Have you been injured in a car accident? If so, you’re probably experiencing a wide range of feelings—anger, shock, or grief. These are common feelings after an accident. So is pain. Pain is our body’s internal alarm system. It’s your body’s way of saying “don’t do that; something’s wrong!” Pain can alert you to injuries that may not be visible and help you determine if you need to seek medical attention.
In 2018, more than 120,000 accidents took place across Pennsylvania. The majority of them caused injuries.
After an accident, it’s normal to hurt. But how do you know the difference between normal pain and when something’s wrong?
When Will the Pain Fade Away?
After an accident, a certain level of pain is normal. Your body has just experienced major trauma. How long you will be sore depends on a variety of factors. These may include:
- Your position in the vehicle
- Whether you were wearing a seatbelt
- The speed of the crash
- The size of your vehicle
- The size of the other vehicle(s)
- Whether your airbags went off
- Any preexisting injuries
There is no conclusive way to determine the extent of your injuries based on the level of pain you are experiencing, or how long you will be sore based on your type of injuries. Only a qualified medical professional can give you a reasonable estimate as to when you should experience relief. Even what initially appears as minor pain can prove to be a bigger issue. That’s why it’s always a good idea to go to the doctor after any sort of accident.
My Pain Seemingly Came out of Nowhere. What Should I Do?
It’s not uncommon to experience delayed pain. Many people walk away from an accident without feeling a thing. Then, days later, they feel like they’ve been hit by a dumpster full of rocks. Everyone reacts to pain differently. Some injuries are notorious for delayed symptoms. Signs of a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury often don’t present until days after an accident. If you haven’t been to the doctor and suddenly begin to feel sore, you should see a doctor right away. The fact that it took a few days for the pain to appear does not make the injury any less serious.
Sometimes, we write off important symptoms as normal reactions to an accident. Keep track of any new symptoms after an accident. Neck pain on its own may be nothing, but neck pain combined with a fever may indicate a serious problem. If you experience any changes in your health, even seemingly normal or minor changes, write them down to tell your doctor.
Putting off treatment is never a good idea. If cost is a concern, a personal injury attorney can help you take legal action against the at-fault party to help cover the cost of treatment. You will also have access to your own medical benefits through your auto insurance.
It’s Been Weeks, and I’m Still in Pain.
We’re not doctors. We can’t tell you whether your pain is normal. What we can tell you is that your pain should not get worse as time goes by. If your pain progressively or suddenly gets worse, contact the doctor right away. This may be a sign of a serious problem. If your pain doesn’t go away on its own, your doctor may recommend alternative treatment options. This may include:
- Prescription pain medication
- Chiropractic therapy
- Cold or heat therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
What Are the Most Common Reasons for Soreness After an Accident?
There are many reasons why people experience pain after an accident and some people may never experience pain at all. Some of the most common reasons for soreness include:
- Strains and sprains: You’ve likely experienced muscle soreness at some point in your life. Strains and sprains can result because of an injury or overexertion. In a car accident, the force of the collision can force your body to move in unnatural ways. When your body moves in positions that strain the muscles and tendons in your body, it can cause a tear. When you tear a muscle or tendon, the area becomes inflamed and may begin to hurt. Most strains, sprains, and general muscle aches will heal on their own, but in some cases, you may need medical intervention.
- Whiplash: Whiplash is common in rear-end accidents. At the time of impact, the seat you are sitting in begins to move forward with the car. Meanwhile, your head and neck brace back against the seat. As the car continues to move forward, your head and neck suddenly whip forward and catch up with the momentum of the car. If this sounds violent, it’s because it is. Whiplash can cause severe injury to your neck and back. In severe cases, the collision may cause bulging or herniated discs. When this happens, you may experience soreness in your neck, back, or limbs.
- Traumatic brain injuries: If you hit your head during the accident, there’s a good chance you will feel sore. You may feel a dull ache or a throbbing headache. In some cases, you may experience extreme or sharp pain. Traumatic brain injuries are serious and should always be treated as an emergency condition. Unfortunately, they are very common, especially in car accidents. The CDC estimates that car accidents account for over 20 percent of all TBI hospitalizations. If you think that you may have hit your head in an accident, see a doctor right away.
- Spinal cord injuries: Car accidents are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. After an accident, it is normal for your back to feel sore. But with spinal cord injuries, the pain is usually different. Spinal cord injuries usually cause extreme pain or severe pressure. If you experience either of these symptoms, visit the doctor right away.
