Whiplash is one of the most common traumas sustained by people who are involved in automobile accidents. The injury is caused at the moment of collision when a sudden, forceful jerking of the head forward and backward or side to side causes damage to the structures of the cervical spine.

The condition encompasses injuries to the neck that most often include strain or over-stretching of the muscles and tendons around the cervical spine. The ligaments around the vertebrae are often torn, resulting in a sprain. Less commonly, the vertebral discs may bulge or rupture. Trauma to the nerve roots may cause them to tear or become irritated. In more severe cases, the vertebrae may be fractured or pushed out of the line of the spinal column.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, whiplash symptoms do not usually develop at the scene of the accident and may take upwards of 48 hours to appear. The most common complaints from victims are headache, neck pain and muscle stiffness. Other symptoms that may occur include dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and ringing in the ears. In most cases, the effects of whiplash subside after a few weeks, but some patients may continue to struggle with symptoms for years.

People who have sustained a whiplash injury after being in an automobile accident may be able to receive compensation for their medical bills and other losses that were incurred as a result of the collision. A personal injury lawyer may be able to help victims of car accidents seek restitution by reaching a settlement with the insurance companies and responsible parties or by filing a liability suit.