Whiplash: Causes and Symptoms

Most people view whiplash as a minor injury, but car accident victims will tell you it’s much more serious than one would expect.

Technically, whiplash is a sudden over-extension of the neck that is usually caused by being struck from behind, as in a rear-end car accident. At the moment of impact, the body moves forward but the head remains still for a fraction of a second, and then the head abruptly follows the body. This violent movement can result in tearing of ligaments and tendons, and in the worse-case, muscles.


Symptoms from whiplash run the gamut, and don’t usually appear until 12 to 24 hours post-accident. Typically, pain begins in the neck, which can become very stiff, severely limiting range of motion. The pain may be accompanied by headaches, fatigue, vision problems, and muscle spasms. If the pain begins to spread to shoulders or arms, or there is numbness or tingling down the extremities, then it is recommended that a doctor be contacted right away.

When treatment is obtained, most doctors will take an x-ray of the cervical spine to rule out any fractures or other misalignment. Depending on the presentation of symptoms, an MRI may be ordered. It is not uncommon to experience pain and other symptoms for up to four weeks post-injury. In more severe cases, pain killers and physical therapy may be ordered.

If the whiplash is caused by an auto accident, the injured party may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver. In California that compensation usually consists of payment of all medical bills, past and future, any lost wages, and a reasonable sum for the pain, suffering, inconvenience, hassle, and other impacts the accident has had on the person’s life.

The Walton Law Firm represent individuals who have been injured in all types of accidents, including injuries caused by car accidents, motorcycle accidents, worksite injuries, food poisoning, pedestrian injuries, construction accidents, property injuries, and malpractice matters. Call (760) 571-5500 for a free and confidential consultation.

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