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Personal Injury: Whiplash in road traffic collisions

Whiplash injury from a car accident in Sydney NSW

Whiplash is by far the single most common low value claim that arises from road traffic accidents. It is a soft tissue injury; symptoms are not always immediately felt, and may have an onset up to two or three days after the collision.


The most commonly associated symptom is stiffness in the neck, although pain may be felt across the back and shoulders. Because whiplash may be felt only two or three days after the accident, it is important to resist giving a statement to the insurance companies straight away, and instead seek legal advice. Giving an immediate, possibly inaccurate statement may be used in mitigation by the defendant.

Whiplash injuries are normally incurred as a result of a vehicle accident, rear end collisions being especially notorious for causing the injury. A big reason behind the injury is that the collision is most often unexpected, with the other car suddenly hitting the rear of a vehicle, with the victim unable to have any chance of bracing. Even seemingly minor accidents can cause whiplash injuries according to recent research.

Whiplash is hard to objectively prove or disprove, and is therefore one of the most commonly used injuries in fraudulent claims, especially those which arise from low impact collisions with little or no vehicle damage. As a result, in the UK, defendants in such claims have been known to argue that a claim is fraudulent, using biomechanical engineers as convincing expert witnesses.

Guidance in the UK was given in the case of Armstrong v First York LTD, which stated that judges are not bound to prefer expert testimony over an apparently truthful claimant. As the United States is a common law jurisdiction, the case may be used persuasively in court, although it is not binding.

In New South Wales judges seem to agree that an average whiplash injury settlement ought to be in the same range as an average whiplash injury jury verdict which is commonly just a little under $10,000.

Should you become involved in an accident, the New South Wales Transport Authority requires that “The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident”. Failure to abide by this rule could see you face a jail term of up to one year, or a fine between one thousand and ten thousand dollars. If the injury caused is serious, permanent or deadly, you can face a prison term of up to four years. It is acceptable, if only damage to property has occurred, for you to stop the car in a suitable, safe location as close to the site of the accident as possible.


Most whiplash injury cases are settled out of court, however if it does go to court, punitive damages may be awarded in order to punish the at fault driver for his or her behavior. For assistance with obtaining a settlement for a whiplash injury, speak with a Sydney motor vehicle accident lawyer who will be able to maximize your potential compensation.

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