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Symptoms to Look Out for After a Car Accident

Man holding neck in pain after a car accident.

Accidents are sudden, violent events that can leave a person shaken and fearful. Unless the crash is truly devastating though, many people may not realize they are injured until later.

Injury symptoms from a car accident can take up to 24 hours or more to manifest. We covered the reason for this in a previous blog post.

Unless a person becomes unconscious or suffers a broken limb, it is not usually obvious that they are hurt until hours or days later.

That's why it's important to get medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident. Waiting too long can put your health – and your right to compensation – at risk.

Symptoms Immediately After a Car Accident

Sometimes symptoms are immediately apparent after a violent car crash. They may even include injuries that sometimes take longer to manifest themselves, such as a concussion or soft tissue damage. If you have visible injuries at the scene of the crash, take pictures to document your injuries for your doctor and the insurance company.

Facial Injuries

Injuries to the face can be painful and traumatizing. They are often the result of hitting the steering wheel, airbag, car door, or loose objects. Facial skin, teeth, bone, and other sensitive organs may be damaged.

Cuts and Scrapes

Cuts and scrapes are one of the most obvious signs of injury after a wreck. Deep cuts may need stitches, and scrapes may require bandages. Loose teeth and broken bones will require surgery. Check yourself over after an accident, especially any part of the skin that was exposed.


Burn injuries may result from a car catching on fire or hot oils or gases dripping onto a person. Burns often result in severe pain, scarring, and disfigurement. They may require extensive treatment and psychological counseling, especially if the face is injured. The severity of a burn can range from first-degree to fourth-degree.

Delayed Car Accident Symptoms - 24-48 Hours

You walked away from the wreck feeling fine, but now you realize something is seriously wrong. You feel tired, you are sleeping more, or maybe have stomach pain and a fever. There are several possible reasons for these symptoms:


A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happens when the brain slams against the interior of the skull. This can happen as a result of a blow to the head or the head jerking violently forward or backward due to the force of the crash.

Signs you have a concussion may include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Slow response time
  • Sensitivity to bright lights/loud noises
  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Memory loss

Concussions should never be dismissed. Even a mild TBI can impact a person for the rest of his or her life and can grow worse if left untreated. Concussion symptoms arise within a few days or weeks — see a doctor immediately if you're experiencing any of these symptoms so they can check to make sure nothing else is wrong.


Also called neck strain or neck sprain, whiplash usually occurs after a rear-end crash. The victim experiences a sharp back-and-forth motion of the neck. Sometimes a whiplash injury and a concussion are caused by the same wreck.

The difference between the two injuries is that whiplash impacts the soft tissue of the neck. The pain comes from the overextension of nerves, muscles, and spinal joints. Common symptoms include:

  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Numbness in the arms or hands

Recovery time varies between a few days to several months, depending on the severity of the tear. This is another reason why it's important to never settle with the insurance company and accept a check immediately after a wreck — you may be more hurt than you realized and need more treatment.

Internal Organ Damage

A serious symptom of a collision is delayed abdominal pain. This could potentially signal internal damage to your organs or ribcage. If left untreated, the damage could be life-threatening. Signs of internal organ damage after a car accident include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Deep purple bruising
  • Stomach pain
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

Abdominal pain or swelling may be signs of internal bleeding. Symptoms may present hours or days after a crash. If you suspect internal damage to your kidneys, liver, lungs, or other organs, go to the doctor or emergency room immediately. Failure to get medical treatment could lead to sepsis, coma, or death.

Delayed Car Accident Symptoms - Several Days or More

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries refer to damaged muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It includes whiplash, as well as other types of injuries:

  • Sprains are injuries to ligaments, thin bands of tissue that connect bones together.
  • Strains are injuries to muscles and tendons. These tissues connect muscle to bone.
  • Contusions, also known as bruises, happen when muscle fibers are damaged. They can also affect the brain.

Soft tissue damage may cause pain or discomfort, varying from person to person. Soft tissue injury symptoms may present with swelling, stiffness, and discoloration. It can take time for these types of injuries to appear. Sprains and strains typically affect the ankles, knees, wrists, and shoulders.

One of the most common types of soft tissue injuries affects the back muscles and spinal discs. Back pain can be caused by torn or inflamed muscles or bulging or herniated discs.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Psychological trauma is a common symptom after a car accident. Wrecks are violent, traumatic events that leave their victims fearful and in pain. It is a legitimate disorder recognized by the medical community. PTSD can have a severe and debilitating impact on a person's quality of life.

People who suffer from PTSD after a wreck may experience flashbacks of the incident if they see a crash or hear about one on the news. It may also cause them to avoid people or places that remind them of the accident. PTSD can even keep them from driving at all.

Other PTSD symptoms caused by a car accident include:

  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping pattern changes
  • Eating habit changes
  • Negative thinking
  • Hopelessness
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Easily startled
  • Severe anxiety
  • Recklessness

PTSD can show up days, weeks, months, or years later. Because it is a psychological disorder, it is complicated to treat. Therapy techniques include talking or writing about the experience, eye movement therapy, and anti-depressants.

Protect Yourself Legally With an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been in a crash, do not wait to feel hurt to get checked out by a doctor. Not only could this save your life, but it can also save your personal injury claim. Waiting to see the doctor or go to the emergency room, even just a day or two after a wreck, could negatively impact an injury claim — the insurance company may try to argue you aren't as hurt as you claim to be.

Remember, your body is more important than your car. Take care of yourself first.

After that, give our car accident lawyers at Gary Martin Hays a call to discuss your injuries and case. Insurance companies purposely make accident cases complicated and may pressure you to accept a check or claim responsibility for the wreck. Don't rush to settle your claim before all the facts are available. The money may seem good now, but it is often less than you deserve.

Our team can help get you the maximum medical treatment you need to feel better. When you hire us, you don't have to worry about bill collectors or insurance costs. We work hard to get you the full settlement that you are entitled to so that you aren't saddled by financial debt and stress.

Contact Us

(770) 934-8000


Further Reading

The Reason Why You Sometimes Don't Feel Pain Immediately After a Wreck

What to Do About Neck Pain After a Wreck

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