Whiplash – It’s time to take it seriously

Let’s be clear from the outset, whiplash is a serious injury and can result in long-term damage and lessen the quality of an individual’s life if left untreated.  It has often had the reputation as the type of personal injury claim unscrupulous people use as a vehicle to defraud insurers. However, according to an independent survey of 4000 respondents conducted by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) in 2012:

• Up to 40% of those who suffer from whiplash never claim for compensation
• In the previous 12 months whiplash claims had fallen by 24,000
• Almost 90% of claimants were diagnosed with whiplash by a medical professional
• Far from being an epidemic, only 1 in 100 individuals suffered from whiplash in the preceding 12 months of the survey being conducted
• 80% of suffers either report their symptoms accurately, or underplay them
• Just under 30% of claims were encouraged by the victim’s insurance company

What is whiplash?

Whiplash, or neck strain, is caused when a sudden, violent movement or impact causes your head to jerk forward, backwards, or sideways, beyond its normal range of movement.  The strain can take several months to heal. The muscles and tendons in the neck stretch and tear causing various symptoms such as:

• Neck pain and stiffness
• Headaches
• Pain when moving the neck
• Back pain
• Pins and needles in your arms and legs
• Dizziness
• Tiredness
• Blurred vision
• Vertigo

Occasionally whiplash can result in a chronic, long-term condition and can lead to anxiety and depression.

Treatment for neck strain includes medication, physiotherapy and keeping your neck mobile.

What causes whiplash?

A common cause of whiplash is being involved in a motor vehicle accident, especially a rear-end collision as the impact throws your head forward with great force and then snaps it backwards.

Whiplash can also be caused by a sudden blow to the head (for example while participating in a contact sport), or by a slip or fall.

Recovery from whiplash

The majority of victims make a full recovery from whiplash within six months. However, around 10% of victims suffer ongoing, chronic pain associated with their injury, and half of those people are unable to work or enjoy a reasonable quality of life.  The reason for this is often as mystifying to the medical professionals as it is to the patients.

Studies have been conducted in Australia which illustrate that in approximately 50% of chronic whiplash cases, the pain originates from specific nerves inside the neck.  By deadening these nerves permanently the pain can be eradicated.

Rehabilitation instead of compensation?

There has been a recent call for a debate about compensating whiplash victims financially.  It has been suggested that claimants should receive rehabilitation instead of cash settlements. However, the idea has received lukewarm response from insurers.  Instead it has been suggested that the rules for compensation claims should be tightened by methods such as restricting the time limit a person has to lodge a claim.

This would discourage the small number of fraudulent claimants and allow solicitors and insurers to concentrate on supporting the people who have genuine cause to seek a financial settlement for their injury.

If you have received a neck strain injury and are unsure as to whether you are entitled to compensation, visit our dedicated page or contact us today on 0333 400 4445 or fill in our contact form.  Our experienced and empathetic team can assist you with advice on the next steps to take.

Rearward Facing Car Seats – Time for a Re-Think?

In 2009 the British Medical Journal published an article on the significant safety benefits of keeping children in rearward-facing seating when travelling in a motor vehicle. Now, five years after this paper was released, how accessible is information regarding the benefits of keeping your child rearward-facing for as long as possible? Has the United Kingdom changed its official guidelines regarding rearward-facing car seats? And finally, are they readily available in high street stores or do parents still have to import them from abroad?

The key points from the 2009 article are as follows:

• Many babies are switched from a rearward-facing car seat to a forward facing seat at nine kilograms (eight months of age for a boy on the 50th centile for weight)
• Excessive stretching or even severing of the spinal cord can result if a child is involved in a head-on crash while in a forward facing car seat
• Rearward-facing seats are safer than forward facing seats for children under four years old
• Parents and guardians should be advised to keep young children in rearward-facing seats for as long as possible

The above points are taken from the original article which you can view here in full.

What happens in a motor vehicle accident when a young child is facing forward in their car seat?

In a young child, the head constitutes 25% of their body weight. Their bones are still developing so they are soft and consist mainly of cartilage. This allows them to tumble down stairs or fall off playground equipment and, apart from a few tears, often emerge relatively unscathed.

However, in a high-impact, frontal motor vehicle collision, this works against them in a terrible way. The weight of the head, when it is flung forward, can stretch the neck to the point where the spine snaps, causing internal decapitation. Due a child’s ribcage being soft, the internal organs are not protected against the tremendous force being pushed onto them by their car seat harness and the damage caused can be fatal.

