What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a type of injury caused by sudden and forceful movement of the neck, similar to a whip cracking. Car accidents are the most common causes for these injuries because while your body is held in place by a seatbelt, your head moves freely with the momentum of the vehicle. So when the vehicle stops suddenly or is struck by another vehicle or object, your head can move violently in any direction, injuring your neck. 

Even though whiplash is what some call an “invisible injury,” it can still take a heavy toll on your body. The severity of this injury can be judged by the fact that its symptoms and aftereffects can continue for several months or—in severe cases—years. Even patients with mild whiplash are greatly impacted and have to face difficulties and discomfort in their everyday life.

According to research by the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, about 3 million Americans get whiplash injuries every year, and 1.5 million of them suffer chronic pain from whiplash.


Symptoms usually surface 24 hours or more after the initial trauma. The most common aftereffects experienced by patients after the first few days of the injury are stiffness or sharp pain in the neck, followed by headaches or mild nausea. Other symptoms include muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms. This makes it extremely difficult for whiplash injury patients to perform day-to-day tasks that involve a lot of physical movement.


Whiplash injuries are most commonly caused by car crashes and other vehicle accidents. The severity of the injury depends on the passenger’s position, the direction of impact, and the speed at which the collision takes place. According to research conducted by the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, it was revealed that most whiplash injuries were caused by crash speeds below 12 miles per hour. Moreover, if a victim gets hit from behind and their body or head is rapidly jerked back and forth, they are likely to get a whiplash injury.

Besides automobile accidents, whiplash can also be caused by high-impact physical activities such as roller coaster rides, football, snowboarding, bungee jumping, or zip-lining. Some people can even sustain the neck injuries from a trip and fall accident.

Preventing Whiplash

There is no way for people to prevent whiplash injuries caused by car accidents completely. However, some safety precautions can be taken to lower your chances of getting hurt.

  • Make sure your seat’s headrest is placed directly behind your head, neither too high nor too low.
  • Always check your car’s airbags and ensure they are in proper working condition.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Be aware of your driving speed and of other vehicles driving around you.

Recovering from a Car Accident

The recovery time for whiplash is subjective and based on several factors like the patient’s age, physical condition, and the severity of the injury. The usual recovery time for a normal whiplash patient is 2 to 3 months. Some severe injuries, however, can last up to six months or even several years.

Closing Thoughts

If you have recently been in a serious car/truck accident and suffering from whiplash or other injuries, you may be entitled to compensation to help pay for medical bills, lost wages, and more.

Contact Mountain State Law online or call 304.715.3800 to schedule a free consultation to find out how we can help.