The Complete Guide to Injuries & Symptoms After a Car Accident
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Car accidents and human bodies do not mix....
On top of that, assessing the severity of your injuries is challenging.
Typically, your body receives so much physical trauma from a collision that you don’t feel a lot of pain in the first hour preceding the accident...
...masking pain and potentially massive internal damage.
It’s critical to understand car accident trauma and corresponding injury symptoms and get yourself the help you need before it's too late.
Things like sleeping a lot after a car accident, having vertigo after a car accident, and delayed pain are all common symptoms. These symptoms may be trying to tell you something so you mustn't ignore them.
So, how do you proceed if you think you’ve sustained an injury from a car accident?
First of all, don’t worry!
Let’s explore the options.
The Most Common Types of Car Accidents Resulting in Injuries
Even a minor fender bender can cause you some physical pain.
To put it simply, any time your body moves suddenly without being properly braced you face the potential for trauma to your body.
And even if they are mild, your injuries can become worse if you do not seek medical attention.
You might be wondering:
What’s the real risk of an accident-inducing injury?
The most common car accidents resulting in injuries are as follows:
Rear-end collisions—the rear-end collision is the most common car accident and brings with it a likelihood of injury.
By definition, a rear-end collision is any car accident resulting from a vehicle striking the car in front of it and they typically occur during stop-and-go traffic due to unobservant drivers.
The recipient of most injuries in rear-end collisions is the driver and passenger of the car in front—the sudden impact from the rear can cause neck and back injuries.
Intersection Collisions, aka “T-Bone Collisions”—collisions at intersections can be serious due to the high rate of speed of the offending driver.
Most frequently, these types of collisions occur when a driver attempts to beat a yellow light, resulting in their vehicle entering an intersection, where it can impact another vehicle.
Intersection collisions can be serious, especially for passengers facing the brunt of the impact as well as both drivers and passengers inside older vehicles lacking side airbags.
Single-vehicle Crash—as the term implies, single-vehicle crashes are caused when a solitary vehicle leaves the road and impacts an immovable object like a tree, telephone pole, or guardrail.
Medical issues, distracted driving, and inclement weather can all have a hand in causing these accidents.
Because the vehicle impacts a stationary object at a high rate of speed, the damage to the driver and their vehicle can be substantial.
We don’t want that!
What Collision Types Are Considered to be the Most Serious?
All car accidents have the potential to cause serious bodily injury.
However, some car accidents can almost guarantee some degree of physical injury.
The most serious type of car accident is the single-vehicle collision.
Due to the unbendable, immovable nature of the objects your vehicle is most likely to impact, none of the shock created by your collision is absorbed by the target.
Instead, all of that kinetic energy travels through your vehicle and ultimately through you, causing injury.
Second only to the single-vehicle collision is the intersection collision.
Because intersection collisions typically occur between vehicles, impact absorption is mitigated slightly.
However, due to the high rate of speed and unfortunate angle of most intersection collisions, substantial damage can be done, especially if the vehicle being hit lacks side airbags.
Typically, the least serious injuries occur in rear-end collisions, where neck and back strain are the primary car accident trauma symptoms.
However, neck and back injuries are no joke.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident Injury?
Any car accident, whether you believe it resulted in an injury of any kind, should be reported to the police and your automobile insurance provider.
Check out our guide to see a step-by-step breakdown of what you should do right after a car accident.
You need the police on hand to assess the situation and write a traffic report, and help anyone that may be grievously injured immediately following the accident.
Moreover, you need to let your insurance provider know that you were involved in an accident.
After you’ve spoken to the police and your insurance, you must seek medical attention, even if you feel no pain.
It's common for victims of collisions to report no pain until 1 or even 2 days after an accident.
Don't risk exacerbating your injuries—head to the emergency room or to your family doctor to get yourself checked out.
Best case, you get a referral from your personal injury lawyer (you do have one, don’t you?
They’ll even help you prevent paying for recovery services out-of-pocket.) to a chiropractor or masseuse due to stiff muscles.
Worst case, you get treated for a concussion which, while seemingly a subtle injury, can have long-term cognitive consequences if left untreated.
The After Effects of a Car Accident
First of all…
I’m so sorry!
The days and weeks after a car accident can be stressful.
You're already busy filing paperwork, taking your car in for repair, or even buying a new car if your previous vehicle was totaled.
Your injuries are just the cherry on top of a terrible sundae and it's easy to ignore them.
However, it's important to be aware of the normal after-effects of a car accident and symptoms that should be more cause for concern.
It's normal to feel tired after a car accident and to even experience pain.
Things like vertigo and dizziness are also common, and typical symptoms of whiplash.
Minor leg and calf pain are typical as well.
After all, your body may be one giant bruise!
Symptoms that are not typical and require immediate medical intervention include numbness, abdominal pain, and behavioral changes.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Car Accident?
Various factors contribute to your recovery time after a car accident.
The crash will be the primary component of your recovery time.
It stands to reason that a minor fender bender will mean lesser injuries and a shorter recovery than a major accident.
Bear in mind that minor muscle trauma should heal in a few weeks.
More severe muscle trauma that requires surgery could take months to heal and require physical therapy.
Broken bones can take 4 months or longer to completely heal.
Spinal injuries may take half a year or more—sustained trauma due to a spinal cord injury that does not resolve in less than a year is often permanent.
How Long Should You Be Sore After a Car Accident?
What can you expect physically from a car accident?
Soreness is a given and it will last a week or more, depending on the severity.
Fortunately, muscle soreness is common and often does not require surgical intervention.
The Most Common Symptoms & What They Can Mean
The symptoms you see after a car accident can tell you a lot about the kinds of injuries you’ve sustained.
It’s important to listen to these symptoms and take them seriously—most require a trip to the hospital.
Neck Shoulder & Leg Pain
Most common after a car accident is neck and shoulder pain.
If mild, it can be due to whiplash and should clear up on its own.
In either case, you must set up an appointment at your family doctor to get an x-ray or MRI to check for spinal injuries.
Leg pain is also common and often due to trauma.
Be sure to mention your leg pain to your doctor as well.
While innocuous in everyday life, a headache after a car accident can mean a myriad of things.
It’s best to see a doctor if you have a headache—it could go away on its own but could also be due to a head injury.
If you feel any kind of numbness or something you might describe as a “tingling sensation” following a car accident, then it’s vitally important that you see a doctor.
Spinal injuries will cause these symptoms and the sooner you seek help, the better your recovery chances.
Listen to Your Body & Seek Medical Attention
Here’s the kicker:
It doesn't matter how minor you may think your injuries are, it's important to see a doctor if you've been injured in an automobile accident.
Shock may cloud your judgment or even make the events of the crash hazy.
Moreover, it's difficult to interpret brain and spinal injuries in their early stages.
When your body overtly responds to these injuries it means a lot of damage has already been done.
Whatever you do, ensure you also call the police and your insurance provider.
You'll want a clear record of the crash and you'll need the help of your insurance provider in navigating the sudden (and high) costs of recovering from an accident.
Hopefully, with this knowledge, you can appreciate the seriousness of even minor auto accidents.
I’ve included a useful infographic below to give you an easy visual aid: