Minor Auto Accidents Can Be A Major Pain In The Neck

If you or someone you know has been involved in an automobile accident, you need to read this. Recently, there have been changes made to personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, that may leave you with no coverage for medical expenses of injuries resulting from an auto mobile accident. Before I explain the intricacies of insurance coverage, I want to describe the risks of potential injuries from automobile accidents.

Insurance companies tend to believe that there is a direct relationship between the amount of damage to a vehicle following an accident, and the extent of the injuries sustained by the occupants inside. However, in many cases, this could be totally misleading. There are many factors that must be considered and understood regarding the mechanism of the accident in order to realize the potential for injury. For example, if you were stopped at a light, dry conditions, and had your foot firmly on the brake prior to being rear-ended, the traction between your tires and the road would hold the car firmly in place during an accident. As a result, the crumple zones designed in the vehicle would collapse and absorb the impact. The car would suffer a lot of damage yet the occupants inside barely moved. Now, if you saw the oncoming vehicle through your rear view mirror and decided to take your foot off the brake in an attempt to move out of the way, your vehicle would be launched forward at the time of impact and rapidly accelerate to the speed of the other car. The crumple zones would not collapse and the vehicle would appear to have less damage however, the change in velocity would create a whipping effect to the neck of the occupants inside and cause more injury.

Other factors to consider are the position of the head and neck at the time of impact. If your neck was turned during an accident, the potential for injury is much higher. Also, being aware of an impending accident can allow you to brace, yet if you are caught unaware, the jerk of the accident is usually faster than the reflexes of the muscles used to support your head and neck. Last but not least, were you wearing your seat belt? Seatbelts save lives but they are also the reason why most people will suffer whiplash following an automobile accident. By holding the body in place, the head, which is as heavy as a bowling ball, is allowed to be tossed around to the limits of the neck. I always tell my patients to wear their seatbelts because I can always help them as long as they are alive.

If we put all of these factors together, we realize that any accident, regardless of the damage to the vehicle, can cause injury. During the whipping effect of the impact, muscles, tendons, and ligaments can suffer microscopic tears which will eventually be healed with scar tissue. These individuals may sometimes suffer little or no initial pain, yet if left untreated, may eventually suffer restricted range of motion, recurring neck and/or back pain, and even headaches. These symptoms are usually masked with over the counter pain killers. Years later, these restricted motions can lead to degenerative changes to our spine such as disc bulges or herniations, and even arthritic changes, which can affect their quality of life. Many of the degenerative changes I see in my patients have occurred 15-25 years following an accident and as a result, may have less percentage of correction available. It would have been much easier to have been treated at the time of the accident in an attempt to prevent future damage.

This brings us back to the insurance companies. Insurance companies now allow only 14 days from the date of the accident for you to be evaluated by a doctor in order to qualify for coverage. Obviously, this is sufficient for an individual who suffers traumatic injuries requiring emergency care, but hinders the individual who suffers gradual damage. A sore neck following an accident may go away after a few days but return after a few weeks as a herniated disc requiring surgery. If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, an evaluation is imperative. In our office, we perform an examination which can many times reveal injuries following an accident that the individual was not aware of. Further studies such as x-ray and MRI may be necessary to fully diagnose the extent of the injuries so a proper corrective care plan can be implemented.

Dr. Roberto Fernandez has been a chiropractic physician in the Kendall area for over 20 years. For more information; go to www.miamifloridachiropractor.com or call 305-270-8800.