Articles Whiplash and CTP Insurance

November 12, 2019

This article explains what cervical whiplash is, symptoms, red flags and management. We also discuss what CTP insurance is and how to make a claim.

Basic Anatomy 

Your spinal column is divided into 3 sections. 

3 Sections of the Spinal Column

The most flexible section of your spine is your neck, this known as the cervical spine.

Cervical Vertebrae

What Does Your Neck Do?

  • Supports the weight of your head and the major sensory organs (i.e. eyes, nose, ears, tongue and  inner ear) 
  • Protects the spinal cord and spinal nerves 
Top down view of cervical spine
  • Protects delicate blood vessels which lead to the brain
  • Provides mobility and stability to enable you to quickly scan your environment and make postural adjustments to maintain your balance. 
Your inner ear enables you to maintain your balance

What is Cervical Whiplash?

Cervical Whiplash is a term used to describe a specific mechanism of injury. It occurs when the neck is suddenly thrashed to one direction. This can result in overstretching and damage to the surrounding muscles, ligaments, joints, bones, discs and nerves.

This is most commonly observed in people following a motor vehicle accident (MVA) but can also occur as a result of sudden impact (i.e. fall, hitting your head, tackle).

Symptoms

Delayed symptoms following an accident are common and are often worse the day after. This can include:

  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Restricted neck movement 
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Jaw, upper back, shoulder  and arm pain 
  • Altered sensation in the arms  (i.e. pins and needles and numbness) 
  • Arm weakness
  • Hearing disturbances (i.e. ringing in the ears)
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing 
  • Difficulty with memory and concentration 
It is very common to have more symptoms the day after an accident

Red Flags 

Whiplash can vary in severity, it is important to be assessed by a health professional to exclude a serious injury (i.e. fractures, neural/vascular compromise and joint instability).

Symptoms of more concern can include:  

  • Significantly restricted neck movement (>50% restriction)
  • Progressively worsening weakness, numbness, loss of power or sensation changes in one or both arms
  • Difficulty with balance or gait
  • Visual disturbances 
  • Sensation changes or weakness in the face 
  • Fainting 
  • Vomiting 
  • Speech and swallowing difficulties 
  • Onset of bladder or bowel weakness after an incident 
  • Progressively worsening clumsiness in the hands or feet 

Diagnosis

Diagnosing this condition is mainly based on an individual’s clinical presentation through a thorough subjective and physical examination. An X-ray, CT or MRI may also be required to exclude/identify a serious injury (i.e. fractures, disc injuries).     

Cervical MRI is only indicated where a serious injury is suspected

Management

  • Thankfully, most cases do not involve a serious injury and the majority of people will make a full recovery within a few months with conservative physiotherapy treatment (see below)
  • Basic over the counter pain killers (i.e. Panadol) and anti inflammatory medications  (i.e. Voltaren) can be used to help alleviate pain
  • Studies have indicated resumption of normal activity, remaining active and commencing gentle strengthening and movement exercises to be beneficial in promoting a quicker recovery
  • Cases involving serious injuries may require medical intervention (i.e. surgery)   
Resumption of normal activities promotes a quicker recovery

Physiotherapy Management 

  • Following an incident injury our priority is to minimise the extent of damage, reduce inflammation and decrease pain. Modalities such as modified rest, heat, manual therapy, strapping, massage and acupuncture may be used.
  • Provide education regarding the injury, address unhelpful beliefs, identify and modify aggravating factors.
The use of soft collars can prolong the recovery period
  • Restore pain free neck, shoulder and upper back range of motion
Upper cervical stretch
  • Restore strength to the neck, upper back, shoulder and postural muscles 
Isometric neck strengthening exercises using your hand as resistance
  • Restore normal nerve function and flexibility
Median nerve stretch

What is Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance?


CTP is a mandatory insurance required for all registered motor vehicles. The rules differ slightly in each state, we will be discussing the newly reformed NSW system (accidents post 1 December 2017).

CTP rules differ slightly in each state

CTP is a form of personal injury insurance which covers the compensation costs following an MVA in the event your vehicle injures other road users (i.e. other drivers and passengers, pedestrians, cyclists).

CTP insurance covers injuries to passengers as a result of an MVA

A CTP policy does NOT cover the costs of property or vehicle damage and should not  be confused with “comprehensive car insurance” which is not mandatory.

CTP does NOT cover property or vehicle damage

What Are Your Entitlements Under CTP Insurance?


First 6 Months From the Date of the Accident

Regardless of who was at fault, for the first 6 months CTP insurance can cover: 

  • Payment of rehabilitation costs as a result of physical and/or psychological injuries caused by your MVA (i.e. GP, physiotherapy, psychologist,  scans, specialist )
Physiotherapy treatment
  • Weekly income support in the event you are unable to work as a result of your accident.
Weekly income support
  • Domestic assistance in the event you are unable to perform these tasks as a result of MVA (i.e. cleaning, gardening)
Gardening assistance

Beyond 6 months From the Date of the Accident 

  • Ongoing benefits (as above) are still available to injured people beyond 6 months however, this will depend on the severity of your injuries and whether or not you were at fault. 
Entitlements can be more limited if you are the at fault driver
  • Lump sum compensation (for economic and non economic loss) may also be payable to those who have sustained a serious injury and are not at fault.
Lumps sum compensation will typically require independent legal advice

How Do I Lodge a CTP Claim?


Following an accident, it is always best to lodge your claim as soon as possible as there are time frames on when you can make a claim.
The key information required to lodge a claim include:

  • License plate number of the vehicles involved
  • CTP insurer details of the most at fault vehicle (obtained by contacting CTP Assist)
CTP Assist will help you identify the correct insurer
  • A Police Event Number (obtained by calling the Police Assistance Line 131 444 or by visiting your local police station)
It is very important to make sure ALL of your injuries are listed on the certificate of capacity
CTP insurance is regulated by SIRA

Once you have obtained all of the relevant information the details should be forwarded to the at fault CTP insurer. You can contact “CTP Assist” if you require assistance at any stage of this process.

Please keep in mind the information provided is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute to consult your treating health professional. If you have any specific questions or require assistance with your individual treatment requirements please do not hesitate to contact My Family Physio in Pittwater Place Shopping Centre.  

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