LEGAL CORNER: Are whiplash injuries fact or fiction?

Anyone suffering a whiplash injury will attest to just how painful and debilitating it can be.

Whiplash is a term used to describe a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways (laterally).

Whiplash often occurs after a sudden impact such as a road traffic accident.

The vigorous movement of the head damages the ligaments and tendons in the neck.

Tendons are tough, fibrous bands that connect muscles to bone. Ligaments are the fibrous connective tissues that link two bones together at a joint.

Common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, tenderness over the muscles and headaches.

Often pain develops later the same day or the following day. Generally the sooner the onset of pain, the more significant the injury.

As we age, we tend to see longer recovery periods because our ligaments and tendons are less supple.

Most whiplash injuries settle within weeks, but many can take months to settle and some never settle at all, leaving a marked impact upon the sufferer.

The victim can find themselves unable to work or carry on day-to-day routines. Early physiotherapy or other interventions often help.

Last year the government introduced a series of changes to 
the claims process in an attempt to stamp out fraud amid a clamber in sections of the press to proclaim a ‘compensation culture’.

In practice, however, just seven per cent of whiplash claims are thought to be fraudulent.

In 2012 a survey by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) found that only one in 100 people suffered whiplash over the previous 12 months, of which 40 per cent never made a claim at all. Around 90 per cent of those who claimed had their injuries supported by an independent doctor or consultant. One-third of sufferers reported recovering within one month, but 20 per cent had symptoms lasting more than a year.

Most whiplash type injuries 
result from rear-end vehicle collisions, but often the more significant 
injuries result from lateral impacts. Injuries can result in lost income, treatment costs and travel expenses, and have ruined many a holiday and summer party.

Many will admonish our 
so-called ‘compensation culture’. The statistics, however, belie this claim. Those fortunate enough never to have suffered a whiplash injury sometimes question their fact or fiction. You are likely to know someone who has suffered a whiplash injury. Perhaps ask them what they think?