What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident: Common Issues and Your Options
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What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident: Common Issues and Your Options

What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident

What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident

A wide range of injuries can give you trouble after a car accident. It’s likely you feel sore, but that soreness can have many causes. What you can expect physically in the short and long-term aftermath of a car accident varies widely based on the severity and nature of your injuries.

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible after any car accident. A doctor visit prevents potentially serious injuries from going untreated and generates important medical records that serve as documentation of the injuries the car accident caused.

After seeking appropriate medical care, consult with an experienced car accident attorney at The Bryant Law Center about your potential rights to compensation for your injuries and losses.

Below, we run through some of the physical effects you may experience in the days, weeks, and months after a car accident. Remember, however, we are not doctors and this is not medical advice.

Always consult with a qualified medical professional after getting into a car accident, even if you do not think you suffered an injury.

What Are the Physical Side Effects After a Car Accident

X-ray of neck injury after a car accident

Depending on where you were seated in a vehicle, the angle of the collision, and the speed of the vehicles when they collided, you may have suffered a wide range of car accident injuries. While some of the injuries may be caused by the impact, other injuries, such as those to the chest, can occur because of forces from protective restraint systems such as air bags, side cushions and seat belts.

Each injury can cause physical symptoms, and multiple injuries can cause the same type of symptom. Aside from the pain and limitations from lacerations, abrasions, and broken bones, some common physical side effects you might experience include:


It is common to experience headaches after a car accident, even if you did not sustain a blow to the head in the collision.

Headaches can indicate a serious injury, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussions, or neck-and-shoulder soft tissue damage.

In severe cases, headaches that persist and worsen could signal other, potentially fatal, problems such as swelling or bleeding in the brain.

Back Pain

Car accidents, especially those that occur at high speeds, can contort drivers’ and passengers’ bodies in all types of unnatural positions, leading to injuries along the spinal column.

Back pain can sometimes simply result from a sprain, strain, or other soft tissue damage in the back. However, in other cases, back pain indicates a more serious injury such as fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, or slipped discs.

Persistent back pain can signal a worsening injury. Fractured vertebrae are especially dangerous because loose pieces of bone can get lodged in the spinal cord and cause permanent harm.

Neck Pain

Car accident victims commonly experience neck pain. The impact of a collision, even at low speeds, can cause the neck to flex and extend rapidly in a whip-like motion.

The ensuing soft-tissue injury, commonly referred to as “whiplash,” can cause severe physical discomfort and limitations, including persistent pain and headaches.

The whipping action of the injury can also cause fractures or bulged discs in the neck. Neck pain, in other words, can indicate a serious injury.

Numbness and Other Aches and Pains

Sometimes car accident victims feel a general soreness, numbness, or have aches and pains throughout their bodies. Stomach pains that do not subside can indicate organ damage or other internal injuries.

Numbness can indicate nerve damage, a spinal cord injury, or a brain injury, all of which could cause long-term damage.

You cannot predict exactly how you will feel hours or days after a car accident, but you do need to listen to your body. If pain does not subside, then you might have suffered more serious injuries than you initially thought.


You can typically expect at least some bruising after a car accident, even if only where your seatbelt touched your body. If moving objects struck you during the crash or your body hit the seat in front of you, the steering column, the dashboard, or a deployed airbag, you may have extensive bruising.

Most bruises result from blood capillaries breaking right below your skin. They cause soreness but usually heal within a couple of weeks.

Yet, bruising can also indicate internal bleeding, so you cannot ignore it. Internal bleeding may indicate organ damage and other internal injuries that if left untreated, could lead to death.

Emotional Trauma after a Car Accident

Unfortunately, car accidents also inflict emotional trauma. Accidents alone without injuries can cause severe emotional distress.

When you add serious physical injuries to the mix, the trauma often intensifies.

Mental health issues and emotional struggles that some car accident victims experience include:

  • Anxiety or outright fear, especially when it comes to driving or riding in a vehicle
  • Depression, which can be chemical, psychological, or a combination of both depending on the situation
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and accompanying symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares
  • Humiliation, especially if someone is partially or fully to blame for the accident
  • Survivor’s guilt or guilt from witnessing the death of another in car accidents with fatalities

Traumatic Brain Injury Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Brain Injury after a Car Accident

Victims who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident face potentially lifelong emotional, behavioral, and cognitive challenges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorize the impact of TBI in four different brain functions: thinking, sensation, language, and emotion.

  • Challenges with thinking include memory loss or trouble remembering and struggles with logical reasoning.
  • Challenges with sensation include struggles with seeing, feeling, touching, and hearing. Some TBI victims suffer from numbness, have ringing in their ears, or have difficulty with balance.
  • Challenges with language include difficulties putting ideas into words, speaking, or understanding others’ speech.
  • Challenges with emotions include depression and anxiety, but also behavioral struggles such as a loss of inhibition that leads to social inappropriateness. Some TBI victims exhibit personality changes, such as increased aggression.

Car Accident Recovery: Getting Back on Track

A car accident can leave you feeling horrible on a physical and emotional level. To recover, prioritize your health and well-being. Always seek medical attention after any car accident, especially if you experience or feel any of the physical or emotional symptoms discussed above.

Recovery time after an auto accident varies based on the extent of your injuries, but therapy may help you through that process. Physical therapy helps you regain muscle function and range of motion lost as a result of injury and hospitalization.

  • Occupational therapy helps you learn new ways to do daily tasks after suffering permanent injuries.
  • Behavioral therapy helps you work through the emotional trauma of the accident and cope with any emotional side effects of your injuries.

How To Get The Best Care: What to Do After a Car Accident

Getting treatment after a car accident by a physical therapist

Treatment for car accident injuries can be costly and you deserve the best care possible to help you recover.

If your accident injuries resulted from someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentional actions, then you may have rights to take legal action seeking compensation.

Consult with an experienced attorney at The Bryant Law Center to see if you have a viable car accident claim.

Although every car accident has its own unique facts and circumstances that can affect an injured accident victim’s legal rights, in general you may have the ability to seek compensation for:

  • Medical expenses including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, surgery, diagnostic tests, medication, and followup visits
  • Estimated future medical treatment costs for severe or catastrophic injuries
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity when car accidents lead to catastrophic injuries
  • Costs for rehabilitation, including expenses for the therapies you need for recovery
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Loss of consortium if applicable
  • Other economic and non-economic costs that apply to your injuries

Recovering compensation after a car accident can provide the funding you need to get the care you deserve, and can help you to move forward with your life.

Without it, some accident victims exhaust all their savings and credit simply to afford day-to-day needs like food and clothing.

In the most severe cases, the cost of a car accident can lead to foreclosure, car repossession, and bankruptcy.

Do not risk financial ruin because of someone else’s wrongful actions. Seek help from a Kentucky personal injury attorney.

Contact Kevin Shannon or Austin Kennady at the Bryant Law Center at (270) 908-0995 for a free case evaluation to learn your rights after suffering injuries in a car accident.