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Diagnosing Whiplash After a Car Accident

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Experiencing a car accident is a sudden, shocking event that can leave you disoriented and confused. One moment, you’re driving safely, and the next, another vehicle collides with you, triggering a series of rapid, disconcerting events: seatbelt constricting, airbag deploying, and debris scattering.

While emergency responders arrive and check you for immediate injuries, you might feel relatively unscathed. However, this could be a deceptive calm. Unknown to you, you may have incurred a whiplash injury,

the symptoms of which often remain latent before surfacing hours or even days later.

At Colburn Hintze Maletta, we specialize in helping individuals understand the medical and legal complexities of whiplash injuries sustained in car accidents. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the diagnosis, symptoms, and legal options available under Arizona law.


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Diagnosing Whiplash After a Car Accident

How Are Whiplash Injuries Diagnosed?

Accurate and timely whiplash diagnosis is important for effective treatment and potential legal action. Here’s a look at the methods used for diagnosing this condition:

  1. Initial Consultation and Medical History: The first step in diagnosing whiplash typically involves a  discussion between you and your healthcare provider. Questions may touch on how the accident occurred, the symptoms you’ve noticed, and any prior back or neck injuries.
  2. Physical Examination: A healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam of your neck and surrounding areas to see if you have a limited range of motion, identify areas of tenderness, and determine the severity of your pain. Special attention is given to your neck’s ability to move in various directions without causing discomfort.
  3. Imaging Tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans that your doctor may order will rule out other types of injuries that could be causing your symptoms. These tests can reveal fractures, spinal issues, or soft tissue injuries that might be contributing to your discomfort.
  4. Specialized Tests: For more complex cases, your healthcare provider may recommend specialized tests like electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies to evaluate nerve function.
  5. Ongoing Assessments: As symptoms of whiplash can sometimes appear days after the initial injury, it may be necessary for your healthcare provider to conduct ongoing assessments to monitor changes in your symptoms and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

the statute of limitations states that you have a two-year window from the date of the injury to file a personal injury claim. A prompt diagnosis can be vital in meeting this deadline and building a strong case.

By understanding the different aspects of a whiplash diagnosis, you’ll be better prepared to take the necessary steps for picking a treatment option and any legal actions you wish to pursue.

diagnosing whiplash

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash in Car Accidents?

Whiplash symptoms can range from mild to severe whiplash but often include various physical and cognitive symptoms.

Common Symptoms Include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Sharp or throbbing headaches, often originating from the base of the skull
  • Tingling in the arms
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Fatigue and generalized weakness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Pain or discomfort in the shoulders and upper back
  • Reduced range of motion in the neck or shoulders
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty in concentrating or memory issues
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability or emotional changes

Most individuals suffering from whiplash experience improvement within a few weeks when they adhere to a regimen involving pain relievers and physical activity.


some people may face persistent neck discomfort and long-lasting issues.

If you notice any of these symptoms following a car accident, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible for a comprehensive examination and appropriate treatment plan. 

Assessing the severity of a neck or back injury

Whiplash can be a debilitating injury, causing severe discomfort for those who experience it. The impact of a neck or back injury varies from person to person, and several factors influence the severity of such injuries, including:


Height plays a significant role in the risk of sustaining whiplash, especially for women. If the headrest is not adequately adjusted or is too high, the protection provided can be insufficient for shorter individuals. On the other hand, taller people also face risks if their headrests are not correctly positioned, making them susceptible to whiplash injuries.


Studies indicate that women are at a higher risk than men for neck injuries from whiplash.

Furthermore, women are more likely to experience lingering symptoms post-injury, such as chronic neck pain.

Seating Position

Research suggests that the risk of neck injury due to whiplash varies based on one’s position in the vehicle. Generally, drivers are at a greater risk than passengers. This may be attributed to the fact that passengers often sit in a more relaxed posture, keeping their heads closer to the headrest, providing them with better protection against whiplash.

Various factors, such as height, gender, and seating position, can influence the severity of whiplash injuries.

Understanding these can help in prevention and treatment and any legal actions one might consider post-accident.

Will Your Insurance Company Assist With Whiplash Injuries and Compensation?

Dealing with insurance companies after experiencing a whiplash injury in a car accident is often frustrating. Insurance companies are, at the end of the day, businesses aiming to minimize their expenses.

Here’s what you should know about how they may approach your whiplash injury:

  1. Initial Claims: You may file a claim with your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company after an accident. Most insurers will require some form of medical documentation to substantiate your whiplash injury.
  2. Coverage Limits: Your policy will have certain limits on what it will cover. For example, medical payments and personal injury protection can offer coverage for medical bills, but they might not fully cover the cost of long-term treatment for severe whiplash injuries.
  3. Settlement Offers: Insurance companies often attempt to resolve claims by offering settlements. However, these initial offers might not adequately compensate you for both the immediate and long-term effects of a whiplash injury.
  4. Denial of Claims: In some cases, insurance companies may deny claims related to soft tissue injuries like whiplash, asserting that such injuries are less “verifiable” than others, such as broken bones.
  5. Consulting an Attorney: Given the complexities involved, it’s often wise to consult a personal injury attorney experienced in whiplash injuries to review your case. At Colburn Hintze Maletta, we offer a free consultation and can be reached at (602) 825-2500.

Knowing your rights under Arizona law is important when dealing with insurance companies.

Under Arizona Revised Statute § 20-461, insurance companies must act in good faith.

meaning they must deal fairly and honestly with your claim. Any violation could be grounds for a bad faith claim against the insurance company.

By understanding how insurance companies operate, you’ll be better equipped to secure the compensation you deserve for your whiplash injuries.

whiplash after an accident

Can Whiplash Result in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If you’ve sustained a whiplash injury from a vehicle accident in Arizona, you may wonder whether you can bring a personal injury lawsuit to court. You must prove that another party’s negligence caused the accident and your subsequent injury.

Documentation of your medical diagnosis, severity assessment, and treatment plans can be key pieces of evidence. Under Arizona Revised Statute § 12-2501, Arizona operates under a “pure comparative fault” system, meaning that even if you were partially at fault, you could still pursue damages.

However, your compensation would be reduced by your percentage of fault.


Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

Consulting a skilled personal injury attorney can significantly impact the outcome of your case. CHM Law specializes in Arizona personal injury cases if you have suffered a whiplash injury.


Here’s how we can assist you:

Expert Legal Advice: Our attorneys can evaluate your situation to determine if your whiplash injuries meet the criteria for filing a personal injury lawsuit under Arizona law.


Document Gathering: We will help you assemble all necessary records, from medical diagnoses to police reports, that could serve as crucial evidence to strengthen your case.


Skillful Negotiations and Litigation: Our attorneys aim to secure favorable settlement terms for you with adept negotiation techniques. We’re also prepared to take your case to court to ensure you receive the justice you deserve.


To make it easier for you, Colburn Hintze Maletta offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case and make a plan of action. Feel free to reach us at (602) 825-2500 to schedule your consultation.

By entrusting your case to a professional, you increase your chances of obtaining the compensation you are entitled to under Arizona law.


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