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Can a low speed collision cause a whiplash injury?

    car crash
    06 November 2019

    A whiplash injury can occur when a vehicle collides with another and the impact of the crash causes the head and neck of the driver, or passenger to be suddenly and forcefully thrown back and forth.


    This causes the soft-tissue and ligaments in the neck to be stretched beyond their normal range of movement. It is entirely possible, and indeed relatively common to suffer whiplash at low speed as it is the abrupt impact of the collision that causes the neck injury.


    It is not the speed which causes the injury, but the way in which you suddenly come to stop that causes a whiplash injury.


    Following a low speed collision, sometimes referred as a Low Velocity Impact (LVI), it is important not to assume that you have walked away from the accident unharmed.

    The reason for this is that the symptoms of whiplash are not always immediately apparent following a crash and can often take several hours or even several days to appear.


    Whiplash symptoms to be alert for include:
    •    Soreness and tenderness of neck and shoulders
    •    Reduced movement in head and neck
    •    Dizziness and a sense of imbalance
    •    Nausea
    •    A headache with the centre of the pain focused on the base of the skull

    Whiplash can also cause fatigue, depression, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating or remembering details.


    If you are suffering any of these symptoms or have any other reason to suspect that you may be suffering from a whiplash injury, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible from your general practitioner. 


    You will be advised of the best course of treatment for your injuries which is likely to be strong painkillers, gentle mobility exercises and depending on the severity, a course of physiotherapy.

    CRUMPLE ZONES 

    Modern cars are designed with crumple zones. In higher velocity impacts, the car crumples; the crumple zone acting as a cushion and absorbing much of the force of the crash so that it is not transferred to the occupants or, at least, is significantly reduced. Crumple zones are located at the front and rear many vehicles.

    However, in low velocity impacts when the forces involved in a collision are minor, the cars crumple zone does not activate and all of the force of the collision is borne by the people inside the car – and the cervical spine, situated just beneath the head, typically bears more of this force than any other part of the body.

    Of course, drivers and passengers involved in higher speed collisions are likely to sustain other serious injuries such as crush injuries and broken bones, but the activated crumple zone is there to hopefully take the impact of the force. This is why the belief that whiplash injuries can't be sustained in low-speed collisions (which includes collisions where the vehicles are travelling as slow as 15kmh) is incorrect.

    HOW SPEED HAS A BEARING ON THE TYPE OF INJURIES YOU ARE LIKELY TO SUSTAIN DURING AN ACCIDENT


    The speed at which a crash occurs certainly effects the type and severity of injuries sustained. Whilst whiplash can be sustained in both low speed (up to 15 km/h) and moderate to high speed collisions, it is likely that in moderate to high speed collisions, additional injuries such as broken bones, head injuries and concussion may also be sustained. However, in higher speed collisions the activated crumple zone is there to hopefully take the impact of the force. This is why the belief that whiplash injuries can't be sustained in low-speed collisions (which includes collisions where the vehicles are travelling as slow as 15kmh) is incorrect.


    If you have been involved in a low speed collision in Queensland and believe you have a sustained whiplash injury, or any other injury, as a result of the accident, you should obtain legal advice from a solicitor as soon as possible. Zaparas Lawyers are experts in whiplash claims and offer a No Win No Fee service.


    Call the friendly team at Zaparas Lawyers today on 07 5675 1300 or send us an enquiry via our contact us page for an obligation free consultation.

    *This piece was written by Stuart Macleod, Lawyer in the Zaparas Lawyers QLD office specialising in WorkCover, TAC, Public Liability and Occupasional diseases.