The term “whiplash” is used to describe a variety of injuries that can occur after rapid movements cause damage to the cervical neck area. Whiplash most commonly occurs in car accidents, when the neck moves forward and backward in a sudden fashion.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does have whiplash disability benefits available in cases where the injury is severe and creates a long-term disability. Sometimes, whiplash can be so severe that it is no longer possible for you to work. If your injury keeps you from work for a year or more, you quite possibly can qualify for Social Security disability.
Symptoms of whiplash might appear immediately after car accidents, but sometimes the symptoms take several days or weeks to show up. Common whiplash symptoms are:
• Neck, shoulder or back pain
• “Pins and needles” feeling in the arms or legs, caused by disturbance or injury to sensory nerves.
For most people who have been in car accidents, whiplash injuries heal in less than two months. Unfortunately, though, there are some cases that do result in long-term or even lifelong injury. In these cases, the prolonged symptoms of whiplash can affect your physical, mental and emotional ability to perform your job. Many people suffer debilitating neck pain, and the fatigue and headaches common with whiplash can make it unrealistic to perform any type of job.
In these cases, applying for disability makes sense. The SSA maintains a listing of disability impairments called the Blue Book. Unfortunately, whiplash is not listed definitively as an injury. However, the SSA does use other criteria to qualify people for whiplash disability. Basically, the applicant must show that the whiplash injury is equivalent to another condition, then the SSA will use that to review benefits. The Blue Book does have a musculoskeletal injury section, so you must compare your whiplash to one of those injuries.
First, a doctor must certify that you have a whiplash injury. Typically, the doctor would perform imaging like MRI or an x-ray to confirm this diagnosis. Second, you must show that your symptoms are severe enough that you can’t function reasonably in any job; this can be a job you were doing prior to your injury, or any job you are currently qualified to do or that you could be trained to do in the future. The injury must be directly tied to your inability to work in order to qualify for whiplash disability. Third, you must demonstrate that your injury is likely to continue for at least a year or more.
In this case, showing that you are going to be under a doctor’s care for this period of time is important. It is crucial to continue your medical care plan and treatment; many people are denied benefits because they do not follow the doctor’s treatment regimen. Finally, you must show that your condition has not improved despite all treatments.
We don’t mean to be discouraging, but the SSA does initially deny most whiplash disability claims. When the SSA doesn’t list a condition outright, and makes the applicant find a comparison disability, the claim is really complex in these cases. Having a lawyer trained in Social Security disability can greatly improve your chances. We can help you put an iron-clad claim together so that you are approved the first time around and therefore avoid the lengthy disability appeals process.
If you’ve already applied on your own and have been denied, we can help you with your appeal. In both cases, we are familiar with the types of medical evidence you will need to present to the SSA. Don’t go it alone. Seriously consider contacting us today.