Whiplash from a motorcycle accident is the common term for acceleration/deceleration injuries to the neck, usually caused on impact in a road traffic accident.
The head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards in a whip-like movement, causing a sprain to the neck muscles and ligaments. It can be particularly problematic if the impact is not directly in line with the spine, i.e. side on impacts and where the rider is looking to the right or left, as the muscles are weaker when twisted.
Whiplash neck sprains are common. About two in three people involved in vehicle crashes develop neck pain (with or without other injuries). Often the problems are not felt until the morning after, by which time the muscles have started to seize up. The pain can clear up over a week or, in rare and extreme cases, last for the rest of your life. If there are other injuries, especially fractures, any whiplash will often be missed and the problem not be felt until the other pain reduces.
As the injury is around the spinal cord we always recommend that you seek medical help, even if only to check that nothing more serious has happened. Physiotherapy may be beneficial in most cases and nowadays it is accepted that the best recovery is achieved if the neck is kept moving, so soft collars are rarely prescribed.
It is often argued by insurance companies that any injury is being exaggerated and/or made up. The matter needs to be properly documented and you should seek legal advice.
What to look for
- Pain and stiffness in the neck, which may take several hours to appear and/or become worse on the day after the initial injury.
- Turning or bending the neck may be difficult, and you might find that your neck will turn or bend one way further than the other.
- Possible pain or stiffness in the shoulders or down the arms.
- Minor headaches are common. More extreme cases exhibit dizziness, headache, blurred vision, or pain on swallowing. If those symptoms persist for anything other than a short period you should seek prompt medical attention.
- Irritability and inability to concentrate. It can be hard to separate this out from annoyance at the accident and the effect it has on your life.
A lot depends on how long the injury lasts for, and indeed whether the problems are permanent. Guideline awards range as follows:
|Full recovery within a few weeks
|Full recovery within a year
|Full recovery within 2 years
|Recovery within a few years
|£5,000 to £8,750
|Permanent loss of movement, pain or stiffness
|£8,750 to £16,000
Injuries to the spine may not show themselves until the day after the accident. Recovery can take time and insurance companies are often sceptical about these type of claims. Proper legal representation is important.