Why You Should See a Doctor ASAP: Pain/Symptoms After a Car Crash

It's crucial to get necessary medical care after a car accident, not just from a health standpoint.

Updated by , J.D.
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  • If you've been in a car accident, here are some keys to know about injuries and medical treatment:

    • Be on the lookout for any indication of pain or discomfort, especially a few key symptoms that might not appear right away.
    • Your health comes first, so go to the ER or see your doctor as soon as possible after a car accident, at the slightest hint that something's not right with you physically.
    • Failure to get prompt medical care at the first sign of car accident injuries can hurt your chances of a positive outcome in any car accident claim you end up making.

    What Types of Injuries Can Car Accidents Cause?

    The area of the body that is most often affected by a car accident is the spinal column (the neck and back) and the muscles supporting the spinal column. The most common neck and back injuries from car accidents are:

    • whiplash-type over-extension injuries
    • muscle and ligament strains and sprains, and
    • disc injuries.

    But car accidents can also result in other forms of soft tissue injuries, headaches, and other types of injuries that may not be accompanied by any visible symptoms.

    Not All Car Accident Injuries Are Immediately Apparent

    Many car accidents cause symptoms immediately after the accident. But as we touched on in the previous section, it is not uncommon for a person who has been in a car accident to feel fine immediately afterward and not have any symptoms for a day or two. (Learn more about late-appearing car accident injuries.)

    Symptoms to Watch Out for After a Car Accident

    These symptoms might take a few days to show up after a car accident, so pay attention to any signals your body might be sending you, and make sure you get proper medical attention at the first indication of pain or discomfort:

    • headache
    • stiffness in the neck or shoulders
    • pain in the shoulders or neck when turning your head
    • back pain or stiffness
    • limitations with range of motion
    • tingling/numbness in the hands or feet
    • dizziness or loss of balance, and
    • abdominal pain.

    Medical Reasons for Getting Treatment After a Car Accident

    This part is pretty simple. Nothing trumps your health and well-being. Car accidents are serious shocks to the system. Our bodies weren't meant to sustain the amount of force and impact that most car accidents generate.

    Even if you were only in a low-speed collision in which neither car was significantly damaged, that doesn't mean you don't need to worry about injuries. In side impact collisions, you can hit your head on the door frame or the window, and you may not even realize it happened. A rear-impact collision can cause sudden and violent torsion to your head and neck. Any blow to the head or trauma to the upper spine can be serious, especially when caused by a car accident, when you may not have time to brace yourself for impact. Maybe it just feels like something isn't "right" overall, or with a specific part of your body. Bottom line: If you don't feel right after a car accident, get yourself checked out.

    What some people may not realize is that chemicals in the body can mask pain and discomfort for a certain amount of time after a high-stress incident like a car accident. So, pay attention to what your body is telling you in the hours and days after a car accident. It may take a while for injuries to manifest themselves. And get medical attention if there's any indication that something isn't right.

    Lack of Medical Treatment Can Hurt Your Car Accident Claim

    If you've been in a car accident, especially if it was obviously someone else's fault, you may be wondering, "Why should my medical treatment be a legal issue? Why is it the insurance company's business when or how often I go to the doctor or the hospital?"

    Unfortunately, the answer is that, for better or for worse, insurance companies generally assume that, if you did not seek medical attention immediately, you weren't that hurt—or possibly you weren't injured at all. Insurance adjusters have standard criteria that they use to evaluate all types of car accidents, and one of those criteria is how promptly you sought and received medical treatment after the accident.

    Insurers feel that the more time that passes between the car accident and the initial treatment, the likelier it is that the claimant or plaintiff could be faking or at least exaggerating the extent of their injuries, in order to "milk" more out of the claim.

    Insurers also know that, if you go directly from the car accident scene to the hospital, then at least nothing else could have happened immediately after the car accident to explain your injuries. Insurers worry that, if you have a car accident on Tuesday, but your records show that you did not receive any medical treatment until Saturday, you might have hurt yourself fixing the roof or working out on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. You might think that that is a ridiculous assertion. Maybe the explanation is that you really were hurt, but you couldn't afford to miss work. But how can you prove that you didn't hurt yourself working out? It is impossible to disprove a negative.

    So, the best course of action, if you feel even the slightest pain or discomfort after a car accident, is to go to the doctor and get yourself checked out.

    Learn more about the best steps to take after a car accident.

    Next Steps

    Especially if there was a gap between your car accident and your medical treatment, you might need a skilled legal professional to build your strongest case and ensure the best outcome. Connect with a car accident lawyer near you right now using the tools on this page, or learn more about how an attorney can help with your car accident case.

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