What is Whiplash: Everything You Need To Know and What To Do

Soft tissue injuries like whiplash can go well beyond pain.

Being in a car accident is hard enough, but being injured in a car accident is worse. When you add pain and PTSD into the mix, what seemed like a simple soft tissue injury can quickly become a lifelong problem.

What Is A Soft Tissue Injury?

Soft tissue injuries are just that: injuries, such as bumps, bruises and mild tearing of muscles, ligaments or tendons, that heal within 8-12 weeks. These are typically not injuries that you sue for because they don’t meet the threshold in Ontario

An essential element to suing after an accident with resulting soft tissues injuries is whether the pain you experience along with the injury is chronic or not.

Pain is not just about physical pain, however. Psychological pain is a relevant factor in determining whether a person can continue with their lives as they did before the accident.

What Is A Psychological Injury?

In many ways, PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—can be even more debilitating than a physical injury but the fact that it isn’t visible has historically made it difficult to obtain restitution in terms of loss of income and the inability to return to a previous style of living.

On the plus side, we understand more about psychological trauma than we ever have before, and diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner is no longer dismissed as a non-issue. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition) has brought credibility to a difficult problem: the diagnosis of mental illness, including the costs and losses associated with it.

While every victim will endure some level of stress and anxiety as a result of the trauma of an accident, not every case will go beyond that. Most people, perhaps out of sheer necessity (I am always amazed at the courage and fortitude of ‘average’ people when something like this happens), are able to move on with their lives when the physical injuries resolve. Others are so traumatized by the accident that their lives are forever altered. It’s in these instances that a person should seek the advice of a lawyer.

The test for determining if compensation is available is twofold:

  1. Is the injury claimed by the plaintiff a reasonable consequence of the negligent conduct of the defendant?
  2. Is the injury so severe as to result in a recognized psychological / psychiatric illness?

If these tests are met, a lawsuit is possible. As with soft tissue injuries, the damage inflicted by psychological scars are hard to measure and even more difficulty to quantify but there is a growing tendency in the courts to factor in what could be a lifelong psychological disability when evaluating ‘pain and suffering’.

What Will A Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

First and foremost, if you are injured in a car accident, it’s essential that you follow the directions of your health care providers to the letter. Not doing so can be seen, in the eyes of an insurance company, as not doing everything in your power to mitigate the circumstances of the accident, and that won’t play well if your chronic pain or PTSD leads to a lawsuit. Don’t be a hero: Make your appointments.

Your medical file is what will drive the claim, so if you need psychological / psychiatric assistance to deal with the psychological impact of the accident, your doctor can and should refer you. Don’t be afraid to ask. The records from these will be essential to proving your need for compensation to deal with your loss of income / lifestyle.

If you have sustained a soft tissue injury that is still not resolving after six weeks of following your doctor’s care and instructions, and you have not yet spoken with a personal injury lawyer, you need to do so. Getting a lawyer involved early ensures that you are documenting your case accurately, in the event that your injury evolves into chronic pain and/or psychological trauma that prevent you from resuming your life, as it was before the accident.

A personal injury lawyer can be a great help in these situations, but only if you bring one in early, so that they can shadow your case and evaluate it as time goes by. They won’t take on an unwinnable case, so you’re not wasting your time or theirs, but you are ensuring that your future pain and suffering aren’t ignored.


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