Common Car Accident Injury Symptoms to Watch Out For

Common car accident injury symptoms can range from mild to severe and impact a victim from head to toe. In many cases, victims don’t realize how badly they are injured because symptoms can be delayed by hours or even days. No matter how minor you think your injuries are, you should always visit a doctor after a car accident. After you’ve received medical care, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

After an accident, you should look for anything out of the ordinary—pain in areas you’ve never felt before, headaches that don’t seem to subside, and bruising or discoloration. Some injuries, such as a broken bone, might be obvious at the scene of the crash. Other common injuries, like whiplash, may appear days later and can only be accurately diagnosed by a professional using medical imaging and examination.

Never chalk up pain and discomfort as a “normal” part of being involved in a car crash. Many of the most common car accident injury symptoms that manifest after vehicle accidents can be a sign of serious damage. Protect both your health and your right to compensation by seeking prompt medical attention and speaking to an attorney who can help recoup mounting injury expenses.

Below is a collection of the most common, easily missed symptoms that may indicate major physical problems. The legal experts at David Bryant Law encourage you to visit a doctor as soon as possible if you’re experiencing any of the following car accident injury symptoms.

1. Headaches

Headaches are among the most common pain symptoms after an accident. Tension headaches can be brought on by stress, which is very normal after a traumatic crash. These headaches can also be caused by a head injury, such as a concussion. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) brought on by a direct blow to the skull that damages sensitive brain tissue.

Other concussion symptoms include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. If you’re suffering what feel like migraines that make it difficult to tolerate bright lights or loud noises, you may have a concussion or other type of TBI. Visit a doctor immediately to ensure your brain has not sustained severe damage.

If you’re experiencing headaches but did not hit your head during a collision, recurring headaches may also be a sign of whiplash. A whiplash injury occurs when your upper body is propelled backward and forward during a wreck, stretching and tearing the structures of your neck. Other whiplash symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, and neck pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms.

2. Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck pain after a car accident is commonly attributed to a whiplash injury. Since most whiplash symptoms include stiffness, discomfort, and an inability to move the neck freely, many accident victims automatically assume whiplash must be the cause of neck pain. However, vehicle accidents can also damage other structures in the upper back neck and shoulder pain.

Both the neck and shoulder have several soft tissues called tendons that keep bones and muscles in place. The force of an accident can tear these tendons, creating a neck strain or a rotator cuff tear. Additional symptoms of these injuries include instability in the shoulder and inability to move the arm.

A motor vehicle accident can also injure the joints of the neck and shoulder. When a joint is dislocated or separated, you will likely experience a limited range of motion and weakness. You may even hear a popping sound when moving your upper body. Visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Close up of woman holding waist in pain while driving

3. Back Pain

Much like neck pain, back pain after a car accident is frequently attributed to whiplash. However, back pain is often caused by damage to vertebrae and intervertebral (spinal) discs. Vertebrae are the small bones that make up your spine. Spinal discs rest between each bone to absorb the shock of daily movement. The shock of a crash can damage both structures at once.

A car accident can partially or completely break one of your vertebrae, creating a spinal fracture. An accident may also rupture one of the spinal discs in your back, creating a herniated disc. A herniated disc can then press on sensitive spinal nerves, causing burning or shooting back pain that radiates down the arms or legs.

Severe back pain may indicate a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injuries are among the most severe injuries sustained in a car crash and can cause permanent disability. If you’re experiencing back pain and numbness in your fingers and toes or the inability to move, contact a doctor immediately.

4. Nausea and Abdominal Pain

Nausea can be a symptom of many brain injuries, including the previously mentioned concussion or TBI. Nausea accompanied by stomach pain after a car accident may also be a sign of internal organ damage that should not be taken lightly. During an accident, your abdomen can slam against the steering wheel or dashboard and injure critical organs like the liver or kidneys.

You should seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. In the hours and days following the accident, watch for bruising on the abdomen, which may indicate damaged or bleeding organs.

5. Swelling, Stiffness, or Tenderness

The trauma of a motor vehicle accident can stretch or tear various types of soft tissue, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Muscles give your body mobility and strength, tendons attach muscles to bone, and ligaments connect bones and joints.

Swelling, stiffness, and tenderness are often associated with soft tissue injuries like:

  • Strains — Stretch or tear in a muscle or tendon.
  • Sprains — Stretch or tear in a ligament.
  • Tendinitis — Inflammation of a tendon.
  • Bursitis — Inflammation of a bursa, a fluid-filled sac that protects soft tissue and bone.

Additional symptoms of soft tissue injuries include redness or warmth at the injury site and muscle spasms.

6. Bruising and Contusions

Both bruise and contusion refer to bleeding beneath the skin’s surface. Bruises are common after a car accident because most accident victims are tossed against a steering wheel, seatbelt, airbag, or side door during a crash. While most bruises are minor and will heal on their own, some types of bruising may indicate a much more severe injury.

