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How Long Does Whiplash Last?

By Stephen Hudson. Last Updated 22nd February 2022. In this guide, we answer the question “how long does whiplash last?” We’ll also explore how the severity and duration of whiplash symptoms can impact a potential whiplash compensation claim. Every person’s experience with whiplash injuries is unique and different from everybody else’s.

It is impossible to make a general statement about how long a person’s whiplash symptoms may last or what the long term consequences are likely to be. It all depends on how the injury happened and the severity of the injury.

How Long Does Whiplash Last For?

How Long Does Whiplash Last For?

While the symptoms of a mild whiplash injury may last just a few days, the symptoms of a more severe injury could last several months or longer. In some cases, the injury may look deceptively mild in the days immediately following the accident. Sometimes, however, the symptoms may manifest themselves as much as 7 years after the date of the accident.

The time it takes for the whiplash injury to stabilise can also vary widely, from as little as a couple of weeks to as long as two years.

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What Is Whiplash And How Long Does It Last?

Before we talk about how long does whiplash take to heal, we’ll summarise what this injury is and how it may occur. Whiplash is a type of injury in the neck when the ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues are damaged by being suddenly pulled and stretched. It is similar in effect to a sprain injury that you might suffer in your wrist or your hand. It is caused when the head is suddenly thrown back and forth with considerable force.

Though car accidents are not the only potential cause of whiplash, they are the most common cause of the injury. Whiplash can occur when a driver has been jerked forward in their seat by the force of an impact or the momentum of coming to a sudden halt to avoid a collision.

How often do road traffic accidents cause whiplash?

According to statistics published by the Department for Transport, there were 115,584 road casualties reported in Great Britain throughout 2020. Among these casualties, 22,069 were reported to have serious injuries, 92,055 were categorised as slight injuries and 1,460 were fatalities.

However, how many road casualties which occur in Britain specifically lead to whiplash? Answering this question is tricky because whiplash injuries are more difficult to diagnose compared to other potential injuries which road traffic accidents (RTAs) can cause. It is often based on subjective factors and reporting from patients. There are, however, certain reports which can give us some insight into this matter.

According to a Government impact assessment on whiplash (made for the Civil Liability Act 2018), there were about 850,000 personal injury claims made in Britain in 2017/18. Around 650,000 of these claims were for road traffic accidents. Around 90% of these RTA claims were for whiplash injuries.

Symptoms of Whiplash Injuries

The symptoms of a whiplash injury may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain in the neck with or without reduced mobility
  • Pain in the upper or lower back or both
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Numbness or weakness of the arms
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Travel anxiety

How long do whiplash injuries last? And how long will these symptoms affect you? This may depend upon how severe the accident you were in was. It may also depend upon how seriously you were injured.

Understanding The Short And Long Term Symptoms And Effects Of Whiplash

If you were in a very minor collision that happened at moderate speed, you are more likely to experience short term symptoms of whiplash. This may include stiffness and pain in the neck and upper back region, which may or may not be accompanied by a headache.

However, if you were in a more serious collision at high speed, there are higher chances that you may suffer from more severe stiffness and pain in the neck and upper back. This pain may is likely to be accompanied by difficulty moving the head and neck. In such cases, the initial symptoms of the injury are typically felt only about 12 hours after the accident and the full extent of the injury only gets known after a couple of days have passed. Along with the neck and upper back pain, you may also experience severe headaches and insomnia.

Depending on the nerve injured in the accident, you may also suffer vision-related problems, which could be short or long term.

Making a claim for Whiplash Injuries

If you are suffering from whiplash injuries resulting from an accident that was due to no fault of yours, you may be entitled to claim whiplash compensation. The compensation due to you will depend on the nature and severity of the injuries and your actual expenses. Hence why our clients often ask, “how long do whiplash injuries last?”

If your whiplash injuries are very mild and the symptoms resolve themselves within a couple of weeks following self-medication, you may not be eligible to claim compensation.

Now, if your whiplash injuries are minor and heal within a period of about six months, you may be awarded personal injury compensation in the range of about £2,300 to £4,080. As we said earlier, the exact amount may vary depending on other factors, such as the severity of the injury and whether it was accompanied by other symptoms such as travel anxiety or headaches.

