After a car accident, even a minor fender bender, you may expect to suffer some soreness for a few days. After all, you probably tensed up during the accident, and you may have some sprains or strains related to the accident, most of which will heal on their own within a relatively short time.
Even if you did not suffer serious injuries, you may have some minor bumps and bruises that you have to contend with. You may have bruises from the seat belt. You might have some neck stiffness or other minor signs of whiplash. Since you otherwise came out fine, you may consider those injuries relatively minor.
Then you start to realize that the soreness does not seem to go away. How long should you expect that soreness to last? When does lasting soreness potentially indicate a more serious injury?
Average Duration of Soreness After a Car Accident
Generally speaking, soreness after a car accident should resolve within six weeks. Your muscles will need time to heal after the accident, especially if you suffered a great deal of force in the accident.
While modern cars help absorb some of the force of an accident by crumpling, rather than distributing the force through the vehicle, you may still suffer substantial soreness because of the accident.
If you suffered injuries during your car accident, ranging from serious bruising to broken bones, you may need to talk to your doctor about how long you should expect symptoms to last. Most minor injuries will generally resolve within six to eight weeks. However, you may have to go through some rehabilitation to completely resolve car accident injury pain.
When Should You See a Doctor After a Car Accident?
Ideally, you should see a doctor after any serious car accident, including any car accident that involves considerable property damage. Even if you walk away from the accident with no signs of pain, you may discover that injury symptoms appear in the hours or days following the accident.
Seeking treatment in a local emergency room or through a local urgent care center can offer several key advantages:
- It helps you identify any injuries you may have suffered during your car accident.
- It allows you to create a treatment plan to help you address your car accident injuries.
- It creates a record of when your injuries occurred, which can help you later file a personal injury claim that includes compensation for those injuries.
However, you may choose not to visit the emergency room after your accident. With adrenaline flowing, you may not notice any symptoms of injury, or assume that nothing happened.
You may have a list of things that you have to deal with and other responsibilities you need to take care of—not to mention the reason you got in the car in the first place nagging at you. Sometimes, people simply choose not to pursue medical treatment after a car accident.
If you notice one of several common symptoms, you may need to pursue medical treatment as soon as possible.
1. You notice signs of confusion or disorientation.
Signs of traumatic brain injury can crop up in the hours following an accident, even if you felt perfectly capable at the scene. Often, traumatic brain injury victims will lose consciousness at the scene of the accident.
However, you can suffer a traumatic brain injury without losing consciousness. Furthermore, you may not recognize a brief loss of consciousness, especially in the overall confusion associated with the accident.
If you have increasing signs of traumatic brain injury after the accident, however, promptly seek medical attention. You may find yourself confused or disoriented, or discover that you have trouble concentrating. While difficulty focusing can prove normal after serious trauma, even without a head injury to go along with it, you should see a doctor if you notice gaps in memory or you find yourself struggling to maintain your usual working memory.
You may sleep more often than usual immediately after an accident since your body may need time to heal. If you notice considerable changes in your sleeping habits, including sleeping more often or sleeping so deeply that your loved ones have difficulty waking you, you may need to see a doctor to rule out a traumatic brain injury.
2. You have a sudden onset of nausea or vomiting.
Some people may vomit shortly after an accident due to the adrenaline associated with the accident itself. However, in general, that nausea should resolve very quickly. If you notice increasing nausea or vertigo, it could indicate a traumatic brain injury or internal bleeding. You may also suffer from nausea due to an internal injury, including internal bleeding.
3. Your pain seems to increase, rather than decrease, after your accident.
Generally, you should notice peak soreness within a couple of days of the accident. You may notice that the pain feels worse, in general, on the second or third day than it does on the first. After that, however, you should not notice pain continuing to increase. You may notice some increase in general soreness based on your other activities, especially if you suddenly go back to work or start participating in athletic endeavors after the accident, but you should not see a sudden increase in pain.
If you notice pain increasing several days after the accident, it could indicate that you have suffered more serious injury than you originally thought.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered a minor broken bone in your leg after the accident. You felt some soreness, but assumed it would resolve. After several days of walking on a broken bone, that bone starts to shift out of alignment, and you notice an increase in pain. Likewise, you may notice increasing pain from strains or sprains, especially if you need rest for those symptoms to resolve.
A doctor can evaluate your injuries and help you get the treatment you need.
4. You notice a sudden sharp pain of any kind.
Generally, soreness after an accident feels dull and generally steady. While you may notice an increase in pain with certain movements or activities, you generally will not feel a sharp, stabbing pain or immediate pain.
Sharp pain could indicate a more serious injury, ranging from broken bones to internal injuries. A doctor can help evaluate those symptoms and give you a better idea of what injuries you may have sustained and how you can treat them.
5. You notice that your pain does not seem to resolve within a few weeks.
If you have pain that lingers long after it should following a car accident, it could indicate that you suffered more than simple muscle strains and bruising. If you notice that your pain has not diminished weeks after the accident, you could have more serious injuries than anticipated—and the delay in treatment could indicate unexpected complications. If you notice pain lingering for more than six to eight weeks after a car accident, consult a doctor to learn more about potential treatment options.
What Should You Do If You Notice Lingering Soreness After a Car Accident?
If you notice lingering soreness after a car accident, or you have any other symptoms that could indicate a serious injury, despite having foregone medical treatment at the time of the accident, protect yourself as much as possible.
1. Talk to a doctor as soon as you can.
If you received medical treatment immediately after your accident, but the pain does not resolve as anticipated or you have noticed new pain, make an appointment with a doctor familiar with your case as soon as possible.
If you need to see another care provider for any reason, you may want to take in any X-rays, scans, or medical reports from your initial appointment. Inform the doctor about your accident and any recommendations or treatments you received immediately afterward, since the doctor may need to take those into account when planning a new course of treatment.
2. Follow the doctor’s recommendations for treatment.
You may have specific injuries that require treatment or generalized injuries that require rest or other attention to increase your odds of making a full recovery. Follow the doctor’s instructions to the best of your ability.
Options like chiropractic care, physical therapy, or massage therapy can all work wonders for healing following a minor car accident. Sometimes, you may need a little extra help getting your body back in alignment and getting back to normal.
Physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors often see cases like yours regularly, which can put them in a better position to give advice and help your body get back to normal.
Your doctor may advise you to rest. Your body may need that rest to heal following any accident or injury, including the minor strains and sprains that often accompany a car accident. Trying to push yourself, whether that means jumping back into things at work or going straight back to your usual exercise routine, could put additional pressure on your body and delay the healing process.
If your doctor advises it, take a few days off or dial back your usual activities until you notice symptoms resolving. If getting back to it causes your symptoms to flare, you may need to slow back down for a little longer.
3. Contact a local car accident lawyer.
A car accident lawyer can help you go over the conditions that led to your injury and determine whether you may deserve compensation for any lingering symptoms, including symptoms caused by a serious injury.
Even if you did not pursue medical treatment immediately after your accident, you may seek compensation. However, it may prove more difficult to establish exactly when your injuries took place. Working with a lawyer can make it easier to put together a personal injury claim, including necessary evidence that can help prove when your injuries occurred.