Acceleration, Deceleration & Whiplash
Whiplash Injury Attorneys in Houston, TX
By far, the most common injury resulting from motor vehicle accidents is whiplash (80% of car crash injuries). Whiplash is a cervical (neck) injury that is caused when the head is thrown either backward by acceleration or forward by deceleration. The acceleration or deceleration in car accidents is typically abrupt, which will cause the head to jerk and be stretched beyond its normal range of motion, straining the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Extreme cases of whiplash can even cause fractures to the neck vertebrae. Although a full recovery is likely, these injuries are incredibly painful and may necessitate prolonged time off of work and activity to recover.
Whiplash can occur at nearly any speed—even when vehicles are traveling as slowly as 25 mph!
The Extent of Damage from Whiplash Injuries
Most commonly, whiplash is the result of a rear-end automobile collision, rather than a side impact or head-on collision, although that is possible. In the event of a car accident, kinetic energy will keep the bodies in the car moving forward. Due to restraints such as seat belts, the body will be stopped while the head will continue to be thrown backward. This unnatural movement of the neck commonly results in hypertension injuries. Depending on the severity of the impact and how fast both vehicles were traveling, the extent of the whiplash will differ.
The most severe whiplash injuries will cause traumatic brain injuries. A doctor will examine whiplash patients in a physical exam. In severe cases, doctors might monitor brain function to ascertain whether or not there was damage.
With acceleration/deceleration injuries, the brain may swell and cause bruising and bleeding.
Acceleration / Deceleration Injuries to the Brain
Sudden acceleration or deceleration can cause a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) known as a closed-head injury. Acceleration injuries are one of two categories of closed-head trauma that can damage the brain. The other involves a direct, non-penetrating blow to the head. With acceleration/deceleration injuries, the force of the sudden movement is so powerful that it can cause a contusion (bruise) on the opposite side of the skull.
There are three acceleration/deceleration brain injuries:
- Focal Contusions. These are small and specific areas of the brain that are bruised or swollen. With acceleration/deceleration injuries, focal contusions may occur on both sides of the brain, also called a coup-contrecoup injury, as the brain impacts one side of the skull and then the other.
- Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI). This type of acceleration/deceleration injury is characterized by tears in the long connective nerve fibers in the brain, which are called axons. As the brain shifts and turns in the skull, the axons may be damaged. DAI often leads to coma and can damage many parts of the brain.
- Intracranial Hematomas. This injury occurs when one or more blood vessels burst in the brain, which can happen as a result of acceleration/deceleration. The blood will then collect in the skull. Depending on the amount of blood that collects there, a person with an intracranial hematoma can experience devastating side effects and surgery may be required to relieve pressure nd stop the bleed.
Diagnosing a Cervical Acceleration / Deceleration (CAD) Injury
Cervical acceleration/deceleration injuries most commonly result in trauma to the deep anterior neck muscles. When a muscle is "strained," it is slightly torn. When a ligament is "sprained," it is stretched or torn. This can be incredibly painful, as the ligaments in the neck are responsible for maintaining a comfortable curve of the neck. Most neck injuries of this nature will involve micro-tears, but more serious hypertension will result in larger tears and even fractures. Many car accident victims, even after healing, will experience what is known as "myospasm." This symptom involves the sudden contraction of the neck muscles. These spasms can often be painful.
Whiplash Sustained in a Front-Impact Crash
Front-impact crashes have a higher risk of severe injury and death. Whiplash resulting from a head-on collision can cause damage to the upper cervical spine and hyperextension. The severe strain of this nature can leave a victim suffering from tension headaches, migraines, and even vision problems for some time even after the neck has healed. The extent of the injuries can also depend on what type of vehicle the individual was traveling in. The size of both vehicles can have a tremendous impact on both the nature and severity of the injuries. Airbags are required in vehicles for safety purposes, but they can cause additional injuries due to their impact when deployed.
Is Whiplash A Serious Injury?
Yes. While it is sometimes joked about after an accident, whiplash is an injury that can have lasting repercussions for a person, affecting their personal and professional life.
Are Whiplash Symptoms Immediate & Obvious?
Whiplash symptoms are different from person to person and accident to accident. Sometimes, the effects of whiplash are immediately obvious after an accident. In other instances, a person might not realize they’ve suffered a whiplash injury until days—or even weeks—after their accident.
Should I See a Doctor If I Think I Have Whiplash?
Absolutely. Seeing a doctor can be useful for more than just your recovery. Medical attention creates an early record of your injury and can help create a stronger case if you decide to pursue the other party with a personal injury lawsuit. You should always go to the doctor after an accident, even if you do think you are injured.
Get Experienced Help After an Acceleration / Deceleration Injury
Acceleration/deceleration injuries can range from minor cases of neck pain all the way to severe whiplash or brain damage. Getting the right care and complete compensation can make all the difference in one’s quality of life and a person’s ability to rebuild and move on. If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident, you may be suffering from the painful side effects of whiplash, cervical spine injuries, or brain injuries. Our Houston car accident lawyers are here to help you toward a brighter future. No matter what.
To learn more about your options, please contact our firm today! Your consultation is free and confidential.