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Serious neck pain is a very common medical complaint and every year about 1 in 200 people suffer from neck injury caused by accidents involving motor vehicles. Whiplash injury results from the forces of very sudden acceleration or very sudden deceleration typically suffered in a motor vehicle collision, which causes the head and neck to move backwards or forwards to the extent of their mobility, followed by an involuntary reflex movement in the opposite direction. Damage is caused to the joints, ligaments and muscles that swell and put pressure on the nerves causing painful spasms. The acute pain usually improves within a few days or weeks although aches and pains can persist or recur for several years after the injury. In certain vulnerable people, including the elderly and those with a previous neck problem, the injury can be long term or chronic. A car accident is a disturbing and frightening event and physical damage to the neck can be painful over a very long period of time entitling the sufferer to instruct a whiplash injury solicitor to claim substantial compensation.

A car that weighs 3,500 pounds travelling at 10 miles per hour can generate a force of 25 tons when colliding with another moving vehicle. A sudden impact of this magnitude of force can cause massive physical damage to the driver or passengers in a vehicle that is involved in a collision. If you have suffered neck injury in a road traffic accident that was not your fault, you should consider seeing a whiplash claim solicitor to apply to the court for compensation. Over 40% of all road traffic accident injuries are caused by vehicles striking other vehicles from the rear. Whiplash can be caused by other types of accident, but vehicle collisions are by far the most common cause. Symptoms may not be immediately obvious and injuries can go untreated. A large percentage of those who suffer damage to the neck in a road traffic accident go on to develop arthritis within five years because they failed to get adequate treatment.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from a rear end shunt in a traffic accident, as the impact of the collision jerks the head forward, followed by a reflex jerk in the opposite direction. The result is sprained muscles or tears in the soft tissues of the neck. Other types of accident including frontal and side collisions can result in whiplash, but rear end shunts are the most common cause. A whiplash claim is the most common legal action resulting from road traffic accidents. The injury accounts for tens of thousands of compensation claims made every year in the UK. This injury can be sustained by drivers and passengers of most types of vehicle and is usually caused by a rear-end collision, with side impact causing a similar injury. Whiplash is characterised as a collection of injuries caused by damage to the neck and upper back. These injuries affect muscles, tissue, discs, nerves and tendons. Normally whiplash occurs when the head is thrown violently in any direction and then the head snaps back immediately in a reflex reaction in the opposite direction. These rapid neck movements result in swelling and inflammation that places pressure on the nerves causing pain and discomfort.

This problem is caused by injury to the soft tissue in the neck, commonly referred to as either a sprain or strain. Any jolt to the neck can cause whiplash symptoms and serious trauma can lead to more severe injuries. If you have suffered from a sprain or suspected damage to the soft tissue in your neck as a result of an accident that was not your fault, then you may be able to make a whiplash claim for compensation for pain and suffering and all related expenses. In order to succeed and receive compensation, a whiplash claim solicitor must be able to prove that the accident was not your fault or was partially the fault of a third party.

Whiplash Symptoms

These injuries are commonly sustained in road traffic accidents. Many injuries do not seem serious when they first occur but if left untreated they can go on to become much more severe. Pain in the neck can develop several days after the accident and other whiplash symptoms such as stiffness, headaches and dizziness may also appear at a later date. Injuries to muscles and ligaments may also occur, or you may experience abnormal sensations such as burning or prickling. Some victims go on to develop cognitive or psychological problems such as memory loss, impaired concentration, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, fatigue and even depression. A neck injury should always be taken seriously and treated with the utmost importance. Medical advice should be sought immediately or as soon as is practical, after an accident.

Whiplash can cause severe trauma to the spine which may take a long time to fully recover. In rare cases this injury can lead to more severe conditions that result in chronic pain. Occasionally damage is done to the vertebrae in the spinal cord.