If your whiplash injuries are more serious, with symptoms that last more than twelve months, you may be awarded a higher personal injury compensation in the range of about £4,080 to £7,410. You can expect an award in the same range if you suffer from permanent but mild injuries.

The highest compensation is awarded to those who suffer disabling neck injuries that leave them permanently paralyzed. The compensation, in this case, is meant to cover their ongoing treatment as well as their inability to get back to work and earn a living. In such cases, the compensation may be as high as £139,210.

Potential roadblocks to getting compensation for whiplash injuries

If you intend to file a compensation claim, one of the most important aspects is showing medical reports stating the extent of your condition. This may be more difficult than you imagine simply because health professionals themselves are not in agreement on the best course of action to treat whiplash injury.

Some doctors insist that the best course of action for a full and speedy recovery is staying active and refraining from using a brace altogether. Despite several studies being done into the best treatment for whiplash injuries, there isn’t enough evidence to show the best treatment for long-term whiplash injuries.

Some studies show that those who have suffered severe whiplash injuries have a better chance of a full recovery if they start the necessary therapy as soon as possible after the injury was sustained.

Manipulation and acupuncture are two of the most effective alternative treatments for treating whiplash. It’s absolutely crucial that qualified practitioners only administer these treatments.

Another problem that whiplash sufferers often encounter is the fact that they were injured in a low-speed crash. Although studies show that a person can suffer from whiplash injury if they were involved in a crash at low speed, insurers usually challenge these claims.

Should you seek treatment early for whiplash injuries or not?

How long do whiplash injuries last? This may depend upon the treatment which you can access for your injuries. Regardless of the compensation, your health should be your first and main priority after a road accident. If you experience any symptoms that indicate you may have whiplash, you should consult with a doctor as quickly as possible. If you do have whiplash, then a doctor can help provide a complete and thorough diagnosis and treatment plan. When you first notice symptoms associated with whiplash, you could consider applying an ice pack to the injured area to help reduce the pain. It could also help prevent the injury from getting worse and reduce your recovery time.

Delayed manifestation of symptoms is common in whiplash injury. Some individuals are symptomatic immediately after the accident but begin to develop one or more symptoms within a few hours or even a few or several days after the incident. Once the symptoms manifest, they may last anywhere from a few days to a few months or even years.

How long does whiplash treatment last?

How long can whiplash last and the length of time required for treatment depends a lot on the severity of the injury. If you see your GP about your whiplash symptoms, they may prescribe you strong painkillers until your symptoms improve. If your symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks, then your GP may refer you to a specialist, such as a physiotherapist or a pain specialist.

In addition to any medicine you could receive, your GP or a doctor will likely recommend other methods of aiding your recovery. This may include resting, physical therapy and exercise.

Whiplash Injury Claims Compensation Calculator

When calculating how much compensation for a neck injury, such as whiplash, how long do whiplash injuries last will be factored into the compensation estimate. Those injuries that are more serious, which are longer-lasting or leave claimants with permanent disabilities, may be awarded higher settlements.

In the compensation table below, we look at what different cases of whiplash could be awarded. Settlements for injury claims are unique to your individual case and injuries. This means we can not estimate your settlement until we have spoken to you.

In this table, we look at how compensation for neck injuries is awarded. These figures are taken from the Judicial College. So, compensation values for injuries relating to whiplash include:

