Common Physical Effects of Car Accidents

In the minutes following an accident, adrenaline will surge through your body. While this is beneficial in fight-or-flight situations, it has a secondary effect: masking the true physical impact of a collision.

To identify any injuries that might not be immediately noticeable, be mindful of these common physical effects.

Whiplash and other neck injuries

Whiplash occurs when your head moves back and forth suddenly, placing enormous strain on your neck muscles. Though it can happen in any accident, whiplash is most common in high-velocity collisions. Some of the symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in ears

Remember, not all whiplash is experienced in the same way! Intense whiplash could cause severe physical effects (for example, a fracture or dislocation), but moderate whiplash will give rise to milder symptoms like stiffness, tenderness, or neck pain.

Whatever the case, it’s crucial to keep a detailed log of your symptoms to ensure that you achieve a full physical and financial recovery.

Back injuries

Back pain is one of the most common symptoms of a car accident, and it’s often caused by whiplash, herniated disks, or a spinal cord injury. Usually, back pain sets in a few hours after an accident as the adrenaline in your body subsides.

Often, back injuries or spinal cord injuries are caused by simple rear-end collisions. These accidents cause your body to jolt forward, damaging the tissues around your spinal cord. Generally, soft tissue injuries affect your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and require long-term physical therapy for recovery.

Because back pain can radiate down your arms and legs and be indicative of harm to other parts of your body, it should never be ignored.

Head injuries

We’ve already touched on two types of common car accident injuries that can cause head pain — a spinal injury and whiplash. Injuries like these usually result from the whip-like motion of your body during a crash.

Other car accident injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries, may be caused by direct contact to your head. When your head hits a hard surface like your steering wheel (or even an airbag) with a great deal of force, the change in momentum propels your brain into your skull, potentially causing a traumatic brain injury.

After the collision, the damage to your skull, brain, and surrounding areas will give rise to a handful of painful symptoms, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, and heightened sensitivity to light and sound.

Internal injuries

The same principle that applies to head injuries can also be used to explain other internal injuries, such as organ damage or internal bleeding.

The force from a car accident isn’t just absorbed by your car; it’s also distributed across various parts of your body, including your chest and stomach. The sudden change in velocity coupled with the tightness of your seat belt can cause a wide range of injuries, from minor bruising to severe internal hemorrhaging.

Broken bones and fractures

Sometimes, the force from an accident is too much for your body to bear, and your bones will fracture or snap as a result. A bone can break in any part of your body, but most breaks are found in the arms or legs. Here are some particularly vulnerable areas:

  • Arms
  • Wrists
  • Tibia/Fibula
  • Femur
  • Clavicle
  • Ribs
  • Hips

If you think you’ve experienced a bone break or fracture, you should get medical attention right away. Remember to save any information you receive from the doctor, including MRIs, X-rays, and other exams. This information will be a key part of building a strong case.

Immediate Symptoms to Watch For

While you likely won’t know the full extent of your injuries right away, some symptoms set in much sooner than others. Let’s go through the key symptoms you should be aware of.

Pain is the most common physical effect of a car crash. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something’s not right. Stiffness serves the same function, though it often takes hours or days to recover.

Whiplash, concussions, and certain brain injuries can affect your sense of balance and impede your ability to process light, sound, and other stimuli properly. If you experience these symptoms right after an accident, you should limit motion as much as possible and wait for a trained medical team to arrive.

Nausea is a common response to the trauma and stress you undergo in a car crash. However, it can also be a symptom of a more serious issue like internal bleeding. Alert a medical professional right away if you feel abdominal pain or stomach sickness immediately after an accident.

Usually, numbness and tingling in your feet, hands, back, neck, or shoulders indicates that you’ve sustained some level of nerve damage. Though minor damage could heal within a few days, nerve damage often persists for weeks or months.

It’s common to feel some degree of chest pain after a car accident, but it should still be reported to your doctor. Chest pain and difficulty breathing can result from damaged blood vessels or organs beneath your ribcage, and these issues should be prioritized for immediate treatment.

