Car accidents are never unavoidable. Every accident involves someone who drives negligently, whether by speeding, driving recklessly, driving under the influence, or driving distracted. In other cases, you might have a few seconds to take evasive action and hopefully avoid catastrophic injuries.
The force of a car accident depends on the speed, the size of the vehicles involved, and how the other vehicle hits you. Head-on crashes are often more damaging than sideswipe crashes when the vehicles are the same size, but a tractor-trailer truck can sideswipe a compact car with devastating consequences.
Knowing what you can expect after a car accident can help you recognize when something isn't quite right and how you can protect your health.
Reach out to experienced car accident lawyers in Port Richey at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers for legal assistance following a car accident.
The Effect of the Force Caused by a Car Accident
Car accidents happen so quickly that most people don't think of the force and strain your body undergoes. When you notice pain one or more days after an accident, you probably suspect the accident but wonder why you didn't feel that pain immediately.
The initial impact can cause immediate injuries. For example, in a head-on collision, the vehicle suddenly stops, but your body and everything else not tied down in the vehicle continue moving forward. The impact could also cause you to twist or shake violently. In a rollover accident, these motions could happen several times—each time the vehicle rolls.
The seatbelt, airbags, and other safety features kick in and put you under even more strain. Airbags can cause facial injuries, and seat belts can cause bruises and, in some cases, friction burns.
Common Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
The injuries you might sustain in a car accident depend on several factors, including your current health, speed, the size of the vehicle, and other factors.
Common car accident injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scratches, and scrapes.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Ear injuries, including deafness, if the accident causes an explosion.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Chemical, thermal, and friction burns.
- Internal injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones and other crush injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
A car accident can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI) if you come to a sudden stop or are thrown around the cab or out of the vehicle. A violent blow or jolt to your head or body or an object that penetrates your skull causes TBIs. Even a piece of skull that embeds your brain matter can cause a traumatic brain injury.
Some types of traumatic brain injuries include concussions, intracranial hematomas, skull fractures, coup and contrecoup contusions, and diffuse axonal injuries.
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
You could sustain back injuries in a car accident, including fractured vertebrae, strains, sprains, and herniated discs. If you damage the ligaments, spinal column, discs, or vertebrae, you could damage the spinal cord. Some accidents are so catastrophic that you injure the spinal cord itself.
When you damage any part of your back, especially the spinal cord, you risk partial or complete and temporary or permanent paralysis below the injury.
Internal injuries include injuries to the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, and other internal organs. These types of injuries usually require surgery; however, even with surgery, they often lead to other health issues or death.
Pain: How Long It Could Last
Minor soreness could last six to eight weeks after a car accident. Many injuries, including broken bones, heal within six to eight weeks; however, some people may have symptoms that last longer, causing the pain to last longer.
One of the factors that affect the severity of car accident injuries includes your health at the time of the accident. If you have previous illnesses or injuries, you could feel pain longer. For example, diabetes often slows the healing process. It could also prolong the time you feel pain from the injuries since they take longer to heal.
When Do You Seek Medical Attention?
Always seek medical attention as soon as possible. Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over while at the accident scene. They will document any injuries, regardless of how minor. This is the start of the paper trail you'll need to recover the compensation you deserve.
Accident injuries don't always manifest immediately. Thus, you should always seek medical attention immediately. Because of the adrenaline flowing through your body, you may not feel injuries until hours or even a day or two later.
Additionally, what you might think of as normal soreness from the accident could be a hidden injury. When you visit the emergency room, doctors can check you for hidden injuries.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately
In some cases, you undergo treatment when you notice certain symptoms. Also, you may not have seen a doctor because you deemed your injuries minor.
In either case, go to the emergency room for a complete medical evaluation if you experience:
- Persistent headaches. Tension in your neck and shoulder muscles could cause headaches. However, it could signify a traumatic brain injury if it doesn't go away. It's better to be safe than sorry—get it checked immediately, even if you have to go to the emergency room.
- Weakness in your extremities. You may have suffered a spinal cord injury if you notice weakness in your extremities. If you notice the weakness worsening over the past 24 to 48 hours, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
- Sharp pain. Any sharp pain, especially if it's new, should send you to the emergency room immediately. Sometimes, you may not notice a broken bone until it shifts position. Sharp pain usually denotes a more severe injury than you thought.
- Pain worsens or does not resolve. The soreness you have from an accident should get better as the days and weeks pass. On some days you might feel better than others, but overall, the pain should lessen. If it does not get better, you may have injuries that are more serious than you thought—seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Confusion and/or disorientation. Any initial confusion or disorientation after an accident should resolve relatively quickly. However, if the confusion and/or disorientation gets worse, you might have a traumatic brain injury—seek medical help immediately.
- Hearing and/or vision. Unless you suffered catastrophic injuries or the accident caused an explosion, you should not have hearing or vision problems. If you notice issues with either sense, including tunnel vision, blurred vision, and/or ringing in your ears, seek medical help as soon as possible. These could indicate a traumatic brain injury.
- Chest pain and/or abdominal pain. Generally, chest and abdominal pain signify internal injuries. What you think is soreness from a bad bruise could be internal bleeding or other injuries. Seek medical help immediately.
- Fatigue and/or tiredness. Some tiredness after an accident can be normal. However, if it lasts or you feel fatigued, you may have a traumatic brain injury, so go to the doctor.
Developing Injuries the Next Day or Days After an Accident
In normal circumstances, you feel pain as soon as you are injured. However, the adrenaline coursing through your body after an accident may prevent you from feeling pain from an injury.
Some injuries could take days before you notice them. This is why it is imperative to seek medical attention immediately after an accident—a doctor could have found the hidden injury and started treatment already. Waiting could cause additional damage, even death.
Recovering Damages After a Car Accident
After a car accident, you could recover two types of damages: Compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages have two categories: Economic damages and non-economic damages. After a car accident, most people recover economic damages. However, in most cases, only those who lost a loved one or suffered long-term or permanent injuries can recover non-economic damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. Most people recover economic damages, including:
- Doctors' appointments.
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications.
- Medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks.
- Ambulatory aids.
- Physical therapy appointments.
- Psychological therapy appointments.
- Occupational therapy appointments.
- Cognitive therapy appointments.
- Accessibility accessories for your car, including but not limited to hand controls and wheelchair lifts and ramps.
- Accessibility accessories for your home, including but not limited to handrails, grab bars, wheelchair ramps, and widened doorways.
Some car accident injuries could keep you from work for several weeks or months. You can recover lost income for the time you could not work because of your injuries. Some injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities. If your doctor believes you will never fully recover from your accident injuries, you could recover compensation for loss of future earning capacity.
You can recover compensation to repair damaged or replace destroyed personal property after a drunk driving accident. The at-fault driver is responsible for your vehicle and anything of value that was damaged or destroyed in the drunk driving accident.
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you could recover:
- Funeral expenses.
- Burial expenses.
- Cremation expenses.
- Certain probate court fees.
- Probate attorney's fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value.
In most cases, only those who lost a loved one or suffered long-term or permanent disabilities in a car accident can recover non-economic damages, including:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life-long changes, such as taking prescription drugs or using ambulatory aids.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or attend family activities and events.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as an arm or a foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder function.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, home repair and maintenance, and house cleaning.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
Contact a dedicated personal injury lawyer in Port Richey for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one.