What should I do when I feel nauseous after a car accident?

Nausea after a car accident is common, and could indicate a number of different injuries.

In the days following a car accident, you may experience one or more medical symptoms, or none at all. While the symptoms you may experience are as varied as the types of injuries an accident may cause, some symptoms are more common than others.

Nausea, or the feeling that you are going to vomit, is a common symptom that may point to several common car accident injuries. In this article, we'll explain what you should do if you experience nausea after a car accident.

First, See Your Doctor

If you start to experience nausea after a car accident, see your doctor as soon as possible. If the nausea is severe and/or it is accompanied by vomiting, dizziness, head or neck pain, numbness or tingling, cognitive problems, or fainting, get emergency care.

Even if it has been several days since the accident, you should seek medical care if you start to have any symptoms, including nausea. When the human body experiences trauma, it releases chemicals called endorphins that numb pain and other signals, making it easier for the person to get to safety. Once these chemicals wear off, symptoms that weren't obvious in the aftermath of the accident may become apparent.

Not experiencing nausea or other symptoms until several hours or days have passed doesn't mean you are imagining your symptoms or that they are somehow less serious. It simply means your body's natural defenses have worn off and it is time to seek medical treatment. (Learn more about what to do after a car accident.)

Why Do I Need Medical Treatment for Nausea?

Nausea is a common symptom of head or neck injury, as well as a common sign of shock. Feeling nauseated may be the first sign that you have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during the accident -- an injury to the brain that can cause serious and lingering problems with thinking, mood, and even motor coordination.

Nausea may also accompany neck damage caused by whiplash, broken bones, organ damage, and other injuries.

Car accidents impose trauma on the body. Even a slow-speed crash can cause injuries, especially if your head or another part of your body hits the door, the frame, or another part of the car as a result of the accident. Your nausea may be your first sign that you need medical care, and it should not be ignored: delaying medical care has both medical and legal consequences.

How Does Seeing a Doctor for My Nausea Protect My Legal Rights?

At first glance, it may seem like seeing a doctor for nausea after a car accident would have little to do with your legal rights. Why does the insurance company care if you see a doctor or not?

The answer is twofold. First, insurance companies assume that if you do not seek medical treatment after a car accident, your injuries aren't that serious -- or worse, that you were not really injured at all. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible once you start experiencing nausea or any other symptom helps establish that you were injured in the accident and you are entitled to compensation for those injuries. (See why you should see a doctor ASAP after a car crash.)

Second, the shorter the amount of time between your accident and your doctor's visit, the harder it is for an insurance company or another driver to establish that your injuries were caused by something other than the accident.

For instance, suppose that you are in a car accident on Monday. On Tuesday morning you wake up with nausea, but you decide to "shake it off" and go to work instead. By Thursday, however, your nausea is so bad you have no choice but to see your doctor. In this case, an insurance company might argue that your nausea and any injuries it pointed to was not caused by the car accident, but by something you did at work on Tuesday or Wednesday. Had you gone to the doctor right away on Tuesday, however, the insurance company would have a much harder time arguing that there was some intervening cause of the nausea.

Seeing a doctor as soon as you can when nausea sets in after a car accident protects both your health and your legal rights. Since nausea can be a sign of something more serious, don't ignore it -- seek medical care.

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