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Despite being the subject of numerous lawyer jokes, whiplash injuries can cause pain that lasts for years.

The lawyers in our offices, which are located in Toledo, Findlay, Swanton, and Bowling Green, have handled thousands of soft-tissue injury cases for clients who have had their heads snap forward and back after being struck in a rear-end collision. Most people rebound after a short-period of treatment, but others are left with pain that can last years or even a lifetime because of damaged nerves, disks, or ligaments.

That’s why we were pleased to see Consumers Report publish an article recently that examined how improvements in the design of head restraints might prevent or minimize whiplash injuries. The magazine cited a study of 175 vehicles by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that concluded that only one-third of the front seats and head restraints rated good or acceptable. About one-third rated marginal, while the other third were rated poor.

Apparently seats can be part of the problem. An engineer quoted in the article said that stiff seatbacks don’t do enough to absorb the impact of the back and shoulders, which can lead to injury.

Most of us probably never touch the head restraints after we buy a new car. That’s a big mistake, though. To protect yourself, the magazine encouraged people to adjust their head restraints so that they’re at least as high as the top of their ears and 3 inches or less from the back of their heads.

The government has recognized the role properly positioned head restraints can play in minimizing whiplash injuries. For vehicles built after Sept. 1, 2008, restraints will have to be set within 2.2 inches of a front-seat passenger’s head. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, has urged that lawmakers make the requirements even more stringent so that it covers rear-seat head restraints.

For more information, the Consumer Reports article can be found in the August, 2007, edition or online at

For more information on this subject matter, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.

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