When Whiplash Isn’t Just Whiplash - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Friday, 27 May 2016

When Whiplash Isn’t Just Whiplash

#AskStevenWilder

If you ask regular, everyday people, who have never been involved in a motor vehicle accident, whether whiplash is a serious injury, you will generally receive a “Yes”. Conversely, if you ask most insurance company representatives, you will generally receive a “No” in reply. However, if you ask an experienced personal injury lawyer the very same question, their answer will most likely be “Depends”.

Now you may be thinking, ‘that is exactly the non-answer you would get from any lawyer’. However, this is not simply a lawyer dodging a question or providing a qualified response. “It depends” is actually the correct response, because whiplash, like many other injuries, has varying degrees of severity.

To be clear, whiplash does not technically exist as a medical condition. Rather “WAD” is the medical term, which stands for Whiplash Associated Disorder. There are generally 4 categories of this condition: WAD I, WAD II, WAD III and WAD IV. WAD I & II are generally considered to be mild conditions, while WAD III is a more serious condition. WAD IV is the most serious of the 4 and is generally distinguished due to the fracture or dislocation of the neck.

It is generally agreed that a WAD IV injury is more likely to be serious and permanent, and not simply whiplash. As such, for the purposes of this discussion, we will not consider WAD IV. So when is whiplash simply whiplash, and when is it truly something more?

WAD I & II are generally considered to be mild conditions that will resolve with time and potentially some treatment. The distinguishing feature between WAD I and WAD II, is the presence of musculoskeletal signs in a WAD II injury, including a decreased range of motion or point tenderness.  Standard healing times are estimated to be in the 4-6 week timeframe, following the initial injury. Generally, treatment consists of physiotherapy, massage therapy, and/or chiropractic care.

Many people who suffer a WAD I or WAD II injury, will make a full recovery, with little to no ongoing issues. This is highly dependent on a number of factors, such as age, physical condition of individual, previous injuries to neck or spine, length of time between injury and treatment, and the mechanics of the accident itself. For some people, their WAD injury will quickly be a thing of the past and they will likely go on with their lives without complication or issue.

However, there are also a group of people who will suffer a WAD I/II injury and do not make a full recovery. Instead, they suffer ongoing pain, stiffness, tenderness and restriction of motion. For many of these people, they will be denied the ongoing care and treatment that they need, due to medical literature and studies which suggest people should heal within a certain period of time. These same studies and literature, incorrectly assume a multitude of factors and do not reflect the actual realities of the injury and the needs of the individual.

Unfortunately, individuals who do not make a full recovery are often relegated to a lifetime of ongoing pain and limitations, which can result in early retirement, financial difficulties, social isolation, ongoing treatment needs and significant lifestyle changes. Adding insult to injury, these individuals are often unable to bring a claim for their damages or seek damages from the responsible party, owing to significant restrictions that have been made law, at the request of insurance companies and their lobbyists.WAD III on the other hand, is a more serious condition. It can last well beyond expected healing times and can result in a number of additional issues and complications, some of which may be quite serious and even permanent. Some common complications from WAD III include neurological issues, especially in the shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists and hands. In addition, headaches are another common complication, which some people find more debilitating and enduring than a migraine. 

Similar to WAD I and WAD II injuries, some individuals with a WAD III injury, make a complete and for the most part, uncomplicated recovery. However, most individuals with a WAD III injury experience lengthy recovery times, ongoing restrictions and limitations in their daily life, significant income loss and time missed from work, as well as ongoing treatment needs, potentially for the remainder of their life. For these people, seeking compensation is a necessity, in order to make up for the lifetime of losses they are about to endure.

Now to return to our original question of when whiplash is simply whiplash. It would seem that whiplash as it is commonly understood, is the medical condition of a WAD I or II injury, provided it heals in expected timeframes and without ongoing issues. However, individuals who experience ongoing pain, limitations and restriction of motion, may be experiencing something more than just whiplash. Indeed, individuals experiencing neurological symptoms may be more accurately diagnosed with WAD III. In either event, it is safe to say that this is clearly not just whiplash.

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