Degree Of InjuryType Of InjuryDescriptionSettlement Estimate
Severe (i)Neck InjuryWhere the person affected has a permanent and severe level of disability in the neck.In the region of £139,210
Severe (ii)Neck InjurySerious injuries to the cervical spinal discs and which cause disabilities£61,710 to £122,860
Severe (iii)Neck InjuryChronic neck injuries caused by fractures , severe soft tissue injuries, dislocations or a ruptured tendon.£42,680 to £52,540
Moderate (i)Neck InjuryDislocations and fractures in the neck which could necessitate spinal fusion treatments.£23,460 - £36,120
Moderate (ii)Neck InjuryWrenching soft tissue injuries which could limit movement and cause cervical spondylosis.£12,900 - £23,460
Moderate (iii)Neck InjuryA neck injury which makes an existing injury (such as neck pain) worse.£7,410 - £12,900
Minor (i)Neck InjuryWhere a full recovery takes place in 1 - 2 years.£4,080 - £7,410
Minor (ii)Neck InjuryWhere a full recovery takes place in 3 - 12 months.£2,300 - £4,080
Minor (iii)Neck InjuryWhere the person recovers in around 3 years.Up to a maximum of £2,300
ModerateShoulder InjurySuch as a frozen shoulder injury£7,410 - £11,980
Minor (i)Shoulder InjuryWhere a recovery is made within under 2 years.£4,080 to £7,410
Minor (ii)Shoulder InjuryWhere recovery happens in around a year.£2,300 - £4,080

For an estimate of what your personal injury claim could be worth, please contact our team.

No Win No Fee Whiplash Claims

What does No Win No Fee really mean for you when making a personal injury claim? No Win No Fee is a way for people who may have limited financial means or whose finances have been severely impacted by their accident to make a personal injury claim without worrying about the upfront cost of doing so. Could cases of whiplash be handled through No Win No Fee claims? The answer is, if you are eligible to make a personal injury claim, then you could make it on a No Win No Fee basis.

No Win No Fee is easy to understand. It means that if you do not win your injury claim, you will not pay for your solicitors’ services. Upon winning your claim for neck pain caused by a road traffic accident, the solicitor’s fee will be taken from your final settlement. If you do not win, you will not need to pay us. So, this is highly beneficial for the client, especially as you wonder, “how long do whiplash injuries last?”

Contact Us

If whiplash injuries have impacted you after a road traffic accident or a sports injury, you may be able to make a personal injury claim. Please find out more about how we could help you by contacting our specialist team. You can do so in the following ways.

Contact us today to discuss your claim for chronic whiplash.

Helpful Links

Below you can find some helpful links to related road traffic accident claims and helpful external resources on whiplash injuries.

The NHS Guide To Whiplash – A guide from the NHS.

Whiplash Neck Sprains – A guide from Oxford Universities Hospitals.

Motor Insurers’ Bureau – Making road traffic accident claims when the driver is untraced.

Other personal injury claim guides

Whiplash Injuries FAQs – How long do whiplash injuries last?

Below we answer some of the frequently asked questions about whiplash injury claims.

Why is it called whiplash?

This neck injury is called whiplash due to the violent and sharp snap back and forward to the neck. The range of motion hyperextends and hyperflexes the neck muscles as the neck bounds backwards and forwards.

How fast do you have to be travelling for whiplash injuries to happen?

Whiplash injuries do not just happen at high speeds. In fact, many whiplash injuries can happen in low-speed collisions at just 6-12 mph. They could even be triggered by impacts as slow as 5mph.

How long do whiplash claims take?

In general, the more minor an injury is, the quicker the claims process will be. If you recover within a few weeks to months, your claim could be resolved in 6 months. However, more complex injuries could take a year or longer to resolve. But when people ask, “how long do whiplash injuries last?” consider the length of the claims process as well. Speak to us if you have any questions about how to claim.

How important is medical evidence?

Medical evidence is important when making a personal injury claim. It helps to show how you have been injured and how serious these injuries are. It can also help to show your future prognosis and to show if you’re taking the likes of anti-inflammatory medicine. All of this helps solicitors make better-informed decisions it looking at how much compensation you may be owed.

Could you get a whiplash injury in a bus or taxi accident?

You may suffer a whiplash injury in road traffic accidents involving any vehicle you are travelling in.

How many years could a whiplash injury claim take?

Whiplash injury claims could take 6 months to complete, or in complicated and complex cases, they could take 2 years or more to complete.

How much time do you have to make a claim?

In general, you have 3 years in which to make a personal injury claim for whiplash.

How long does whiplash last?

The NHS says that whiplash injuries may get better in a two-to-three-month period. However, if patients have not recovered within that time, or their pain becomes particularly severe, then they may be referred to a pain specialist, a physiotherapist, or psychological support.

We hope our guide on how long do whiplash injuries last has helped you learn more about whiplash and compensation claims.

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