Parent’s access to information

The internet can provide a wealth of information regarding the safety benefits of rearward-facing car seats for children up to four years of age. However:

• Many parents are not in a financial position to pay for an internet connection
• Some families do not speak English as their first language and are therefore limited to the amount of information they can access from British websites
• Lack of education and understanding can limit an individual’s ability to research and understand the information that may be available

Unfortunately, lack of accurate, easily obtainable information is one of the key reasons why even well-educated parents are unaware of the importance of keeping their child rearward-facing as long as possible.

Has the United Kingdom changed its official guidelines?

Some countries, including the United States and New Zealand, have changed their regulations and official guidelines to recommend children remain rearward-facing up until two years of age. Sweden’s official recommendations state that parents keep children rearward-facing until they are 4 years old (contrary to popular belief, this is not enshrined in law).

At present in the United Kingdom babies over nine kilograms (around eight to nine months old) can be forward-facing. However, new European Union regulations which were ratified by the UK in July 2013, known as the i-Size Regulations (or UN R129), state that children should remain rearward-facing until they are at least 15 months old. i-Size also requires that an ISOFIX click-and-go system is used to fit the car seat rather than the car’s own seatbelts. This reduces the chance of the car seat being fitted incorrectly. However, these new regulations will run alongside the existing regulations for the next few years.

Therefore, you can still buy and safely use car seats which comply with the current ECE R44/04. This is causing confusion among parents as they are no longer sure which regulations to follow. Again, uncertainty often arises due to lack of readily accessible information.

Have rearward-facing car seats become more available?

As recently as 2011 it was extremely difficult to purchase a rearward-facing car seat, suitable for a child up to four years of age in the United Kingdom. Caroline Green, mother of a three year old daughter says “The only reason I knew about the benefits of rearward-facing car seats was because my brother worked for Volvo and was involved in some of their safety testing”. She goes on to say; “It really frustrated me that I could not walk into a high street shop and purchase a rearward-facing car seat, I had to do a lot of research to find a stockist”.

Some high street retailers are now stocking rearward-facing car seat brands such as Maxi-cosi and Britax, however, the number is still fairly limited and the price is prohibitive to many individuals.

Sadly, at this point in time, many parents, especially those belonging to socio-economically deprived groups, are unable to give their child what could a be life-saving advantage in a motor vehicle accident. This is due to lack of knowledge, advice, and the current difficulty and expense of obtaining a rearward-facing car seat for children up to four years of age.

On Your Bike – Keeping Safe on the Roads

When it comes to health and general well-being few activities can match cycling.  You have all the benefits of being outdoors, exercising and you can get to where you want to go for free.  Sadly, despite all these positive advantages, cyclists are the most vulnerable people on our roads and every year many of them suffer injury or tragically lose their lives.

Here are a few facts that highlight the risks cyclists take every time they venture out on the roads:

• In 2012, 118 cyclists lost their lives on Britain’s roads, up by 10 per cent on the previous year.

• 6 people were killed on bikes in less than two weeks on London roads in November 2013.

• Accidents whereby cyclists suffered serious injuries were up by 4 per cent to 3,222 in 2012.

So what are the main causes of death or serious injury to cyclists?  More importantly, how can cyclists protect themselves so they can stay safe on Britain’s roads?

According to a recent report by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the most common contributory factor to motor vehicle collisions with cyclists recorded by police is “failure to look properly”.   In 57 per cent of cases the driver of the vehicle failed to do this and in 43 per cent of cases it was the cyclist.  Many accidents occur when cyclists are entering the road from the pavement. Additionally, drivers turning or manoeuvring without proper care accounts for 17 per cent of serious accidents in the UK.

Whilst cars and taxis are the most common type of vehicle involved in road traffic collisions with cyclists, heavy vehicles pose a particular danger, especially in London.  To illustrate this, in November 2013 when six cyclists were killed in less than two weeks in the nation’s capital it was found five of the accidents involved a truck, bus or coach. Statistics also show that accidents commonly occur when a cyclist is turning left at a junction or if a large vehicle such as a bus passes too close.

So what can a cyclist do to protect themselves when they are on the road?

Wear a helmet

According to a RoSPA report from 2013, head injuries are extremely common in cycling accidents.  In a study of 116 cyclists it was found head injuries occurred in 70 per cent of the fatal accidents in London and 80 per cent of fatal accidents on rural roads.

A comprehensive study done in America in 2009 found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head and brain injury by 63 per cent to 88 per cent even if a car was involved.  The authors of the study concluded “Helmets reduce bicycle-related head and facial injuries for cyclists of all ages involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles.”

Although it may mess up your hairstyle, there is no denying that wearing a cycle helmet is the best thing you can do to reduce your chances of receiving serious or even fatal head injuries if you are involved in a cycling accident.

Make Sure You Are Visible

Use the lights on your bike in bad weather conditions and after dark, and ensure you wear brightly coloured, reflective clothing.

