Neck Injury and Cervical Spine Injury – Whiplash


The most common cause of neck injuries in a motor vehicle collision is rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head as a vehicle stops suddenly, accelerates suddenly, or changes direction suddenly.  The body is restrained to the seat by the seatbelt or pushed by the seatback, and since the seat is bolted to the vehicle, the body moves in tandem with the vehicle.  The head, though, continues on in the initial direction of travel until stopped by the restrained body, and then snaps back in the opposite direction – a whiplash.  Headrests can lessen this effect in a front or rear impact, but have little effect in a side collision.

The violent back and forth movement takes only milliseconds to occur and is often not perceived by the person struck.  This movement, however, can cause stretching, straining, and microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers, tendons and ligaments that are located in the neck.  This can lead to:

Often these symptoms do not appear until 24 – 48 hours after the accident.

Medically, these injuries are called “soft tissue injury”, “whiplash”, or “connective tissue sprain or strain.”  Often there is no test or objective proof of these injuries, so ICBC is skeptical that a person is injured.  Doctors often brush off the significance of these injuries.  Yet, medical research has found that in 10-20% of cases, these injuries do not heal completely.  A “soft tissue injury” can have life-altering and lifelong consequences.

A lawyer will assist in crystallizing these “soft tissue injuries.” Our knowledge of the medical science and our ability to direct you to the proper assessments and specialists can make the difference in how ICBC will view your claim.  Then you can get just and fair compensation.

With the appropriate medical opinions and legal arguments, these claims are resolved over a wide range of compensation.  Each case is different.

In some instances, the forces applied to the neck can lead to spine and nerve injuries:  vertebral fractures; disc bulges; disc herniations; compression fractures; damage to the facet joints; nerve impingement; nerve compression; or nerve damage.  Especially in a person with prior neck injuries or prior disc degeneration, it can take little force to cause significant injuries.  ICBC will try to use these factors against the injured person, when in reality, these pre-existing conditions have lead to enhanced injuries.

A lawyer will help you get the right assessments or see the physicians or specialists.  We can also arrange private scanning (MRI) and other testing.

(See also “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” discussed under “Shoulder Injuries“)

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