A car accident, even with minor injuries, can cause a great deal of trauma to your body. Most people expect to experience soreness for a few days after an accident, even if they did not suffer injuries severe enough to require a trip to the emergency room. However, when that soreness does appear, you want it to go away as soon as possible.
How long should you suffer from soreness after a car accident? When should you expect a full recovery and the ability to return to normal activity? The answer depends on the extent of your injuries. Read below for more information from our skilled Orlando car accident lawyers.
Seeing A Medical Professional
You can prevent many of these concerns simply by ensuring that you always seek medical attention after any car accident – even if you do not think you have suffered serious injuries. All too often, people experience symptoms of major injuries many days or even weeks after a crash. Seeing a doctor much later than the date of an accident can lead to an insurance company questioning if the accident caused the victim’s injuries.
Medical attention will diagnose your condition and create an invaluable medical record for an injury claim. If you are fine, a doctor will clear you, and you should have nothing to worry about. Still, it is also possible that a physician may uncover a condition you didn’t notice that requires immediate treatment.
In general, after any motor vehicle crashes:
- Always See a Doctor. Even when you think your injuries are minor after an accident, you still want to get to a doctor immediately. Delaying treatment can have fatal consequences in some cases. Also, insurance companies always seek any reason to deny a case or pay people less than they deserve. Delaying treatment may allow the insurance company to argue that injuries are not that serious or resulted from a different event. If you see a medical professional after a collision, they will document your injuries in their medical report and provide evidence of a direct connection to the car crash.
- Watch What You Say. Do not admit fault, apologize for anything, or take any blame for any part of the accident. Statements you make at the scene can hurt your case, so say as little as possible while cooperating with the police.
- Contact a Lawyer Before You Talk to Any Insurance Company. An insurance adjuster or agent will likely contact you soon after your accident and may express concern about your well-being, but know that these parties are never your friends. Insurance companies are businesses concerned with making money, and paying out on claims hurts their bottom line. As a result, insurance companies do everything they can to avoid paying out on claims.
Average Recovery Time
After a minor fender bender, most people experience mild soreness for a few days to a few weeks. If you saw the accident coming, you might have tensed up, which probably caused more trauma to muscles, tendons, and ligaments than had you not had time to tense up before the collision. Many accident victims struggle with soreness for up to six weeks after a car accident.
Some of the most common injuries that often result in long-term soreness include:
- Whiplash. Whiplash is a common outcome in rear-end accidents and often hits a day or two after an accident. If you have symptoms of whiplash, you may experience soreness in your neck, shoulders, and arms. Victims of whiplash may also notice some muscle weakness or a tingling sensation in the arms or neck immediately following an accident. Some people also notice increased headaches, including tension headaches, while recovering from whiplash. Most of the time, symptoms of whiplash resolve on their own within a few weeks.
- Muscle soreness. Muscle soreness often occurs due to tensing up during a car accident. It may also result from crashing into the seat belt or getting thrown around the car during the accident. Muscle soreness may occur in the back, arms, legs, or abdomen after a car accident. Like whiplash, symptoms of muscle soreness usually resolve within around six weeks. You should notice a marked decrease in soreness within a few short days of your accident. You should see a doctor if you notice sharp, stabbing pain or muscle pain that gets worse rather than getting better.
- Bruising. In a car accident, you may end up with several bruises. Many car accident victims display impressive bruises from the seat belt, airbags, or items inside the car. You may have bruises on your torso or face as well as on your limbs. Bruising often seems to heal very slowly, especially when you anxiously await the return of your usual appearance. Deep bruises may take longer to heal; however, you should notice significant improvement from bruising experienced during a car accident within about six weeks.
- Sprains and strains. A car accident can cause serious sprains and strains to various parts of your body. Drivers often experience injuries to their hands and arms due to their position on the steering wheel during the accident. Any passenger in the vehicle can experience ligament or tendon damage to the limbs. In many cases, these injuries resolve within around six weeks. You may notice some tenderness up to eight weeks after your accident.
