You are stopped at a red light, waiting to make a left turn, or inching along in traffic, when another driver strikes your vehicle from behind.
You get out of your car and – in the moment — everyone seems to be “okay.” No blood or broken bones. You’re more worried about the damage to your car. Only later do you feel a stiff neck, or numbness, or dizziness, or splitting headache. These symptoms should not be ignored. They could be a sign of serious underlying injury. And failing to seek medical attention can cause lasting harm to your health – as well as your legal claims.
Any sudden jolt from behind can cause serious harm
At full speed, a rear-end collision can be catastrophic or fatal. But even at relatively low speeds, a crash can cause serious and even life-altering injuries. The human spine can absorb only so much energy.
- The muscles and ligaments of the neck are especially vulnerable to whiplash sprain.
- The brain can be jostled by the whip-sawing action as the head and neck is jerked backwards at impact and then forward, resulting in concussion.
- Even with airbags, drivers and passengers may suffer injuries to the sternum or ribs that are not outwardly visible or even apparent on X-rays.
Seek treatment if you have any soreness or symptoms
There are two main problems with injuries in a rear-end collision: (a) They often are “invisible” injuries and (b) the pain and disability may be delayed. Unfortunately, this makes it more difficult to secure compensation. Insurance companies are skeptical of soft-tissue injury claims. They will argue that you don’t look injured. They will take advantage of the fact that you didn’t need an ambulance or seek medical attention immediately after the accident. They will take note if you continued working and engaging in day-to-day activities.
It is important to go to a doctor and get checked out for concussion, whiplash and other injuries. That “minor injury” could be more serious spinal injury, such as a fractured vertebrae or dislocated neck. Timely treatment may reduce the damage and speed the healing.
Many victims of rear-end collisions and other car accidents make the mistake of thinking “it will get better.” They don’t go to a doctor until two weeks or a month later when the pain has persisted or worsened. It will be harder to prove the causal connection if there was no earlier report of injury or medical treatment. The insurance company may deny the claim outright or try to pressure you into a lower settlement.
Don’t take chances with your health or your legal case
The better move is to assume you have some level of soft-tissue damage and seek medical attention as soon as feasible. If the doctor says all you need is rest and ibuprofen, you will have peace of mind. The doctor may order X-rays and an MRI as a precaution. If there is lasting injury, you may need chiropractic care, a neck brace, surgery or other intervention.
Medical bills and lost time from work can add up, especially if you need ongoing treatment or can’t return to your job for a while. A good personal injury lawyer will provide a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.