Inform your doctor right after the collision so that you can begin treatment. And remember — the financial burden of long-term rehab shouldn’t fall on your shoulders. An experienced car accident attorney can help you get the compensation you need for a full recovery.

Long-Term Effects of Car Accidents

Naturally, addressing the initial effects of an accident is crucial — but for many crash victims, it’s only the beginning of a long-term journey toward recovery. If you don’t treat the first symptoms and the lingering effects of an accident, your overall quality of life will drop and recovery will take much longer.

To ensure that you have the medical advice and financial resources to recover, you should have a medical professional and experienced car accident lawyer on your team from the very beginning.

Here’s a look at the lasting effects of a car accident that are most frequently reported.

Chronic pain and discomfort

Even after your initial injuries have healed, inflammation, nerve damage, and muscle tension can persist. To minimize the long-term impact of your collision, follow these two key rules:

  • Address your injuries immediately after the accident happens. Prompt treatment will significantly accelerate your recovery.
  • Consistently follow your doctor’s treatment plan. While most people follow their doctor’s advice in the weeks following an accident, it becomes harder to stick to the routines of rehab in the months and years after a serious collision. However, committing to a long-term treatment plan is the best way to minimize chronic pain and ensure that you’re in good physical condition as you age.

Reduced range of motion and flexibility

Injuries that affect your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles frequently cause your arms and legs to lock up when you bend them. The swelling and stiffness that accompanies a car accident injury also inhibit your flexibility.

When it comes to serious injuries, it’s sometimes impossible to regain your former range of motion. However, consistent physical therapy can still immensely improve your condition. Stretching, massages, foam rolling, and supervised exercise are great ways to increase your flexibility — as long as they’re approved by your physician.

Increased risk of arthritis and other joint problems

In some cases, you don’t feel the full effects of an injury until several decades later, when joint pain begins to set in. Consistent treatment in consultation with a doctor is the best way to combat joint stiffness and arthritis as you grow older.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues

Though the mental effects of an accident are as important as the purely physical ones, they’re often overlooked on the road to recovery. Many people are burdened by stress, anxiety, car accident trauma, or fear of ever driving again.

If you’ve experienced mental distress because of a car accident, you should discuss the symptoms with your doctor right away. Your provider can connect you with the care you need, whether it’s a support group, individual therapy, or another type of treatment.

Your suffering, both physical and emotional, should be reflected in the compensation you receive. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, we’re dedicated to giving wise legal counsel and providing strong, aggressive representation to guarantee that you get the money you deserve.

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What to Do if You Experience Physical Effects After a Car Accident

The minutes right after a collision are the most crucial for your recovery. If the accident was severe, you’ll likely be in shock, and your body will be flooded with adrenaline. It’s best to stay calm, remain in a safe place, and wait for the authorities to arrive

We’ve touched on this already, but it’s worth reiterating: sticking to your physician’s treatment plan is the best way to accelerate your recovery and prevent severe pain. Your doctor will create a plan that’s specifically designed to improve your quality of life.

If you were injured in an accident where you weren’t at fault, paying for your medical bills shouldn’t be your responsibility. Keeping track of these expenses is a core component of building a strong case. It doesn’t just help us estimate the amount you need for a full recovery — it also demonstrates that you’re committed to healing, which casts you in a favorable light in the eyes of a judge or jury.

Often, the road to financial recovery starts with a phone call. Our legal team will help you navigate the aftermath of a collision and give you strong guidance as you seek a full recovery.


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After an accident, it’s hard to know where to turn. Paperwork and bills begin to pile up, and insurance companies are eager to close your claim for as little money as possible. Our attorneys won’t let that happen.

Our car accident lawyers will advocate for your rights and offer strong guidance during this difficult time. We’re here to maximize your recovery, and we aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with insurance companies to get you the money you deserve.

With nine offices in Arkansas and Tennessee – Little Rock, Little Rock-Corporate Hill, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, and Memphis– our personal injury lawyers are easily accessible when you need help.

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