When you are in a car accident, you may not realize the extent of your injuries immediately after the crash. Your body does an amazing job of protecting you in the moments and hours following this very intense shock to the system, by flooding your system with adrenaline and endorphins to block pain.
As the adrenaline begins to wear off, you may start to experience pain resulting from the accident. While some injuries, such as cuts and lacerations, may be immediately apparent, most car crash symptoms may not be apparent for days or weeks after you are involved in an accident.
Here are several delayed symptoms of injury you should be aware of after your car accident:
After a car crash, you may get headaches. Do not ignore them! A headache can be a sign of something much more sinister, such as a concussion, blood clot, or other traumatic brain injury. It can also be a symptom of neck or back pain.
Other signs of concussion can include:
- Lack of energy, and
- Sleeping significantly more, or less, than usual.
If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical help. You should also enlist your family to help monitor any personality changes or unusual irritability, as these could be signs of other brain injuries.
Soft tissue injuries
“Soft tissue” refers to damage to parts of you that aren’t bone – your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Whiplash injuries are the stereotypical car crash injury. It is caused by your head going forward very fast, then pulled back by your seatbelt. Symptoms include headaches and shoulder, back, and neck pain. You may also have bruising along the seatbelt line or numbness in your arms or hands.
Many people involved in car crashes experience some sort of back pain that is caused by damage to nerves, muscles, or even the spinal column.
Back pain may begin as a “twinge” and progress to significantly more pain. Keep track of the progression and speak with medical professionals in order to receive appropriate treatment.
Tenderness, soreness, or swelling in your abdominal (belly) area can be a sign of internal bleeding. If it’s not caught in time, this could be a potential life threatening injury.
Other signs of internal bleeding can include:
- Large areas of deep blue and purple bruising
- Fainting, and
You should seek immediate medical care if you notice any symptoms of internal bleeding after a car accident.
Not all injuries are physical. Being in a car crash can be an extremely emotional scarring experience. Many people involved in car crashes experience forms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Feelings of anxiety or increased heart rate if someone slams on the brakes or honks a horn while you are in the car
- Being on edge or jumpy while you’re in the car
- Avoiding the stretch of road where the accident occurred, or even avoiding getting behind the wheel again
Emotional distress or personality change can also be a symptom of a traumatic brain injury. You should not sweep this symptom under the rug when discussing your recovery with your doctor.
Symptoms pregnant women should watch for after a car accident
If you are pregnant, you should speak with your doctor after any car crash, even if was only a minor fender bender.
The force of a seatbelt on your stomach can potentially separate the placenta from the uterus, which can lead to:
- Miscarriage or preterm labor,
- Birth defects,
- Internal bleeding, and
- The potential for a high-risk birth down the road, which can be threatening to both mother and child.
Despite the serious risks involved, you may not notice any symptoms, which is why it is imperative you get checked out as soon as possible.
Discuss risks to your health, and your baby’s health, with your doctor. Ask about symptoms you should watch out for in the coming days and weeks, including:
- Vaginal bleeding, spotting, or discharge
- Swelling in your extremities
- Back, shoulder, or abdominal pain
- Vomiting unrelated to morning sickness
- Changes to the type or frequency of your baby’s movements
If you are pregnant, you should always wear the standard three-point seatbelt that covers your chest and stomach, even if it is uncomfortable. The leading cause of fetal death in a car crash is the death of the mother.
Getting treatment for your car crash injuries
Seek first aid or more extensive medical attention immediately after your car crash. If you go to an emergency room or urgent care center, have a copy of your medical report sent to your primary care doctor.
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss any symptoms that have occurred or symptoms you should watch for in the long term. Talk to your doctor about whether you should consider going to physical therapy, see a chiropractor, or speak with a therapist.
In addition to caring for your physical health, visiting a doctor after your car crash can help preserve any legal claims you may have against the other driver. Your doctor will make, and maintain, a record of injuries you may have suffered that stemmed directly or indirectly from the accident. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to show for a fact that your injuries came as a result of the car crash.
Keep track of all paperwork associated with your treatment – notes from doctor’s visits and physical therapy, prescriptions, and especially your medical bills. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options for recovering, financially and legally, from a motor vehicle accident.