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Whiplash Versus Concussion: How To Tell the Difference

Whiplash Versus Concussion: How To Tell the Difference

Whiplash and concussions are two common injuries that car accident victims can suffer. These are not the same injuries. One can suffer either or both of them in an accident. Whiplash involves an injury where the head has snapped forward, and concussions are an injury to the brain itself. They can happen at the same time.

The key is to get medical help after an accident if you suspect that you have suffered either of these injuries. Whiplash is treatable, even if the accident victim requires surgery. Traumatic brain injuries are more difficult to treat and can lead to long-term health effects. Even mild concussions can take months to subside. Any accident that has caused a violent motion of the head is a reason to go to a doctor.

What’s In This Guide:

Whiplash and Concussions Can Have Similar Symptoms

Since whiplash and concussions both involve the head, it follows that they can have similar symptoms. Both whiplash and concussions can involve a dull or sharp headache. They can also feature memory loss or blurred vision. However, accident victims should never try to diagnose themselves. If they chalk their injury up to whiplash and skip medical treatment, thinking that they will get better, they may be doing themselves serious harm. They should see a neurologist at the first sign of any trouble, and they should even visit a doctor as a preventative measure. If they have suffered whiplash and not a concussion, the doctor will send them to an orthopedist.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash occurs when the head and neck suddenly snap backward and forward, straining the muscles and tendons in the neck. This motion most commonly happens in a car accident, usually when the driver is hit from the rear. When a driver is involved in an accident, their car suddenly decelerates, along with most of their body. The sudden deceleration of the body causes the head to snap like a whip. The quick movement will place immense pressure on the cervical spine.

The most common symptom of whiplash is neck pain. It can also cause shoulder stingers and loss of motion in the arms. Accident victims can also suffer symptoms that resemble a traumatic brain injury, even if the brain itself is not affected.

Whiplash symptoms do not always show up immediately after the accident. Sometimes, it can take days or weeks for the accident victim to begin feeling the effects of the injury.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is the most common form of a traumatic brain injury, albeit a very serious one. A sudden movement or a blow to the skull can cause the brain to bounce or move in the skull. The impact can cause changes to the brain stem or cells.

Concussions can cause the following damage to the brain:

  • Stretching and damaging of brain cells
  • Chemical and metabolic changes within the brain cells

These are usually not life-threatening injuries, but they will impact the quality of life. Left untreated, the effects of a concussion will grow worse over time. Even prompt treatment may not lead to a full recovery. Your brain may simply not be able to rebalance itself over time. Recovery can take months, keeping you from being able to work and enjoy life. In the meantime, you may have trouble sleeping and feel depression, irritability, or anxiety.

Can I Suffer Whiplash and Concussion During the Same Accident?

A concussion is one of the side effects of whiplash. When the head snaps violently forward, the brain can move inside the skull. The sudden force, and the brain striking the skull itself, can cause the brain to bruise or can injure brain tissue that may never fully recover. The brain is made out of material that is almost like jello, and injuries from impact do not always right themselves, even after rehabilitation. If you have had any sudden movement of the neck, you should seek medical attention, including a visit to the neurologist.  The same motion that injures your neck can hurt your brain too.

Any type of injury where your head is forcefully shaken can cause a concussion. Not all whiplash victims will sustain a concussion. It depends on how the head moves in the accident. However, if you have suffered a concussion in a car accident, the chances are that you have suffered from some degree of whiplash. It is unlikely that your brain would be injured without your neck making a violent movement, but it does not automatically mean that your neck will be injured. Concussions and whiplash often happen together, though.

What Should I Do If I Suspect I Have Whiplash or a Concussion?

Both of these injuries are not anything that you can rest on because they may grow worse over time without treatment. If you have a TBI, the treatment time is very valuable. The sooner that you get it treated, the greater your chances of recovery. Besides, there is no reason that you need to suffer after an accident. What you think is a minor headache that will get better over time could actually be a severe injury that could change the course of your life. Not only do you owe it to yourself and your family to get all of the help that you can quickly, but your claim for financial compensation could be impacted if you delay getting help.

See a Doctor

You cannot take any chances with your health after a car accident. The instinct of wanting to keep going and not take time to see a doctor can do long-term damage to your health. The worst that happens is that you get a clean bill of health and spend an afternoon at the doctor’s office. The consequences of not tending to what may be serious injuries can be far greater. Both whiplash and TBIs can grow worse over time if they are left untreated. You may never know how seriously you are injured until you begin showing severe symptoms.

Not only is visiting a doctor crucial for your health, but it is also a necessary step in the legal process. Remember that you are being paid for your injuries that came from the car accident. The only way for an insurance company or jury to know the exact nature of your injuries is if it is in front of them. Your doctor will diagnose your injuries and make extensive notes in your medical file about what you have suffered. These notes will be the basis of your insurance claim, as your physical injuries will also determine what you can get in lost wages and pain and suffering damages.

Consult a Car Accident Lawyer

The costs of a TBI could be considerable. Any concussion could cost thousands of dollars to treat, between visits to a neurologist and all of the testing. Some studies have shown that the lifetime costs of treating a TBI can be up to $3 million. In addition, your career and your life may be changed, causing you considerable financial damage. You must have legal help when you seek financial compensation for your injuries.

The legal process can be difficult, especially when you are trying to navigate it on your own. Obtaining full compensation requires knowledge of how to deal with an insurance company and your legal options. Not every legal process is the same, and there are pitfalls for the unsuspecting person.

Your attorney will handle all of the details of your claim or lawsuit. They will stand up for you if someone else is trying to take advantage of you. In short, they are your counselor and advocate. Dealing with the insurance company is not something that is suited for a DIY approach. In the end, it will cost you money. Calling a lawyer can ease some of your burdens because someone with experience is out there fighting for you.

Be Patient and Determined

When you have suffered injuries, you may not get what you deserve unless you push hard for it. The legal process takes time. The insurance company is not in the business of giving you everything that you ask for as soon as you ask for it. Expect to get your share of the runaround, either in the form of a denied claim or a very low offer. When that happens, you are faced with a choice of whether to take what you can get or push for what you deserve. With a tough lawyer on your side, you can do the latter.

Be prepared for the legal process to take up to several years. Very few claims are settled right away. If that happens, you probably are getting less money than you legally deserve. Do not be afraid to say no to an offer that does not fairly pay you. The insurance company expects that you will negotiate and present them with a counteroffer, so they start low to give themselves some room. In the end, being in it for the long haul and ready for a tough negotiation is what can help you get the most compensation.

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