The term “whiplash” is often synonymous with motor vehicle accidents – but how do you know whether you have whiplash, and how are the different grades of whiplash assessed in personal injury claims? 

This article will discuss what personal injury claimants need to know about this common motor vehicle accident injury.

What is Whiplash? 

Whiplash is a type of neck injury caused by a sudden, violent back-and-forth movement of the neck. Whiplash is commonly associated with car accidents, occurring most often during rear-end collisions, but it can also result from sports injuries or other traumatic accidents. 

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash? 

Whiplash symptoms can vary from person to person. Some of the more common symptoms of whiplash include the following: 

  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of mobility 
  • Dizziness
  • Memory and concentration problems

If left untreated, whiplash can develop into chronic pain. Additionally, long-term pain associated with whiplash can result in mental distress for victims. 

What Are the Grades of Whiplash? 

Whiplash injuries are typically categorized into different “grades” by medical professionals, depending on the severity of the symptoms, as follows: 

  • Grade 1: for grade 1 injuries, victims typically only experience minor pain. With proper treatment, these injuries will heal relatively quickly. 
  • Grade 2: for grade 2 injuries, victims will typically experience some loss of mobility and pain. With proper treatment, these injuries will heal relatively quickly. 
  • Grade 3: for grade 3 injuries, victims typically experience loss of mobility and pain and potential symptoms like ligament and nerve damage. With proper treatment, victims will recover completely but may be at risk for re-injury. 
  • Grade 4: for grade 4 injuries, victims will typically experience loss of mobility, pain, ligament damage, and nerve damage, along with long-lasting residual symptoms like loss of mobility and muscle weakness. Victims may require permanent ongoing treatment to manage symptoms.
  • Grade 5: for grade 5 injuries, victims will experience severe injury. This may include fractured vertebrae, severe muscle tears, and nerve damage. Victims typically require permanent ongoing treatment or surgical stabilization for their symptoms. 

Keep in mind that the information above is provided for general informational purposes. Ultimately, a medical professional is in the best position to assess the severity of your whiplash injury and recommend appropriate treatments. 

Whiplash Injuries and Medical Benefits in Ontario

Under Ontario’s Insurance Act, RSO 1990, c. I.8, injured persons who have sustained an “impairment” in a motor vehicle accident and require medical or rehabilitative treatment are entitled to benefits pending dispute resolution. These benefits cover certain treatments during your recovery and are referred to as “statutory accident benefits.” 

Medical Costs Covered by Statutory Accident Benefits

Statutory accident benefits will cover all “reasonable and necessary” expenses incurred by or on behalf of a person injured in a motor vehicle accident. Some common costs include: 

  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Physiotherapy treatment
  • Psychologists or counsellors
  • Occupational therapy
  • Transportation to and from treatment sessions

For further information, consult the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, which provides a comprehensive list of treatments covered. 

Levels of Medical Impairment and Statutory Accident Benefits

A victim’s medical expenses coverage depends on the type of injuries they sustained in a motor vehicle accident. They fall into three different categories: 

  • Minor injuries
  • Non-catastrophic injuries
  • Catastrophic impairment

Minor Injuries

A “minor injury” is defined in the Minor Injury Guideline as one or more of a sprain, strain, whiplash-associated disorder, contusion, abrasion, laceration, partial dislocation, and any clinically-associated aftereffects (“sequelae”).   

Where a victim sustains a “minor injury,” the total amount they can claim for medical costs cannot exceed $3,500 (not including taxes). 

Catastrophic Injuries

A “catastrophic injury” includes paraplegia or tetraplegia; severe impairment of ambulatory mobility or use of an arm or amputation; loss of vision of both eyes; or traumatic brain injury meeting certain requirements. 

Where a victim sustains a “catastrophic injury,” the total amount they can claim for medical costs cannot exceed $1,000,000 (not including taxes). 

Non-Catastrophic Injuries

“Non-catastrophic injuries” are injuries that are neither minor nor catastrophic. In these cases, victims can claim up to $65,000 in medical costs (not including taxes). 

Whiplash Injuries and Personal Injury Claims

As the above sections indicate, disputes often arise regarding the severity of a whiplash injury. Whiplash injuries are often severe, with lasting impacts far beyond minor injuries. Yet, for the Minor Injury Guideline, whiplash-associated disorders are characterized as “minor.” 

While many whiplash injuries easily fall into the “minor” category and resolve with minimal treatment, what can you do if you have a lasting, severe injury that requires ongoing treatment? Below are some additional considerations for victims of whiplash injuries when navigating their claim. 

Additional Coverage for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

An injured person who sustained a “minor injury” may be entitled to further coverage if they had a well-documented pre-existing medical condition that will prevent them from achieving maximal recovery from their minor injury. If you believe this applies to you, be sure to speak with your personal injury team – including your health care practitioner and personal injury lawyer

Appealing a “Minor Injury” Designation

If you disagree with the characterization of your injury, there are steps you can take to establish that your injuries are non-minor, allowing you to access additional benefits. Speaking with a skilled personal injury lawyer is critical – they will be in the best position to assist you with your appeal and fight for your rights so you can obtain the benefits you need to recover. 

Other Statutory Coverage 

In addition to medical costs, you may receive statutory accident benefits for lost wages. In these cases, the insurer will pay income replacement benefits for the period you were unable to work. The amount you are entitled to receive may vary depending on the terms of your insurance policy.

Depending on your circumstances, you may also be entitled to benefits for caregivers. These benefits cover expenses incurred on or on behalf of an injured person for services provided by aides or attendants. 

Final Thoughts on Whiplash Injuries in Ontario

Like people, no two whiplash injuries are alike – yet the statutory benefits available for victims do not always help cover the costs involved. It’s important to seek treatment early and consult a personal injury lawyer to ensure your injury is properly classified and you are compensated appropriately. 

Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our skilled personal injury lawyers have many years of experience going up against insurance companies to get full and fair settlements for our clients. We will advise you of the best course of action to obtain the maximum possible settlement so that you can recover financially and move on with your life. 

Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers


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