    Major Symptoms

    Most people who suffer from this injury have painful whiplash symptoms that may include :-

    • headache caused by muscle tension and pressure on the nerves
    • shoulder pain radiating down the back of the neck into the shoulder blade area
    • burning pain, prickling or tingling caused by muscle tears
    • sharp neck pain often radiating into the arms, hand and fingers

    Minor Symptoms

    Other less serious whiplash symptoms include :-

    • neck pain or stiffness
    • blurred vision
    • difficulty swallowing
    • irritability, fatigue & dizziness
    • pain between the shoulder blades
    • pain in the arms or legs
    • headache, nausea & vertigo
    • low back pain & shoulder pain
    • ringing in the ears
    • numbness and tingling
    • pain in the jaw or face

Spine & Neck

This is one of the strongest parts of the body constructed of bones and discs surrounded by strong ligaments and powerful muscles. Except in the case of vulnerable adults, which include those with a pre-existing neck or back problem and the elderly, most car accidents are not traumatic enough to cause permanent damage to the spine and surgery for these injuries is very rarely necessary. Whiplash injury usually affects just the soft tissues of the neck which have a natural ability to heal and restore themselves. One troublesome symptom that gives sufferers cause for concern relates to shooting pains or tingling sensations in the arms usually due to minor nerve root irritation at the point where the nerve joins the spinal cord which clears without intervention rather than a more serious slipped disc or trapped nerve.

X-rays & MRI scans

X-rays and MRI scans are occasionally useful as they may reveal long term degenerative changes including 'arthritis' which can have implications in regard to the overall recovery period following an injury. Arthritis may manifest itself as a whiplash injury symptom and doctors often have difficulty in pinpointing the source of pain making an X-ray or an MRI scan a useful diagnostic tool.


Anxiety, stress and muscle tension can have the effect of increasing the amount of discomfort. Tension can cause muscle spasm which when coupled with the injury can be extremely painful. Stress can aggravate or prolong pain and it is important that these specific whiplash injury symptoms are recognised early and that appropriate treatment for the psychological component is obtained from your doctor.


Whiplash is normally diagnosed by observing a number of different factors. Symptoms displayed by the patient and any past medical history of similar injuries are taken into account. Physical and neurological medical examinations can be carried out and the results from these can help establish the extent of any injuries. If a patient displays serious whiplash symptoms then more extensive tests such as X-rays, CAT scans or MRI scans may need to be done. These imaging tests are necessary for assessing any possible damage done to the muscles, ligaments or to the vertebrae of the spine.

Whiplash Treatment

You need a medical examination from a medical specialist to determine the full extent of your injuries. This examination will also indicate the treatment that you need, which can involve physiotherapy, chiropractic therapy, osteopathy or several other treatments. The cost of private medical treatment, plus compensation for all losses, pain and suffering, will be awarded in a successful whiplash compensation claim.

Whiplash is a common injury most associated with road accidents. All vehicle occupants are susceptible to this injury when their vehicle is struck with force from behind, with similar injuries occurring in side impacts. When faced with sudden impact the victim's head can be jerked forward causing damage to the vertebrae, muscles, tendons and nerves. Whiplash normally manifests itself as a neck injury, but can also cause irritability, insomnia or dizziness. Symptoms do not always display immediately which can result in delayed whiplash treatment. Sometimes weeks can pass before any signs or symptoms are evident. It is possible for untreated whiplash injury to degenerate from a minor muscle sprain to osteo arthritis in as little as five years.

Whiplash often seems like a minor injury and the symptoms are not always noted however, the condition can worsen if left untreated. Osteoarthritis develops in 40% of untreated serious whiplash cases within five years of the original accident. It is critical that you seek medical advice and have a medical examination as soon as possible after any traffic accident.

Treatment normally involves medication for the pain and anti-inflammatory drugs. Physiotherapy and heat therapy are also sometimes used. More severe injuries may require the sufferer to wear a surgical collar, or be placed in cervical traction. The need for surgery is rare but may be necessary when there are tears in the inter-vertebral discs of the spine, which have to be removed followed by fusing the neck vertebrae.

