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Whiplash Injuries Prevalent in Auto Accidents

A rear-end collision occurs every 17 seconds in the U.S. and increases as rush hour reaches each region of the country. Neck sprains and strains due to whiplash are the most frequently reported injuries in such accidents.

What is Whiplash?

Typically, when a vehicle gets struck from behind, auto passengers sustain what's known as a whiplash. The body is violently forced forward and backward causing sprains and strains to the neck area. These injuries are caused by the acceleration and acceleration of the head in a collision.

Aside from the pain ensuring from soreness and soft tissue tears, whiplash victims face a variety of ailments, including nerve damage, disc damage and ligament tears within the neck. In the most severe cases, victims can fracture vertebrae and experience spinal cord injuries. Whiplash is also known as connective tissue injuries.

Passengers can sustain a whiplash injury in a low-impact auto accident or severe crash. Numerous studies show that even collisions that happen at 5 mph lead to neck injuries.

Head Restraints Help Reduce Whiplash Occurrences

However, whiplash injuries can be reduced by the proper use of head restraints. Commonly known as headrests, these devices help move an occupant's head forward with the body in a rear-end crash so that the neck will not experience the whip-like action that occurs. While most consumers believe head rests are installed for comfort while driving, they are just as important a safety feature as seat belts in a car.

Despite their importance, many drivers don't realize that proper positioning of restraints has as much to do with preventing injuries as making the driver comfortable. If the restraint is set too low, the head may roll over the top, causing the neck to be hyper-extended.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommends that head restraints be positioned at or near the head's center of gravity (which amounts to 3.5 inches below the top of the head). Most cars have adjustable headrests that can be raised, lowered and even tilted to fit the driver's head, but because of how seats are designed, most people of average height do not have to adjust their head restraints. However, since people differ in height, slight adjustments may be necessary. Nevertheless, the restraint should be parallel to the top of the driver's ears.

Head restraints have come a long way since they were first required by federal law in 1969. There have been several amendments to the rules governing restraints, with the most recent implemented in 2005. Under the latest rules, head restraints be positioned a minimum of 29.5 inches from an occupant's hip.

With the rule amendments, IIHS ratings have improved. In 2005, half of all restraints rated poorly and only 12 percent were good. This year, not a single restraint rated poorly, and 80 percent received good ratings.

This is very important for auto manufacturers. They bear a distinct duty to build cars with all required elements to protect passengers in the event of a car crash. In essence, they can be held strictly liable for defects that harm consumers, especially if the restraints did not meet federal guidelines. They must strike a balance between making cars that can withstand damage in a collision while protecting passengers. Cars with spring-like rear bumpers may be less costly to repair, but they increase the potential for whiplash injuries.

Seeking Compensation for Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash injuries are serious and motorists who suffer this type of trauma in an auto accident is entitled to seek compensation from at-fault drivers. If you have suffered whiplash in a rear-end collision, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney is advised.