What to Expect Physically After a Car Accident

There are various stages of bodily reactions to being in a car crash. The stages include immediate effects, the first 24 hours, one week, and long-term effects.

Immediate Effects

You might be surprised to learn that right after a car accident, you may feel a burst of energy or start hysterically laughing because you survived a near-miss with death. This reaction comes from a surge of adrenaline that gives you emergency strength.

Adrenaline is a powerful hormone produced by the human body when under stress. It may cover pain, so you do not notice how injured you are at first. Adrenaline makes your heart pump blood faster and raises the level of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a sugar that gives you an instant boost of energy.

You should seek proper medical attention after a serious car crash, even if you think you are perfectly unharmed because some soft tissue injuries will not show symptoms immediately.

The First 24 Hours

Many symptoms will appear during the first 24 hours, including swelling and bruising, headaches, mental issues, and back, shoulder, or neck pain.

Swelling and Bruising

The swelling occurs during the first 20 minutes after a trauma injury. Swelling may continue for the first 24 hours, causing many aches and pains. Swelling may lead to bruising if blood vessels experience damage.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain may be a sign of internal bleeding. A seatbelt and airbag may save your life, but they also cause injuries. Trauma to the stomach is a problem that may come from wearing seatbelts.


Headaches are very common during the first 24 hours after an accident. You may go to sleep feeling fine and then wake up with a terrible headache the next morning. Headaches may come from back, shoulder, or neck injuries, including whiplash. A traumatic brain injury or a concussion might cause a serious headache.

Mental Issues

Mental issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety may present themselves during the first 24 hours or later. These mental conditions may continue to be a problem based on what triggers them. The triggers might be a sight, smell, loud noise, or something that reminds a person of a terrible car accident, especially one that includes fatalities.

If you see someone die in a car accident, this may create very negative survivor’s guilt, which is feeling guilty that you survived, even if the accident was not your fault.

Back, Shoulder, or Neck Pain

Pain in your back that radiates up your shoulder to involve your neck may cause a sympathetic headache. Some back and neck pain develops as the swelling gets worse. You may have damage to the spinal cord or vertebrae, such as a herniated disc that gets worse as more swelling occurs.

The First Week After an Accident

During the first week after an accident, pain may come from various places. The pain may worsen due to stress, muscle tension, nerve damage, sprains, and injuries to the muscles, tendons, and joints.

Tingling Sensations or Numbness

There might be some nerve and tissue damage if you notice a tingling sensation or lose the feeling in an area due to numbness. Damage to the back, shoulders, or neck may cause a tingling sensation in other parts of the body, like the hands and feet.

Longer-Term Effects

The things described above may also show up or continue as a long-term effect. Car accidents may cause many injuries that create chronic pain.

Mood Changes

Emotional problems may accompany physical issues. A person experiencing severe lifestyle changes may also experience depression, anxiety, and mood changes after a serious car accident. Paranoia and phobias may develop.

Brain Injuries

An accident may make you feel foggy-headed with less ability to concentrate than normal. If you have a brain injury, you may have blurry vision or feel dizzy.


Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears that may come from getting a concussion in a car accident.

Contact an Attorney

This summary of some of the things you may experience from a car accident demonstrates why it is important to have a personal injury attorney who understands the types of injuries that might occur and can seek just compensation for them as part of your claim. Call (281) 475-4535 to get a free consultation with an attorney specializing in car accident injuries.