Rear-end collisions are a common cause of soft tissue injuries in the neck and back, particularly whiplash. Whiplash is caused when "an abnormal motion or force applied to the neck that causes movement beyond the neck's normal range of motion." This movement commonly results in damage to the ligaments, tendons and muscles in the neck: in fact, an estimated 120,000 people suffer from whiplash every year. In this post, our Joplin personal injury lawyers discuss three common myths that surround rear-end collisions and injury victims.
Myth: Rear-end collisions only pose a threat to vehicle occupants when they occur at high speeds.
In fact, low-speed collisions, which occur at speeds ranging from one to 25 miles per hour, can cause debilitating injuries with long-term consequences. A study published in the Australian Family Physician found that "[it] is wrong to assume that maximum neck injury occurs in a high-speed collision; it is the slow or moderate collision that causes maximum hyperextension of the cervical spine. High-speed collisions often break the back of the seat, thus minimizing the force of hyperextension."
Myth: Rear-end collisions that result in minor vehicle damage don't cause serious injuries.
The level of damage to your vehicle is not necessarily indicative of the extent of your injuries. Medical studies have demonstrated that "high impact forces are transmitted directly to the occupant in low-speed impacts and that the vehicle does not begin to crush until impact speed exceeds 15 or 20 mph." In other words, your body is subjected to abnormal force when a rear-end collision occurs at low speeds, meaning you can suffer a neck injury even if your vehicle isn't badly damaged.
Myth: If you don't experience symptoms immediately following a collision, you probably aren't injured.
This is especially false when it comes to rear-end collisions and soft tissue injuries like whiplash. Symptoms of these injuries may not appear until hours or even days after an accident, which is why it's essential to seek medical treatment immediately, even if you don't think you're injured. Symptoms may also appear, go away, and then return again - and grow more severe - within a few days. People who suffer from whiplash may experience neck pain or stiffness, headaches, numbness and tingling, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, and ringing in the ears, among other symptoms. Victims can recover from minor whiplash injuries within a period of a few weeks, but more serious cases of whiplash can result in chronic pain and permanent disability.