Misinformation Creates a Potential Pain in the Neck for Patients, Attorneys, and Doctors
Whiplash is a common result of a rear-end impact. Typically, the injured person is unaware of the impending impact, and the body is unprepared to deal with the significant amount of kinetic energy that will travel from the rear bumper forward, whipping the head and neck forward and backward, and resulting in muscle trauma and numerous potential sprains of the neck and shoulder joints.
This short article has been provided to John Discavage as a service to his clients and potential clients by Park Bench Chiropractic of Frederick, Maryland. The goal of this simple and informative piece is to provide answers to some common questions that many victims of rear-end collisions ask, and the answers may very well surprise many of you because whiplash is a commonly-confused topic.
Research in the British Journal of General Practice (ref. #1) found that most people who endure a rear-end impact will suffer from chronic neck pain. The term "chronic" implies that the pain will persist for a long duration of time, typically years. This is important because it is common for a victim of a rear-end collision to assume that the neck pain they are experiencing will resolve on its own, and that given enough time the problem will go away. While that may be true of more general neck disorders, the pain resulting from whiplash is more likely to be enduring and difficult to treat. This information, as well as research showing that the neck pain resulting from a rear-end impact may take many hours or longer to fully set in, can lead to a person having a false sense of security that they were not injured, and then missing the opportunity to file a timely claim, a police report, or make contact with an attorney specializing in these types of automobile accidents.
Also important, and surprising to many people, is that awareness of the impending collision actually decreases the likelihood and extent of injury. Many people mistakenly believe that being unaware is a good thing because the body will not tense up, but this is not true. This likely is related to the theory that inebriated drivers are less likely to sustain serious injury when in an automobile accident, which may or may not be accurate. It is theorized that drunken people are more flaccid and less likely to tense up and suffer broken bones. Regardless, research in the American journal Spine (ref. #2) shows that human females are more likely to be injured when unaware of the impact. Unfortunately, rear-end impacts are typically unforeseen events, and the victims usually are not physically prepared for impact. This makes these types of impact more likely to cause injury.
Another piece of information that many people do not know is that the vehicle which caused the impact need not have been traveling at a high rate of speed to produce an injury to the struck vehicle's occupants. While there is surely a correlation between higher vehicle speed at time of impact and the potential for injury, research in the Journal of Physiologic and Manipulative Therapeutics (ref. #3) has shown that speeds as low as 2.5mph (similar to the speed of a typical walking adult) can cause bodily injury to the vehicle's occupant. Research has also shown that vehicle damage may not occur until speed reaches upwards of 8mph. That means that vehicle damage need not occur for a driver or passenger to suffer an injury. Many people falsely assume that since their car, truck, or SUV is not damaged that they must not be injured.
Finally, and quite importantly for doctors, victims, and attorneys, many insurance companies have embraced what is referred to as the MIST strategy. When vehicle damage is under $1,000 the insurance company erroneously decides that there is only a possibility of minor soft tissue injury and nothing more. MIST stands for "minor injury soft tissue". There is no solid or reliable research that this strategy is based on, it is primarily used as a cost-cutting measure adopted by insurance companies following Allstate's lead in the 1990's. While we can all understand the need to control healthcare costs, arbitrary rules like the MIST strategy do a disservice to all the involved parties. If your insurance adjuster is telling you *anything* about the extent of your injuries just be aware that the adjuster is most likely not a trained health professional and that any determination of your injury must be made by a licensed professional and your attorney must be involved in any process. It is advised that for reasons like this you consult an attorney prior to making any decisions about extent of injury or settlement.
This article was provided by Dr. Robert Romano and Dr. Matthew Schooley of Park Bench Chiropractic.
1. Impact of motor vehicle accidents on neck pain and disability in general practice
2. Awareness affects the response of human subjects exposed to a single whiplash-like perturbations
3. Rear-end impacts: vehicle and occupant response