the approximate speed of the collision, and whether you were wearing a seatbelt. Those aren’t factors that will be used against you, but they are important facts the doctor needs when assessing your injuries and what care you will need.

If the victim is a child, it will be important to find out whether the child was in a proper child restraint. Arizona car seat laws require all children younger than 8 to be in a proper child restraint system, which will help make sure they stay as safe as possible in the event of an accident.

Whiplash symptoms may be more difficult to diagnose in a small child who cannot explain where everything hurts.

The doctor will consider what kind of pain you are experiencing and base the treatment primarily on your symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no clear way to diagnose whiplash injuries, so X-rays or ct scans, and other kinds of tests won’t give the doctor much guidance.

Once the doctor has diagnosed a whiplash injury, he or she may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and other kinds of pain relievers
  • Injections, such as epidurals or steroids, which can either block or relieve pain
  • Massage therapy, for immediate comfort and relief

Ball neck massage

  • Physical therapy, which can actually help rehabilitate damaged muscles and ligaments
  • Ongoing treatment with a chiropractor
  • Stretches and strengthening exercises, which you can do at home
  • A neck brace, to keep you from moving as much as normal and further damaging your tissues


Besides the kinds of treatments your physician can order, there are several ways you can take care of yourself at home. As with any kind of muscle injury, you might want to start off with some ibuprofen or other kinds of NSAIDs and some rest.

Extreme physical workouts, or even moderate exertion, should be avoided soon after any possibly serious injury. Applying ice to the sore area will also usually help with swelling.

You can also find other ways to be comfortable, such as using a different chair for better back support and sleeping with pillows under your neck and knees to change the alignment of your head and spine. If you take the pressure off the damaged areas, you can at least minimize swelling.

As with any other injury, it is important to make sure you speak with your physician about any attempts to treat your own injuries. You could accidentally cause your injuries to get worse instead of better, which would make your recovery time longer.

Legal Assistance

If you have never dealt with a personal injury claim before, you may simply try to file an insurance claim for your medical bills and wait for your own insurance company to pay.

As long as the police report backs up your story regarding the motor vehicle accident, your insurance company may be willing to pay, and then the insurance adjusters will get the money back from the driver who caused the accident.

You may run into difficulties if the other driver says that your injuries weren’t so bad during the crash, as whiplash-associated disorders are often not detected right away.

In cases where there has been intentional negligence or a deliberate bad act, the courts will apply a rule commonly referred to as the eggshell skull rule.

The rule basically means that you have to take your victim as you find them. Someone who has caused an accident resulting in a large amount of damage cannot complain that a tougher victim would have had lesser injuries.

You may be wondering, “Should I get a lawyer for an accident that wasn’t my fault?” It is just as important to have an attorney whether or not you were the one who caused the accident, especially in states like Arizona, which uses a comparative fault rule when deciding damages.

That means that even if you are only 5% at fault during an accident, a jury can decide to make you pay that 5% even if you were the one who was severely injured, and the other person was 95% at fault.

You can also keep in mind that it won’t cost you anything to get advice from an attorney. An accident attorney will typically take on your case without any payment after a free consultation.

Have You Been In an Accident?

Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC. is a personal injury law firm located in Mesa, AZ. We have proudly served the community for 60 years, successfully assisting many clients as our personal injury attorneys have held themselves to a higher standard of excellence, with proven results.

SGP Law also assists those throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area in meeting Phoenix-area residents’ legal need for representation when they serious injuries, mainly involving auto accidents.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident, please feel free to call today for a free evaluation of your case.

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