What Should I Do if I Am Sore After an Accident?
Humans can be stubborn. They’d rather tough it out than go to the doctor. But after a car accident, take your pain seriously. Any time you experience pain, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. Even if it’s just minor soreness, there is no harm in visiting a doctor to get checked out after an accident. In fact, we highly recommend going to the doctor even if you are not experiencing pain. Adrenaline has a way of masking pain directly after an accident.
Follow your doctor’s advice. Not only for your health but also for the benefit of your case. If you go to the doctor and ignore his or her advice to rest, you risk hurting yourself more. Plus the insurance adjuster is likely to say that the bulk of your pain came from your actions, not the accident. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and stay up-to-date on your follow-up appointments. Your medical record will be a part of your personal injury case.
What if My Accident Caused Chronic Pain?
We all hope that pain will eventually go away after an injury. But sometimes, the pain persists. This can be especially true in the case of broken bones, head injuries, and neck and back injuries. These injuries can often result in chronic or recurring pain that persists years after the accident.
So, how does this affect a personal injury case? Pain is recognized as a non-economic cost and is often categorized under pain and suffering. What this means is that the law allows you to pursue compensation for the physical pain of an injury. The amount of compensation will vary case to case, but generally, courts consider the following factors:
- The severity of your pain
- The duration of your pain
- The type of pain
- Whether your pain responds to treatment
- How your pain interferes with your day to day life
- Whether you pain prevents you from doing certain activities or makes them unenjoyable
What Are Some Common Costs in a Personal Injury Case?
How much does pain affect a personal injury case? A lot. When you take a minute to really evaluate your costs, pain is one of the top billers. Common costs include:
- Medical bills: We pay a lot to treat our pain. There are surgeries to alleviate the pain, medication to reduce the pain, and physical therapy to prevent a recurrence of the pain. There is also chiropractic care, massage therapy, and an epidural injection.
- Lost wages: According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain plays a role in approximately 264 missed days at work per year. That’s just back pain. Chronic or severe pain can interfere with your ability to perform your normal functions at work. When you miss time at work because of an injury, a personal injury suit can help you recover lost wages.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is a subjective cost. When calculating pain and suffering the insurance adjuster will generally consider the type of pain you have and whether you will ever experience relief.
- Loss of companionship: Does your pain make it difficult to spend time with your family? Are you unable to have a sexual relationship with your spouse due to your pain? These are real losses that should be considered when you make a personal injury claim.
- Loss of enjoyment: Back pain can make it difficult to run. Neck pain can make it hard to sit and read your favorite book. When your pain interferes with your ability to enjoy your life, you deserve compensation for your loss.
When Should I Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer?
Any time an accident causes significant pain, you deserve fair and just compensation. Often, it’s hard to appreciate the accident’s true effects until months later when you’re still sore. Don’t wait this long. If you are sore after an accident, get prompt medical attention. Then contact an experienced attorney.
Pain is hard to prove. Even when someone is showing obvious signs that they are hurting, insurance adjusters and jurors like to place more value on items that have an actual and quantifiable cost. A personal injury attorney can help you prove just how much your pain has interfered with your life and help you secure a fair settlement. Here a few ways your attorney can prove pain in a personal injury case:
- Review your medical records and talk to your doctors: Your medical records will be the most obvious and direct proof of pain. It’s your doctor’s job to note your level of pain and improvement. Because of this, be open and honest about your level of pain. Do not overplay or underplay how you are feeling.
- Interview expert witnesses: Your doctor knows your pain, but a pain specialist can explain the mechanics of pain. An expert witness can help explain why you are still in pain and if you will ever see an improvement.
- Calculate actual and potential costs: As we’ve illustrated, pain can have a significant effect on your finances. A personal injury attorney can gather any receipts associated with pain treatment to prove its financial impact.
- Talk to friends and family: Your friends and family know you best. They will be able to describe whether there has been a change in your physical activity, your mood, or whether you have shown obvious signs of pain.
When you are sore and recovering from an accident, it can be difficult to find the energy to do simple things around the house, let alone think about taking legal action. That’s where a car accident lawyer can help you protect your rights. A personal injury attorney can take care of all the heavy lifting, so all you have to do is lay back and focus on your recovery. Don’t delay—the law only allows accident victims two years to recover damages related to their injuries.