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Abels & Annes, P.C. Personal Injury Blog

What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident

Auto Crash Lawyer Chicago

You breathe a sigh of relief when you walk away from a car accident with no bleeding wounds, broken bones, or other visible signs of injury. Visible physical injuries get the most attention during an accident, but the injuries you don’t see are often just as severe. Pay attention in the days following a car accident. You’ll never really know how your body is reacting physically to a crash until a day or two later.

While you’re figuring out if you have injuries with delayed symptoms, it’s important to follow these simple post-accident rules:

  • Never say “I’m fine.”
  • Never reject the idea of a post-accident medical examination.
  • Always pay attention. A minor twinge or ache might be your body’s way of telling you that you’re injured.
  • Never admit fault. If you do, you may jeopardize your chances of negotiating a fair injury settlement.
  • Call a car accident lawyer for help recovering compensation.

Why Do Some Vehicle Occupants Sustain Injuries and Others Don’t?

How does it happen when there are two or more occupants in a car during a crash, and one walks away while another must seek emergency care? It’s true that speed, impact, points of contact, and vehicle size often affect the seriousness of crash-related injuries. Insurance companies rely on these factors when trying to establish a cause and effect relationship for accident-related conditions. Other factors are just as relevant, however, because they sometimes change the way a person’s body responds physically to a crash.

Pre-Existing Conditions

When a person is physically frail, sick, or has a pre-existing condition, an accident often causes more serious injuries or re-injuries than the vehicle damage indicates. This is sometimes a problem when a person has had recent surgery or a fracture reduction. Also, CDC statistics show that 5 percent of men and 65 percent of women over age 65 have osteoporosis or other bone-density disorders. Their bones are weaker than normal, and break more easily during an accident.

Rear-End Accidents

When a vehicle strikes your car’s rear, your body often endures a physical dynamic typically known as “whiplash.” The name comes from the neck’s whip-like flexion/hyperextension motion. Whiplash affects the neck, back, nerves, soft tissues, spine, and other body parts.

Whiplash injuries are often deceptive. They occur even after a low-speed impact and symptoms won’t always appear until a day or two after an accident. Whiplash injuries affect the neck and back but they sometimes resolve within weeks. Another person’s condition may worsen over time. They may have chronic pain, headaches, spasms, and physical symptoms that sometimes defy diagnosis and treatment.

Passenger Seat Location

When an accident occurs, a passenger’s seat location often determines if they sustain injuries and how serious the injuries are:

  • During a side crash, a passenger nearest the impact usually endures the most force and sustains the most severe injuries.
  • Front seated passengers sustain lower extremity injuries when severe front end collisions push metal into the lower front seat compartment.
  • Rear-seated passengers fare worse than those seated in the front. Glass and metal pushed into the passenger compartment cause serious head and upper body injuries. Seat belts cause internal constriction injuries when they’re activated upon impact. Rear seated passengers don’t have front airbags or side airbag curtains. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explains, rear seat belts lack the tensioners and force limiters found in front compartment seat belts. These mechanisms help secure passengers during impact and ease the tension when it becomes too great.

A Severe Impact

Vehicle damage isn’t always a predictor of injury severity. A severe impact against a reinforced vehicle door or a shock-absorbing bumper sometimes causes injuries. Brain injuries often occur when a crash jolts a passenger so hard, it forces the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. It’s important to be aware of post-accident dizziness, vision difficulties, light-headedness or other symptoms that indicate a brain injury.

Some People Are More Vulnerable to Accident Related Injuries

Anyone can sustain an injury in an accident, even at slow speeds and with minimal impact. Crash severity, vehicle size, and speed are key indicators of the potential for serious injuries. They also occur due to factors you might not anticipate.

Age: Adults 65 and Older

Seniors are more subject to serious injury even in a simple crash. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains, the risk of accident-related injury increases with age. The CDC’s national 2017 statistics show that 7,700 older drivers died in car crashes and 257,000 sought emergency room treatment after an accident. Older drivers display safer driving habits but they are more vulnerable to injury as they are frailer than younger drivers and passengers.

Child Passengers

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13 nationwide. Children are small and fragile so they require special precautions to keep them safe during an accident. Children sustain injuries when they don’t wear seatbelts. They also sustain injuries when they’re traveling in the wrong safety seat. In 2017, the CDC documented 116,000 auto-accident related child injuries and 675 deaths.

Young Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the CDC recognize that auto crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in America. Distraction, speed, and alcohol consumption contribute to teen accidents and injuries. NHTSA’s national statistics show that 3,255 drivers age 15 to 19 died during one recent year from injuries sustained in car crashes. While five-year Illinois accident trends show that teen accident rates have gone down, 13,574 drivers ages 15 to 20 were involved in injury accidents during one recent year.

Pay Attention to Your Body

There’s often a lot of confusion after you’re involved in an accident. You must still make an effort to pay attention to your body. Pain, headache, or other symptoms are often physical reactions to stress, but they could also mean you have an injury that requires immediate attention.

If your child is in an accident, they might not know how to explain their internal pain. Children can be more vulnerable to injuries. It’s important to consider getting an emergency medical exam even when you see no visible signs of injury.

Do You Need an Attorney if You’re Injured in an Accident?

If you or a family member is injured in an accident, a car accident attorney works to protect your legal rights. Lawyers help you understand your legal options. They deal with insurance companies on your behalf and help you recover the damages to which you’re entitled.

An initial legal consultation is usually free. It allows you to discuss your accident with a legal professional who understands liability and damage issues. When you schedule a legal consultation, it’s an information-only discussion. An attorney helps you understand your legal options. When you’re ready, you decide if you want a lawyer to file a claim on your behalf.

However, we recommend finding a lawyer to fight for your interests as soon as possible. Personal injury cases often get ruined when an accident victim tries to handle his or her own claim against an experienced insurance adjuster.

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