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How Long Should You Feel Sore After a Car Accident?

car accident injury lawyer in san diegoAfter a car accident, you may experience significant soreness. Many car accident victims, even those who did not suffer a serious injury, may notice some lingering pain the next day. They may have some bruising, especially around the location of their seatbelts at the time of the accident. Sometimes, however, soreness may turn into something else.

How long should you feel sore after a car accident? Just as importantly, when should you contact your doctor about lingering symptoms or other problems you may experience? Read on for more information.

The Usual Duration of Car Accident Soreness

Pain provides valuable signals and information from your body. Pain tells you: “something went wrong” or “you need to pay attention to this.” During a car accident, your body experiences major trauma, You may tense up as you brace for impact, especially if you saw the accident coming. The accident may have tossed you around the car or left you with other minor injuries.

Sometimes, soreness from a car accident may linger for a matter of days. You may have relatively minor injuries and quickly go back to normal. Other times, however, soreness can linger for up to six weeks.

Soreness after a car accident could indicate several things, including:

  • Whiplash. You may suffer whiplash from the forceful, abrupt back and forth movement your neck suffers during the car accident. A car accident may strain the muscles around your neck. Whiplash can make it difficult to turn your head or to move your neck. You may have trouble facing in a certain direction or moving in specific ways. Often, the pain from whiplash can linger for several weeks after the accident. When in doubt, see a chiropractor or doctor to help treat symptoms of whiplash.
  • Muscle strains and sprains. Often, muscle strains and sprains occur during a car accident. Minor strains may result in tender, painful muscles, while more severe strains may result in a temporary loss of strength in the affected muscle. Time can help heal many severe strains and sprains, especially if you remain under a doctor’s care. In severe cases, it can take weeks or even months to heal sprains. Sometimes, a sprain can be more severe than a broken bone. You may want to pursue treatment if the pain lingers or seems to get worse over time, even if you did not pursue treatment immediately after the accident.
  • Bruising. After a severe car accident, you may have substantial bruising. Many accident victims have bruises from seatbelts. Often, items flying around the car can also cause bruising and minor contusions. Sometimes, severe bruises can limit mobility or cause ongoing pain. Bruises may need to go through several stages of healing and may take a long time to heal completely. You should, however, notice a significant reduction in pain within a few weeks of your auto accident.

When to See Your Doctor After a Car Accident

Ideally, you should visit an emergency room or urgent care center after any serious car accident for a full evaluation of your symptoms. Often, you will not show symptoms of a serious injury until well after the initial accident. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury, serious contusions, internal bleeding, and even broken bones may not seem obvious immediately after the accident, especially if coursing adrenaline makes you feel fine.

In some cases, however, you may choose not to go to the emergency room. You may want to avoid expensive medical bills, or you may hope to go on with your day as normal despite the accident.

Then you start to notice symptoms creeping in.

Do you need to see a doctor? Make sure you visit the doctor promptly any time you face these symptoms.

1. You have unexpected or sharp pain, or your pain increases unexpectedly.

Your pain should feel most severe within a few days after the accident. While you may expect some pain in the weeks following your accident, you should see pain steadily resolving, rather than getting worse. If you notice sharp pain or pain that increases unexpectedly, see a doctor promptly.

2. You experience significant sleep disturbances.

You may want to sleep more than usual in the days immediately following your accident, especially if you have serious injuries or your doctor prescribes pain medication that makes you drowsy. If you notice yourself sleeping substantially more than usual, unable to stay awake, or that others have trouble waking you, you may want to visit your doctor to make sure that you do not have more serious injuries than you initially thought.

If you struggle to sleep at all following your accident, you may also want to see your doctor. Sleep disturbances could indicate traumatic brain injury.

3. You feel nauseous, dizzy, or suffer from severe vertigo.

You may feel a little nauseous or unsteady as adrenaline fades immediately after the accident. If your symptoms worsen, or you find yourself vomiting at all, you should go to an emergency room for evaluation. You may have a head injury, internal bleeding, or serious injuries that you did not recognize at the time of the accident.

4. You have persistent, ongoing pain that interferes with your usual daily activities.

Immediately after your accident, you may expect some minor pain that interferes with your ability to go on with business as usual. You may feel some minor pain and trauma related to the accident, which you can usually overcome. Soreness may get better as you move around or work to improve your strength and flexibility following the accident.

Persistent, ongoing pain, however, may not get better.

You may put weight on your foot only to discover a sharp, shooting pain in your ankle or knee that prevents you from bearing weight on that limb. Despite repeated attempts to move past the pain or continue the activity, you may still find yourself struggling. Likewise, you may experience lower back pain that gets worse throughout the day, although you spend most of the day sitting behind your desk. You may have trouble getting up and moving around or notice pain steadily worsening despite your best efforts to control it.

