Whiplash injuries are often associated with car accidents, but any sudden jerking force to the head or neck can result in this type of injury. In this article, we will discuss how whiplash accidents happen in the workplace, in addition to the signs and symptoms, health effects, and how to make a claim for compensation.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by a violent back and forth motion. As a result of the sudden motion, the tendons and ligaments of the neck are stretched and damaged. It may not be immediately apparent after suffering a sudden force to the neck or head if whiplash damage has occurred, but symptoms typically develop within 24 hours, including:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Exacerbation of pain when moving the neck
- An inability to move the neck as much as normal
- Pain in the jaw, arm, shoulder
- Muscle spasms
- Pins and needles
- Memory loss
- Ringing in the ears
What causes whiplash?
Motor vehicle accidents are a primary cause of whiplash injuries, however other potential causes include a being punched or attacked by another person, collisions during sports, slips or falls, and being struck on the head by a heavy object.
In the work context, employers have a duty to ensure any risk of head and neck injuries is identified and controlled. For example, heavy objects at height must be secured to avoid them falling onto workers below; this may necessitate improvements in warehouse storage methods, improved training to ensure maximum loads are not exceeded, and using debris nets and guard rails on scaffolding at construction sites. Those who drive for a living must reduce their risk of whiplash by making sure they always wear seatbelts, and their headrest is adjusted correctly (the correct height and angle). The headrest / restraint is designed to limit the amount of head movement during an accident, and if not adjusted correctly will not provide the support needed to prevent potential serious injury.
What the long-term effects of whiplash injuries?
If you have suffered a whiplash accident while working, the effects can be mild or more extreme in nature, and if not diagnosed and treated can become progressively worse. For many, whiplash will resolve with treatment within a few weeks or months. For others, the effects may last over six months leading to more chronic effects, which may even last a lifetime. In more severe cases, victims may suffer from symptoms such as pain, dizziness, impaired neck movement, and fatigue which prevents them from working.
It is essential you visit A&E if you have suffered a violent trauma to your neck or head. X-rays or other medical imaging techniques may be used to diagnose any damage you have suffered. Advise them of your symptoms, no matter how mild, and make sure these are noted by the medical professional.
Treating whiplash injuries
In the first instance, you may be prescribed medication to cope with pain and swelling. Placing ice on the site of the injury can help inflammation. It is now recommended that patients with whiplash keep their neck mobile, as while it may be painful, this will aid a faster recovery. For more severe whiplash injuries, physiotherapy may be recommended, including stretches, exercises, and massage to help the damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons.
For those with severe ongoing pain, it may be necessary to be referred to a specialist pain clinic, and if you are suffering psychological effects from your accident, it may be necessary to seek counseling or other forms of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Can I bring a claim for compensation following a whiplash injury at work?
It may be possible to bring a claim for compensation for your injuries; to do this we will need to prove:
- You have suffered a whiplash injury
- You have incurred losses and damages due to your injury
- Your employer was negligent in ensuring your safety
- Your employer’s negligence led to your injury
If you are unsure if you have a valid claim, contact one of our specialist workplace solicitors who will listen and advise if you may have a potential case for compensation. If based on the initial information you provided we do take your case on, the next stage will be to gather sufficient evidence to prove your claim. To do this, we will request copies of your medical records (with your consent) and may seek an independent expert medical opinion. With this information, in addition to any correspondence, photographs, or any other evidence, we will collate your case and submit this to the court.
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you will have three years to bring your claim from the date of the accident to submit your claim.
Russell Worth have been handling serious and complex workplace injury claims for over twenty years and understand what the courts are looking for to award the maximum possible compensation for your type of injury. We will take the matter completely off your shoulders, allowing you to focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have suffered a workplace injury and would like a free claim assessment, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.