Other, more serious injuries may take longer to heal. If you have broken bones, for example, you may need to wear a cast for six to eight weeks to allow the bones to heal. If you need surgery to repair those broken bones, the countdown to recovery may start with the surgery rather than with the accident itself.
Injuries like traumatic brain injury and spinal cord damage may leave you with symptoms that last for the rest of your life. Talk with your doctor about the expected recovery time for more serious injuries so that you will have a better idea of the healing process and when you can expect to return to normal.
A traumatic brain injury can be devastating because a victim does not exhibit any signs or symptoms that people with major injuries often display. As a result, very few TBI victims are even aware of their serious injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries can result in:
- repeated vomiting or nausea,
- headaches that get worse or do not go away,
- convulsions or seizures,
- dilation of one or both pupils in the eyes,
- inability to awaken from sleep,
- weakness or numbness in the extremities,
- loss of coordination,
- slurred speech,
- confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
Roughly half of TBI patients will require surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Common disabilities associated with a TBI include problems with communication (expression and understanding), cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness), while certain cases can involve intracranial hematoma (ICH), which involves several types of blood clots in or around the brain.
Spinal cord injuries are generally incomplete or complete, with incomplete spinal cord injuries meaning the spinal cord can still transmit messages to and from the brain to the rest of the body. In contrast, complete spinal cord injuries result in no nerve communication and motor function below the trauma site. Spinal cord injuries can frequently result in paralysis, the loss of the ability to move a portion or all of the body.
Paralysis can affect any part of the body, including the face, hands, one side of the body (hemiplegia), one arm or leg (monoplegia), both legs (paraplegia), or both arms and legs (tetraplegia or quadriplegia).
When Should You Go Back to the Doctor?
Many people go straight to the emergency room or an urgent care facility from the scene of a car accident. Some people, however, choose to avoid that trip for medical attention, whether because they are worried about the expense or feel that they do not have injuries serious enough to worry about medical treatment.
Whether you choose not to seek medical attention at the time of the accident or you did but feel that the doctors might have missed something, seek medical attention immediately if:
- You experience any symptoms listed in the paperwork from your doctor. When you check out of the emergency room after an accident, you will often receive paperwork that describes symptoms that might require further medical attention, especially if you have a traumatic brain injury. Pay attention to those symptoms, and if you notice any of them cropping up, go back to the hospital immediately.
- You need a follow-up appointment. Many injuries, including broken bones, chest contusions, and sprains and strains, may require a follow-up trip to the doctor. Pay attention to any follow-up requirements. Do not miss those appointments, especially if you plan to file a personal injury claim following your accident. Those visits help you establish the extent of your injuries and help doctors determine whether your recovery is proceeding as predicted or if you need further medical attention to fully recover.
- You notice signs of confusion or disorientation. If you did not receive a traumatic brain injury diagnosis at the hospital or chose not to visit the hospital, pay particular attention to memory difficulties, confusion, and disorientation after the accident. These symptoms can indicate that you have a traumatic brain injury. If you notice symptoms worsening, you should visit your doctor immediately.
- Pain does not resolve within six weeks after the accident. Minor soreness and stiffness often occur after a car accident, even with no serious injuries. If you notice pain and stiffness that fail to resolve more than six weeks after an accident, you should visit a doctor to have your injuries checked over.
- You have pain that does not start to get better after about a week. You may expect some soreness after a car accident, and in many cases, that soreness can linger. If you experience pain that does not at least start to get better within a week of the accident, even if you did not notice pain that required a visit to the doctor at the scene of the accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- You experience shortness of breath. If you notice yourself getting short of breath after performing normal activities, make sure you seek medical attention. Chest contusions can cause serious damage to your heart and lungs, and broken ribs can puncture a lung. Seeking medical attention can help ensure that you do not cause further damage to your body.
- You notice dizziness or nausea. You may notice dizziness or nausea after standing for a prolonged time or when standing up quickly. Pay attention to those symptoms, especially if they seem to worsen instead of getting better, as they can indicate a serious medical problem.
