Thursday, 20 May 2010

Road Traffic Accidents and Whiplash Injuries

Victims of road traffic accidents can be left with serious problems after a crash. There is of course the shock and bewilderment of being in a collision but even after this wears off, longer term suffering occurs due to what is often referred to as a whiplash injury. These are the most common type of injury suffered in a vehicle collision.

The compulsory wearing of a seat belt in a car (which came into force in 1983 for those in front seats) has reduced the frequency of the worst type of injuries suffered in road traffic accidents but this has come at a cost. As the body is now restrained by wearing a safety belt, the force of a car crash will tend to jolt the body in one direction (for example forward in the case of a rear end shunt) but as the seat belt restrains this motion, a strain or stretch is applied to the body. Amongst other things, this puts the spine under pressure and can lead to injury.

As a result some of the force of the collision is transmitted to the spine and this over-extension or hyper-flexion can stretch or tear ligaments. Typically the most important element of this occurs when the head snaps forward and then back as the seat belt takes the strain. A person hurt in a collision can be left with lasting pain and discomfort to the neck and back, or the cervical and lumbar spine.

Symptoms of whiplash injury typically include pain to the neck and back. As the spine is affected a large amount of daily activities can be affected. Sitting, for example at a desk at work, can be painful and household work can be greatly disrupted as the pain makes it uncomfortable to carry out the normal tasks of day to day living. As a result the pain and discomfort of the whiplash injury can cause further inconvenience and expense. The enjoyment of sports and hobbies can be reduced or even stopped completely as well whilst recovery takes place. Not only do people find this upsetting and frustrating in itself, as the enjoyment of fun activities is reduced, but it can also lead to the injured person putting on weight and reducing their general level of health and well being.

The proper fitting of headrests in the car is one way that has been suggested that might reduce the severity of whiplash injuries. Car manufacturers have also been looking at innovative designs for vehicles to try and reduce the effect of a whiplash.

Treatment for whiplash injuries can include the use of painkillers whilst the body recovers. Many people often find physiotherapy useful in trying to get onto the road to recovery and a good physiotherapist can to many people be very helpful in trying to cope with their situation after a crash. The use of neck collars is often discouraged as the modern approach is to encourage, within reason, the injured person to gently return to being active and having a normal range of movement.

The prognosis for whiplash injuries can vary between a few days for mild cases to long term pain lasting several years and the possibility of permanent, ongoing symptoms. Neck pain is more common than lumbar problems and if someone suffers from lower back pain after a crash this can in some cases be a persisting problem.

Whiplash injury cases make up the majority of road traffic personal injury claims and figures from the insurance industry indicate approximately 75% of motor claims involving injury are of these sort. The Association of British Insurers has revealed statistics showing that defendant insurers receive roughly 1,200 cases of this sort per day and £2 billion in compensation is paid annually for them.

Lawyers acting on behalf of claimants in these cases will be keen to assist in the recovery by arranging for physiotherapy or other suitable treatment. The new online system for road traffic accidents has been devised to deal with these sorts of cases promptly in the hope that those injured can recover and receive their compensation in a timely manner. Often liability for accidents causing these injuries is clear cut and the hope is that the claims process can help people obtain redress for their injuries and be repaid any loss of earnings or medical expenses quickly.

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