Whiplash treatment may include :-

  • use of painkillers, anti inflammatory medication, or muscle relaxants
  • immobilisation using a soft cervical collar
  • physiotherapy including the use of ice, moist heat, ultrasound, exercise and electrical stimulation
  • anaesthetic injections may help alleviate pain and tenderness
  • cervical traction
  • surgical intervention in severe cases involving persistent pain which may indicate a tear in an inter-vertebral disc. Once the disc is removed then spinal fusion may be necessary to permanently join two or more vertebrae

Inflammation and painful muscle spasms can be reduced by applying ice or an ice pack to the injured area for about 15 minutes every hour. After the first 24 hours it can be beneficial to alternate cold packs with heat treatments including warm towels or a heat lamp which can be used to soothe the neck for 10 minutes several times a day. Gentle massage can be a beneficial therapy and current medical opinion on whiplash treatment advises ensuring moderate mobility of the neck as soon as possible after the accident.

Compensation Awards

The amount of an award depends on several factors including the severity of the injuries, the recovery period and any long term symptoms or disability resulting from the accident. In addition to compensation for pain and suffering, actual financial losses resulting from the accident may also be awarded. Compensation starts at about £2,000 for minor injuries up to hundreds of thousands of pounds for more severe injury with a chronic element.

Compensation that can be claimed by a whiplash injury solicitor are as follows :-

  • General Damages
    Represents compensation for those items that cannot be calculated precisely and includes compensation for the injury itself including pain and suffering which is assessed following review of medical reports obtained from a specialist.
  • Special damages
    Represents compensation for items of loss that can be calculated reasonably accurately and includes loss of earnings, travelling expenses, cost of medical treatment and medicines, personal property damaged and insurance excess.
  • Future losses
    These are losses that are likely to continue for the foreseeable future and a special calculation is applied to the estimated annual loss to arrive at a fair figure for compensation.
  • Interest
    This may be payable on some items of the accident compensation award. The rate payable and the period for which it is payable varies depending on the type of damages.


This condition is more accurately referred to by its medical name of acceleration/deceleration syndrome and is a collection of symptoms that occur following damage to the neck. Physical damage occurs when the head is thrown back, forwards or sideways followed by reflex contraction in the opposite direction and this usually occurs in a car accident. The violent motion causes a sudden strain which affects the discs, muscles, nerves, or tendons of the neck and resultant swelling leads to pressure being placed on the nerves leading to the classical symptoms which may be delayed in their onset especially if the person who suffered from the effects of the whiplash was unaware of any symptoms at the time of the accident. Where it can be shown that a negligent 3rd party driver was to blame for the vehicle collision it may be possible to make a whiplash injury compensation claim for losses including pain and suffering.


Making a claim can be a complicated process. There are steps you should take immediately after the accident to improve the chances of making a viable claim. To succeed in a whiplash compensation claim it is vital that you can prove on the balance of probabilities that the fault of the accident lies with the other driver. You should ensure that you obtain the full details of all of the other parties involved and ensure that you have contact details of any witnesses. You should photograph the location, the damage to the vehicles and the injury. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible in order to create a record of the injury.

Our specialist personal injury solicitors deal with whiplash compensation claims on a no win no fee* basis. To maximise the potential for a successful claim, we advise you to follow these four steps:-

  1. Collect together all the information that you think will help your claim.
  2. Visit a member of the medical profession for immediate treatment.
  3. Contact us on the helpline or use the on-line form.
  4. Leave everything else to us, and if your claim is successful you will receive a cheque for the full amount of compensation awarded.

Whiplash Injury Solicitors

If you have been involved in an accident that wasn't your fault, within the last 3 years, you may be able to claim injury compensation. Our whiplash injury solicitors are all members of the Solicitors Regulation Authority panel of personal injury experts. We operate the no win no fee* scheme otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement. No legal charge is payable unless the legal case is won and the client obtains an award of compensation. In the event that the legal claim is lost there is no charge made to the client. We are not a claims management company and you will speak to a qualified solicitor from your very first contact with us. If you would like advice about risk free compensation claims just use the helpline or complete the contact form and a specialist personal injury solicitor will speak to you on the telephone at no cost and with no further obligation.



*Legal Information

In the case of CICA claims terms will vary and in the case of MIB claims terms may vary.

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here