If you notice pain steadily getting worse, rather than improving, you may have an injury that requires treatment. The longer you wait to deal with the potential impacts of that injury, the more your injury could worsen. Addressing that injury with your doctor as soon as possible can make it easier for you to receive the treatment you need.

5. You notice problems with your short-term memory.

If you walked away from your car accident without seeking medical treatment, you may have a traumatic brain injury and not know it. Any time you lose consciousness during a car accident, you should receive an evaluation from a medical professional to rule out traumatic brain injury and ensure that you receive prompt treatment. Unfortunately, sometimes, you may not recognize symptoms of traumatic brain injury until considerably after your accident.

Pay attention to problems with short-term memory, focus, and concentration. You may, for example, find yourself struggling to remember how to complete tasks that you usually complete with ease, or checking the same drawer repeatedly while searching the kitchen for an item. Sometimes, you may even find yourself searching for an item in the entirely wrong location.

If you find your short-term memory deteriorating or you have ongoing problems with normal activities, you may need to see your doctor to rule out a traumatic brain injury. Not only can a doctor diagnose and treat your injuries, but also working with an occupational therapist can help you cope with those losses and give you a better idea of what to expect moving forward.

6. You have bloody urine or stool.

Unexpected blood could indicate serious organ trauma, which you need to have dealt with by a medical professional as soon as possible.

7. You experience unexpected, ongoing headaches.

You may have minor headaches in the days immediately after your accident due to muscle stiffness, especially if you regularly have tension headaches anyway. If you have severe, ongoing headaches, however, especially if you notice those headaches getting worse instead of resolving, you may need to see your doctor to rule out a traumatic brain injury.

8. You have problems with your hearing and/or vision.

Hearing and vision problems may indicate traumatic brain injury or other very serious injuries related to your accident. Any time you notice a sharp decrease in your hearing or vision following an accident, you should see your doctor to rule out more serious injuries. Do not wait to see a doctor if you notice a decline in hearing or vision, because it could worsen over time.

9. You have trouble in the bathroom.

Organ trauma could result in difficulty urinating or passing a bowel movement. See your doctor any time you have trouble in the bathroom after a car accident, including difficulty urinating.

If you start experiencing any severe or unexplained symptoms, you should always consult your doctor to rule out serious medical difficulties. Your doctor can let you know whether you need to take any further action or receive treatment for your injuries.

What Happens if You Wait to Visit the Doctor?

You should always see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident. You may need ambulance transport from the accident scene, especially if you have serious, obvious injuries. You may choose to visit the hospital emergency room or to go to an urgent care clinic. Some people, however, choose not to visit the doctor immediately. What happens next?

You may miss out on immediate treatment for serious injuries.

Adrenaline from your accident can hide the immediate effects of your injuries. You may not fully feel the pain of your accident immediately, or you may not notice the source of the pain immediately. Unfortunately, this can cause you to miss out on immediate treatment for even serious injuries.

Sometimes, your injuries can worsen due to lack of treatment. For example, walking on a broken bone in your leg can cause you to worsen the damage over time, leading to more serious injury. In addition to worsening the break, you may cause torn ligaments, tendons, or muscles as you wait. Other serious injuries can also worsen without adequate treatment.

You may not have proof of when the injuries occurred.

As you file your car accident claim to receive compensation for your medical bills and expenses associated with your accident, you may need to prove when your injuries occurred—that the party that caused your accident also caused your injuries. If you walked away from the scene of the accident, you may find yourself struggling to prove that you suffered those injuries in your car accident.

Going to the emergency room or an urgent care center immediately after your accident can provide a much-needed record of exactly when your injuries took place, which may make it easier for you to seek compensation through a car accident claim later.

You may delay your recovery.

Injuries do not just disappear if you ignore them. Rather, they will get worse. If they do heal, they may heal wrong, leaving you with additional complications later. If you wait to seek treatment, you may have to go through additional treatments. You may have to spend more time out of work, or you may miss more time in your favorite occupations. Not only that, but also you may have more expensive medical bills or longer-term problems with your injuries.

Attorney John Gomez

Car Accident Attorney, John Gomez

Any time you suffer injuries after a car accident, including delayed injuries that do not present immediately, contact an attorney. An attorney can provide you with a full assessment of your legal rights following an accident and give you a better idea of what to expect as you file a car accident claim. Your attorney will guide you through the complex legal process and protect your right to compensation.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, Ca 92101
619-237-3490

Posted in: Auto Accidents
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