Cycle Defensively

Make sure you make eye-contact with other drivers and always indicate your intentions when turning or stopping by using the correct hand signals.  Be aware of cars parking who may open their car door without seeing you approach and ride the width of a car door away from parked cars.  Avoid cycling on the inside of trucks and buses as they may not be able to see you.  If you are cycling on the inside of a large vehicle they may be unable to see you when they make a left turn manoeuvre so be very aware of the vehicle’s movements and indication.

Cycling is a healthy, fun activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  By taking a few simple precautions you can enjoy riding your bike and avoid any nasty injuries.

Stay safe on holiday this summer

Everyone looks forward to a summer break, but every year many British tourists suffer injuries or illnesses abroad that could have been prevented. This article from leading personal injury solicitors, Injury Lawyers 4U, offers some helpful advice on staying safe this summer and explains what to do if an incident occurs.

Hotel safety

All kinds of accidents can happen in hotels, from slips and trips on uneven pathways to diving into shallow swimming pools with inadequate warning signs. You’d be surprised how many people fall off hotel or apartment balconies each year, too! Of course, not all hotel accidents are the proprietor’s fault, so it’s important to take extra care to avoid any incidents happening to you or a family member.

Road safety

Road accidents are one of the most common types of accidents abroad, often due to issues such as unfamiliar road layouts, substandard road surfaces and unsafe vehicles. If you’re on foot, always exercise extreme caution when crossing the road as rights of way may not be the same as in the UK. And if you hire a vehicle, check that it’s roadworthy before you drive it away. Mopeds should be avoided if possible.

Food and drink

Holidays abroad are a great opportunity to sample new cuisines, but foreign hygiene standards aren’t always up to scratch. Avoid eating in roadside establishments or from buffets where the food has been kept warm. And watch out for ice put in drinks or used to chill food, as it may be made from impure water.

What to do if something goes wrong

If you’re injured in an accident abroad that wasn’t your fault, or contract an illness such as food poisoning, you can claim compensation just like in the UK. Dealing with an incident abroad can be daunting, but Injury Lawyers 4U are here to help.

Here’s what you need to do whilst you’re still on holiday:

  •  – Get medical treatment for your injuries or illness.
  •  – Report the incident to the police if necessary.
  •  – Tell your tour operator about the incident, if applicable.
  •  – Gather as much evidence as you can, e.g. witness names and addresses, or photographs of the incident site.
  •  – Keep all relevant paperwork, especially medical documents such as hospital receipts or discharge paperwork.

Then, call Injury Lawyers 4U on 0845 345 4444 or fill in the short form on our website. We’ve handled hundreds of successful accident compensation claims for overseas incidents and you can trust us to help you get all the compensation you deserve.

Revealed – The Dangers Of Commuting To Work

A survey by insurance company LV has revealed the dangers faced by British commuters whilst travelling to and from work. Their research found that an amazing 1.7 million people have to take time off work each year because of injuries sustained whilst commuting, and the average person is at risk of serious injury 32 times each week.

Key figures released in LV’s report included:

  •  – The average commuter takes 1,600 risks a year
  •  – The biggest dangers are crossing the road without looking and running down stairs or escalators
  •  – 40% of people admitted jumping on to trains or buses whilst the doors are closing
  •  – 39% of commuters walk into the road to get around slower pedestrians
  •  – With an average of 35 risks a week, women take more risks than men.

The results of commuting injuries can be serious, with LV finding that some of the commonest risks resulted in people taking more than three months off work. And whilst the people surveyed admitted that they were injured because they took risks, many more commuters are injured every year through no fault of their own.

If you’ve been injured in a commuting accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be entitled to claim compensation – whether you were travelling on foot, by bike, car, bus, tram or train. Britain’s roads are especially dangerous and in the daily rush to get to and from work, not everyone takes as much care as they should. According to the Department of Transport, almost 204,000 people were killed or injured in road traffic accidents in 2011 alone.

Claiming compensation for a road traffic accident

As the LV survey revealed, the effects of a road traffic accident aren’t just physical – you could end up being seriously out of pocket if you have to take a long time off work. On top of that, you may need to pay for specialist treatment, care or therapy that isn’t available on the NHS to help you recover or regain your quality of life. Claiming compensation means you can focus on getting better without worrying about financial issues.

Talk to Injury Lawyers 4U today

At Injury Lawyers 4U, we know all about road traffic accident claims. We’ve handled hundreds of successful cases for pedestrians, car drivers, cyclists and public transport users. You can trust Injury Lawyers 4U to give you honest, professional advice about your claim, and to deal with your case as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Call today on 0845 345 4444 and take your first steps to getting the compensation you deserve.