How Long Does Whiplash Last After a Car Accident?

    Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained by car accident victims. Although it is often viewed as a “minor” injury, it can lead to serious, lasting medical issues. Even a slight misalignment of the spine can throw the entire body out of whack, creating a domino effect that can even lead to mental health issues like depression. But how long does whiplash last after a car accident? If you have experienced this issue firsthand, you are probably asking yourself this question right now. 

    The truth is that it depends. Each situation is slightly different, and internet research cannot provide you with accurate information based on your own unique circumstances. That being said, you can establish a general idea of how long your whiplash could last, which is what we're covering in the rest of this blog today.

    What is Whiplash?

    Whiplash is a spinal injury suffered by many car accident victims. This type of accident is most common in “rear-enders,” where victims are struck from behind by another vehicle. The impact in this situation causes victims’ heads to suddenly jerk backward. This jarring, sudden movement of the spine can cause serious, lasting issues. Often, the neck jerks backward before quickly moving forward again. This back-and-forth motion can affect the neck muscles, discs, soft tissue, and nerves. 

    Whiplash can occur in many situations – not just rear-enders. This injury can occur during a head-on collision or a sideways “t-bone” style accident. The motion of the neck is best described as a “cracking of a whip.” Whiplash injuries are not fully understood by doctors. However, there are several common symptoms, including:

    • Neck pain, chronic pain in the upper back, arms or shoulders
    • Stiffness
    • Dizziness
    • Numbness
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Blurred vision
    • Concentration problems
    • Memory issues
    • Irritability
    • Sleep problems
    • Low energy
    • Tingling sensations
    • Headaches
    • Loss of range of motion
    • Depression

    Because the neck is responsible for sending information throughout the entire body, a severe whiplash injury may affect parts of the body that you least expected. For example, a whiplash injury can cause numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. 

    This neck injury may be detected and diagnosed by several methods, including X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Getting these medical images is essential, as it helps doctors understand the severity of your whiplash. From there, you can get started with effective treatment plans. 

    How Long Does Whiplash Usually Last?

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    As previously pointed out, there is no easy way to determine how long your whiplash will last. Different people heal differently. Some may have a relatively short recovery period, while others may experience chronic whiplash symptoms. Your healing process may depend on several factors, including:

    • Your age
    • Your health
    • Your medical history
    • Your tolerance for a particular medicine
    • Your ability to engage in specific therapies
    • Your preferences for treatment

    That being said, most cases of whiplash complete a full recovery within a few months. But this only really applies to mild forms of whiplash, and there are many “grades” of whiplash to consider. According to mainstream medicine, this issue is technically called “whiplash-associated disorder” or “WAD.”

    There are five grades of WAD:

    • Grade 0: No complaints about the neck and no physical signs of injury.
    • Grade I: Some complaints about neck issues – but only limited to stiffness and tenderness (not pain). Again, no signs of physical injury are present.
    • Grade II: Complaints about neck issues and musculoskeletal signs of injury. Decreased range of motion and point tenderness.
    • Grade III: Neck complaint and neurological signs of injury. Neurological signs include decreased range of motion and point tenderness. 
    • Grade IV: Neck complaint and fracture/dislocation

    Studies have also determined that multimodal therapy may be used if whiplash injuries have not settled within four to six weeks. In addition, these studies indicate that multimodal therapy can see continued use up to 12 weeks after the whiplash injury. This indicates that many cases of whiplash can last well beyond four months. 

    How Long Can Whiplash Last in Severe Cases?

    Indeed, some cases of whiplash have lasted for several months or even years. While whiplash lasting years is rare, it is certainly within the realm of possibility. The only way to determine how long your whiplash may last is to see a doctor. Even when you see a doctor, these medical professionals will only provide you with estimates regarding your recovery time. Sometimes, the only way to learn how long whiplash will last is to wait and see. An intelligent choice is to wait until your maximum medical recovery (MMR) before settling your injury claim. If you settle too early, you may later discover that your whiplash was much worse than you initially expected. Remember, you can be compensated for your medical expenses due to your crash. 

    Can the Effects of Whiplash be Permanent?

    Technically speaking, it is possible to develop permanent injuries due to whiplash. Some people struggle with back pain for their entire lives after accidents. This is definitely something to keep in mind as you move forward with your injury claim. The worst outcomes occur when people fail to get treatment. If you connect with medical professionals who have experience treating whiplash and other spinal issues, you should be able to avoid permanent consequences. However, there are never any guarantees when it comes to car accident injuries. 

    Is it Worth Filing an Injury Claim for Whiplash?

    Generally speaking, it is worth filing an injury claim after suffering whiplash in a car accident. First of all, you need to consider the potential ease of receiving a settlement. Since you suffered a whiplash injury, you were probably struck from behind. This means that the other driver is almost always at fault. When you strike a vehicle in front of you, it means that you were not giving them enough space and that you were following too closely behind. Even if the car in front of you suddenly stops, you are usually considered to be at fault. 

    This means that if you were rear-ended, proving that the other driver was negligent is exceedingly easy. In turn, this means that it should be very easy to recover a settlement for your damages. With help from a personal injury lawyer, you can easily negotiate compensation that matches your damages.

    You also must consider the possibility of your medical condition worsening with time. Although your whiplash injury might not seem very serious initially, your condition could quickly degrade after a few days. Sometimes, adrenaline and shock make it difficult to understand and feel the full extent of our injuries. Although it might not seem worth it to file an injury claim at first, you could soon regret this inaction when you realize that you are suffering from neurological issues and disabling spinal problems that prevent you from working. You may also incur serious medical costs as you attempt to treat these issues. A personal injury claim can provide you with the compensation you need to cover these losses. Even if you end up missing a few days of work, there is no reason to pay these losses out of your own pocket if someone else was to blame for the crash. 

    Always Get Medical Treatment

    Even if you remotely suspect you have suffered a whiplash injury, it always makes sense to get medical treatment after a crash. When you play it safe, you can discover the full extent of your injuries with the help of a medical professional. This can save you considerable stress and complications down the road. Especially in these cases, it’s possible that victims may need physical therapy treatment to recover from symptoms of whiplash.

    In addition, failure to get medical treatment may prevent you from filing a personal injury claim in the future. If there are no medical records to back up your claims, it will be difficult to convince insurance adjusters that your injuries are legitimate. They may ask you why you did not get medical treatment immediately after the accident. For this reason, you should accept medical treatment at the scene of the crash. If first responders recommend that you visit the hospital, you should take them up on their offers. 

    Later, you can show your medical records to insurance adjusters or the civil court to illustrate the fact that your injuries are legitimate. This evidence may take the form of doctors’ notes, MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and much more. Other useful evidence may include police reports, eyewitness reports, and photos taken from the scene of the crash. 

    Where Can I Find a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney in Chicago?

    If you have been searching for an experienced personal injury attorney in Chicago, consider contacting Palermo Law Group. We have helped countless auto accident victims with all types of injuries, and we know that this injury can be much more severe than many people realize. Although it is easy to dismiss this injury as “minor,” people who have experienced it firsthand know that it can affect almost every aspect of one’s life. If you have experienced a whiplash injury after a car accident, you deserve the right to explore your legal options. With our assistance, you can recover compensation for medical expenses, missed wages, emotional distress, and much more. Book your consultation today and get started with an effective action plan.



    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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