- You have questions that a doctor can best answer. Even if you choose not to seek medical attention immediately after the accident, you may have questions throughout the recovery process. Sometimes, you might fail to ask questions that need answers while in the emergency room, especially if you did not have time to think them through or suffered head trauma. Do not hesitate to contact a doctor if you need answers to your medical questions.
- You suffer sleep disturbances. After a car accident, you may struggle with disturbed sleep due to injuries or mental and emotional trauma following the accident. If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, contact a doctor to learn what measures you can take to improve the quality of your sleep. Healthy sleep makes a big difference in your overall mental health as well as the recovery process.
- You experience sharp pain. When you suffer from a new and sharp pain in the aftermath of an accident, you will want to have a doctor check you out. You might not notice the pain of a particularly serious injury until a few days after an accident. Sharp pains are often the first sign that you sustained a more severe injury than you initially believed.
- There is weakness in your extremities. When you are feeling weakness in your arms or legs, get to a doctor as soon as possible. Weakness in the extremities might indicate a possible spinal cord injury or another severe injury. When weakness is getting worse with time, seek emergency room help immediately.
- Problems with vision or hearing. Vision and hearing problems are not common after car accidents unless people suffer major injuries such as traumatic brain injury. You want to see a medical professional immediately when you notice problems with your vision or hearing, such as tunnel vision, blurred vision, or ringing in the ears.
- Abdominal or Chest Pain. Pain in the abdomen or chest can indicate severe trauma to those areas and may involve internal bleeding or organ trauma. For example, if you struck a steering wheel in your crash, you might have bruised your chest or abdomen, and the bruising may involve more severe injuries that should receive immediate medical attention.
When Your Injuries Show up Well After the Accident?
Some auto accident victims do not have signs of injuries at the scene but discover serious injuries long after the accident. You might have what you think is a minor case of whiplash, only to discover that symptoms linger, causing you pain that prevents you from returning to work for weeks or months after the accident.
You might have walked away from the accident scene, only to discover a broken bone well after the accident. Many people fail to notice serious injuries, including the full extent of injuries from chest contusions, until a day or two after the accident, when swelling occurs and pain sets in.
When your injuries show up well after the accident, you may wonder how to seek compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering related to those injuries.
Keep these steps in mind:
- Document your injuries. Document your health issues after a car accident, even if you think your injuries are minor. Make a note of any pain, stiffness, or limitations. Take photos of the bruises at various stages of the recovery process. Even if you never need to use that information, it doesn’t hurt to have it, just in case.
- Contact a medical professional as soon as you notice signs of serious injuries. If you notice injuries with greater severity than originally anticipated, or injuries that you did not notice at the time of the accident, contact a medical professional as soon as possible. You may choose to visit the emergency room or, in many cases, visit an urgent care facility. Most urgent care facilities can take x-rays and conduct other tests to establish the extent of your injuries, which will document the injuries the accident caused and how they may affect you long-term.
- Contact your auto insurance company. You will often go through your auto insurance company to file your claim or ask any questions about the accident. You may have already contacted the auto insurance company immediately after the accident, especially if you needed to report a totaled vehicle. Your auto insurance company can provide valuable advice about how to proceed, especially if you have minor injuries.
- Amend the accident claim if you have already filed it. If you have already filed an accident claim with the other driver’s insurance company, you need to amend that claim. Sometimes, your auto insurance company can help amend that claim for you. In other cases, you may need to communicate directly with the other party’s insurance company to amend that claim. If you have not already filed the accident claim, you can include your injuries as part of the claim from the beginning.
- Contact an attorney. If you discover serious injuries that need extensive medical attention, a relatively minor accident claim can transform into a much more complicated claim. Many insurance policies carry higher limits for personal injuries sustained during an auto accident than for damage to your vehicle. Typically, the policy reflects different limits for an injury claim than a property damage claim. An attorney can help you navigate the claims process, providing you with the advice you need to proceed effectively through the claims process. An attorney can also let you know what information you will need to prove that the car accident caused your injuries, even though you did not notice them at the time of the accident.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights after an accident.