Semi-trucks are considerably larger and heavier than passenger vehicles - in fact, a fully loaded tractor trailer can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as the average car or truck. When these large trucks collide with passenger vehicles, the result is often serious injury, usually to the passenger vehicle occupants. In 2012 fatal two-vehicle crashes involving a semi and a smaller vehicle, 96% of fatality vehicles were passenger vehicle occupants. In this post, our Missouri truck accident lawyers discuss one common injury often caused by semi-truck/passenger vehicle crashes: whiplash.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a non-medical term referring to soft-tissue damage in the neck, often caused by the sudden jerking motion that occurs during rear-end or front-end collisions. According to WebMD, whiplash "is characterized by a collection of symptoms that occur following damage to the neck. In whiplash, the intervertebral joints (located between vertebrae), discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots may become damaged."
Whiplash: A few facts and statistics
- Annually, approximately 120,000 people suffer from whiplash throughout the U.S.
- Whiplash and other soft tissue injuries can occur at speeds as low as five miles per hour.
- About half of all soft tissue injuries in the neck can be attributed to auto accidents, many of them low-speed rear-end collisions.
What are the main symptoms of whiplash?
Symptoms of whiplash may not appear immediately - in fact, they sometimes don't show up until hours (or even days) after an accident occurs. These symptoms may include:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck, lower back, shoulders, or between the shoulder blades
- Reduced range of motion
- Headaches that recur or escalate in intensity
- Pain or numbness in the arms or hands
- Burning, prickling, tingling, or other unusual sensations in the arms or hands
- Dizziness or blurred vision
- Difficulty sleeping, fatigue, or irritability
Seeking medical treatment for whiplash
If you've been involved in a semi-truck accident and you think you may have whiplash, it's essential that you see a doctor immediately. Without proper treatment, whiplash can lead to numerous other medical issues, including pinched or damaged nerves or blood vessels; spinal fractures; joint or ligament injuries; and hematomas. Depending on the severity of your injury, treatment may involve medication, injections, physical therapy chiropractic care, and/or surgery.
Recovery time also varies depending on the circumstances. According to the San Francisco Spine Institute, some patients can recover within a matter of weeks, but others need much longer: within a year of the injury, only about 70% of whiplash victims had recovered entirely, and about 15 to 20% had developed chronic pain. Given the long term costs associated with more serious injuries, it's often wise to discuss your legal options with an attorney.