Moffat & Co Solicitors

Moffat & Co Solicitors
Accident Compensation Claim Solicitors Scotland
PO Box 28287
0131 662 6988
0131 667 8175

MASS Motor Accident Solicitors Society

Moffat & Co Solicitors Over 25 years of experience at your service

Whiplash Treatment

Are hospitals up to date on whiplash treatment information?

Despite being the root cause for more than 1,200 accident compensation claims per day, whiplash has been presumed to be an inconvenience (albeit a painful one) at best and a symptom of severe nerve and tissue damage at worst. The trouble is, whiplash has also had years of bad press, being cited as a major cause of fraudulent insurance claims, accused of clogging up the claims courts and generally a metaphorical pain in the neck for the legal system. All of this combines to make whiplash hard to define in law, and, it seems, in the medical profession too.

The following case highlights the seriousness of this inability to separate whiplash from a far more serious injury. An 82 year old man suffered a broken neck in a car accident and, despite being taken to hospital on a spinal board, he was not x-rayed but merely diagnosed with 'whiplash', given pain killers and sent home. It was not until four days later that the broken neck was diagnosed at a private hospital. The hospital trust concerned in the initial diagnosis has since given the family of the man (who later died from cancer) an apology. The family has not pursued a compensation claim for medical negligence, but has been awarded the costs of the private treatment that discovered the hospital's original oversight.

It is concerning, that with so much information now available to the medical profession, that whiplash is still causing so much confusion. Despite the fact that clear guidelines have been laid out in law as to what exactly constitutes whiplash, it appears that this information has not yet filtered down to hospital Accident and Emergency departments the people in the front line dealing daily with accident victims and their injuries. It beggars the question does the medical profession have the information it needs to deal with whiplash cases properly, or are they leaving themselves open to possible medical negligence claims through ignorance?

Whiplash is the resulting damage to soft tissue in the neck and shoulders when the neck is 'hyperextended' due to forces inherent in any impact accident. In most cases, it is the result of a (usually low speed) rear impact between vehicles. The transmitted energy of the impact throws the head forward and then back, hyperextending the neck and tearing the muscle tissue that surrounds the spine. Although relatively minor in most cases, there have been several recent cases where the injury was far more severe than first thought, causing neurological damage in one case that will affect the victim for the rest of her life. Whiplash usually takes several weeks to heal fully, although research by universities in the US and in New Zealand has shown that a secondary injury even years later can be compounded by the damage done to the tissue in the initial accident. This can lead to a much longer healing process and potentially a 'weak spot' in the neck which may be unusually susceptible to future injury, no matter how slight the accident.

Over the past two years, specialists in whiplash have realised that the definition of the injury warrants further investigation and the courts have been clamouring for clearer guidelines and an exact definition of whiplash injuries. In a landmark case in 2008, guidelines that were acceptable to the courts were presented as a definitive definition of whiplash. Unfortunately, this information does not seem to have filtered down through the medical profession and to the front line staff in A&E units across the country. Consequently, confusion still exists where clarity is needed most at the point of primary care.

This inability to define whiplash injuries means that the medical profession is leaving itself vulnerable to future misdiagnosis of neck and shoulder injuries that could have devastating consequences. It is time that the medical experts caught up with the legal profession and took on board the information available, so that they are capable of recognising and treating what is the most common road traffic injury in the UK. Only then will they reduce the possibility of being sued for wrongful diagnosis and avoid potentially damaging medical negligence claims from victims.

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My case was dealt with personally by Stan Moffat and what a brilliant guy. His office contacted me personally by telephone at the start of my claim to explain who they were and what they would be doing for me. All through the case I was kept fully informed of all actions either by e-mail or by letter and reassured by Stan several times of any queries I had.

It is very seldom that a solicitor will take the time to speak personally at any time with you without getting run through secretaries etc. I commend this man for that as this was a very upsetting and important time for me and he did everything in his power to make this as easy and as swift as possible for me.

I highly recommend the service that this firm brings and the speed that they move at.

J McMahon

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