Whiplash injuries, WAD 1, 2, or 3 from a car accident? Find out what compensation you are entitled to.


In the most recent Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics provided by the Government of Canada, over 154,000 Canadians were injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2017. This is an alarming number, which means that the chance of being involved in a car accident is a possible risk.

If you have ever been in a car accident, you may have experienced whiplash, also known as “Whiplash Associated Disorder” or WAD by health care professionals. In its simplest terms, whiplash is an injury or strain to your muscles and ligaments in the neck as a result of a rapid back-and-forth movement. WAD can be caused by a sports injury, physical abuse, or most commonly, a rear-ended car accident.

There are a variety of signs and symptoms of a WAD injury which may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Limited range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, tingling fingers, or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue 

Depending on the severeness of the accident, you may also experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

If you have ever been in a car accident, it is recommended you see a doctor, physiotherapist or health care provider within 10 days of the accident occurring. These health care professionals will classify the severity of whiplash you have experienced ranging from a WAD 1, 2, 3, or 4 injury as well as provide some immediate care and exercise/stretch suggestions. The WAD number you have been classified with relates to the degree of injury experienced.

What is the difference between a WAD I, II, III, or IV injury?

The Diagnostic Treatment Protocols Regulation Interpretive Guide (DTPR) by the Government of Alberta classifies each WAD injury as:

  • A WAD 1 injury is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing pain or strain in a muscle or ligament, stiffness or tenderness, but still has normal strength and range of motion. The client maintains normal reflexes and muscle strength.
  • A WAD 2 injury is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing pain in a muscle or ligament, along with a decreased range of motion and muscle spasms.
  • A WAD 3 injury is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing pain in a muscle or ligament, along with neurological symptoms. Neurological symptoms can include numbness and tingling in your arms, hands, legs or feet. The client may also be experiencing muscle weakness and slowed or abnormal reflexes.
  • A WAD 4 injury includes a fracture or dislocation of the spine, severe neck pain along with neurological symptoms in the limbs, urinary incontinence due to spinal cord injury, as well as motor weakness and sensory changes. 

Under Alberta law, we follow a fault-based system to determine who is responsible for the accident. When someone is said to be “at fault” for an accident, meaning they have caused injuries, death or property damaged, he or she may have to pay the victim for the injuries caused. This is referred to as liability. Since damages arising from a motor vehicle accident can be quite substantial, drivers in Alberta are required to have valid insurance.

A WAD 1 and 2 injuries are the most common types of WAD injuries. The importance of understanding your WAD injury classification is having to tell the insurance companies so they have an idea of how much to compensate you for. If you are diagnosed with a WAD 1 or 2 injury, often these insurance companies will tell you that you have experienced a “minor” injury and that your claim amount is capped. This is incorrect.

Remember that insurance companies are not usually on your side. An insurance adjuster’s typical ‘default’ position is that all motor vehicle accident injured people have ‘minor’ injuries, lowering the amount owed to you. It is important to understand your rights and work with a lawyer who will ensure you get compensated for what you deserve. 

Whether you have been classified as a WAD 1, 2, 3, or 4 injury, it is best to speak to a lawyer to better understand your legal rights so that you can be compensated appropriately. Call the team at McGuiness Law for a free consultation, and remember, we cover all costs, with no fee unless we settle in your favour.