Bruising accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and high fever may be a sign of internal bleeding or blood clots. Contusions with chest pain after an accident may indicate a myocardial contusion or bruising on the actual heart muscle. Never take a bruise at face value. Seek immediate medical attention, especially because internal injuries may take time to present more severe symptoms.

man with knee pain on stairs

7. Numbness or Tingling Sensations

Numbness and tingling are common car accident injuries symptoms that require diagnostic imaging to properly understand. Numbness and tingling may be caused by a pinched nerve stemming from a herniated disc or inflamed muscle. Tingling that also involves hip pain after a car accident can indicate damage to the pelvis.

A spinal cord injury may also cause numbness and tingling. Spinal cord injuries interrupt communication between the brain and the rest of the body, which causes odd sensations like tingling. If you begin to lose feeling and the ability to move a body part, visit a doctor as soon as possible for an X-ray or MRI.

8. Changes in Mood or Behavior

Changes in mood or behavior may be symptoms of an overarching injury. If you’re experiencing irritability, mood swings, or constant fatigue, you might have sustained a head injury like a concussion or TBI. Personality changes and withdrawal from loved ones and activities may also indicate brain injury.

Mood or behavior changes can be a sign of emotional duress after a car crash. Serious accidents can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), triggering flashbacks, nightmares, and mood swings. Severe crashes may also cause anxiety and depression, which can be as debilitating as a bodily injury from a car accident.

9. Changes in Eating and Sleeping Habits

In addition to changes in personality and behavior, many car accident injuries can also cause changes in eating and sleeping habits. Physically, a head injury may cause an upset stomach or insomnia that alters your typical diet and sleep schedule. The inability to eat or sleep that comes along with vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue should be examined by a physician.

Psychologically, changes in eating and sleeping habits can be brought on by stress or other mental conditions. Depression and PTSD can both change the way you eat and sleep after a motor vehicle accident. If you’re having trouble eating, are eating more than usual, and have altered sleep patterns after a crash, check in with your doctor.

10. Dizziness and Vision Issues

Common car accident injuries symptoms like dizziness and vision issues are often signs of a traumatic brain injury or whiplash. These symptoms may arise days or even weeks after a crash. If you’re experiencing blurred vision, double vision, difficulty concentrating, or vertigo, do not hesitate to seek medical care.

11. Tinnitus and Other Hearing Issues

Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. This symptom is common with brain injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, when the sound-processing parts of the brain are damaged. You may also experience muffled sounds or temporary hearing loss with severe brain injuries.

Other hearing issues may be caused by direct damage to the eardrum. The inner ear structures can be ruptured or punctured during high-impact collisions, especially by shattered glass. If you’ve also suffered cuts around your face and ears, have your hearing examined by a doctor.

12. Cognitive Symptoms

Many accident injuries cause symptoms that impact a victim’s cognitive ability. Cognitive ability refers to the mental processes used for memory, learning, and concentrating. Cognitive symptoms include memory loss, inability to focus, and trouble making decisions or expressing yourself.

Brain injuries such as a concussion often involve cognitive symptoms like memory loss,  and physical symptoms like headaches. Psychological damage, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, may also cause lapses in memory and trouble concentrating. Both should be checked by a doctor.

Doctor in lab coat holding clipboard and pen

The Importance of Seeing a Doctor After a Car Accident

After an accident, the first thing you should take care of is your physical and mental health. Any of the dozen common car accident injury symptoms above warrant a trip to your primary care physician (PCP) or local emergency room. If you do not visit a doctor immediately, be sure to have all symptoms examined as they begin to develop.

You can seek medical attention as long after a car accident as necessary, even weeks after a crash. However, the sooner you see a doctor, the better. In addition to the obvious health benefits of immediately treating an injury, medical documentation is some of the strongest evidence in a personal injury claim.

Diagnostic testing, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s, create irrefutable evidence of your injury. If you require injury treatment, such as surgery or physical therapy, this evidence can help support your personal injury claim. Together with a trusted car accident attorney, you can file a lawsuit to recoup the money spent on medical care and travel to doctor’s visits.

Filing a Lawsuit for Injuries After an Accident

The money spent on various expenses after an accident is called damages. Damages include past and future medical bills, prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, out-of-pocket costs, home care expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Contact an attorney to discuss damages immediately after you’ve been seen by a doctor and begin treatment for an injury.

A personal injury lawyer can help calculate the total expenses of your claim, and put a value on your pain and suffering—the emotional and physical hurt you’ve experienced due to your injury. Your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf to recoup the money you’ve been forced to spend. Time is of the essence for personal injury lawsuits, so don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer.

The state of Kentucky enforces a two-year time limit from the date of the accident (or the date of the last no-fault payment) to file a lawsuit for the damages sustained during a car wreck. Do not allow your opportunity for fair compensation to pass by due to a legal technicality. Contact David Bryant Law to learn how you can seek compensation for your car accident injury today.

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David G. Bryant is certified to practice in all state courts in Kentucky, and federal courts in the Eastern and Western districts of Kentucky, Southern District of New York, Southern District of West Virginia, Northern District of Ohio, Middle District of Tennessee, and Western District of Pennsylvania. He is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.