Car accidents are all too common on Florida roadways. During one recent year, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) recorded more than 250,000 injuries sustained during a car accident on Florida roadways. This is a staggering number, and for victims, this meant injuries ranging from minor to serious. What is always concerning is the aches and pain after being involved in a car accident—it is often difficult to determine what is “normal” pain and what may need to be followed up with a doctor.
Keep in mind that during a car accident our bodies flood with adrenaline that often masks injuries. This adrenaline “high” also means the day following a car accident will be filled with minor aches and pains as your system returns to normal. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to how long you will continue to suffer from minor aches and pains after an accident, there are several factors that will play a role.
Factors Impacting Pain After Car Accidents
Every person is unique, so recovery from injuries sustained in a car accident depend on the individual. Several other factors will determine how quickly you recover, including:
- Speed of vehicles involved – Two cars striking each other when they are going 20 miles per hour will result in lesser injuries than two cars traveling 65 miles per hour. The faster the vehicles are traveling, the more serious the injuries are likely to be.
- Types of vehicles involved – Should both vehicles be of similar size, the impact is still enough to cause serious injury. However, should a car strike a motorcycle, the motorcycle operator is likely to suffer the more serious injury, even if they are at fault. In cases where a tractor trailer is involved, regardless of the size of the other vehicle involved, the smaller vehicle occupants and driver will be more seriously injured.
- Safety equipment use – When a car accident results in your airbags deploying, it is possible to suffer an injury caused by the airbag. Facial injuries, broken ribs, or other possible problems can occur. These injuries are almost always far less than if the car didn’t have airbags or if they didn’t properly deploy. This is also true with seatbelts, which can cause injuries—but while preventing far worse bodily damage.
- Location of impact – If you suffered an injury from a rear-end collision the injury recovery time would likely be different than if you were hurt during a side collision or a head-on wreck. Different impact points often result in different injuries that will impact your recovery time.
- Types of injuries – A head injury could take a few weeks, or months before you start feeling like yourself. A simple broken bone could take upwards of six weeks before you are feeling better. The nature of the injuries you sustain will determine how long your recovery should be expected to last. The more serious the injury, the more discomfort you are likely to feel.
- Your individual resilience – Those who have physical challenges will take longer to recover from an injury. In general, you can expect a child to recover faster than a senior. Those who have a comprised immune system could develop complications from an injury received in a car accident. Your overall physical and emotional health could also play a role in your recovery time.
Types of Injuries and Estimated Recovery Times
Naturally, the more serious an injury, the longer it will take before you recover. If you have no additional injuries outside of bumps and bruising, you will probably feel more like yourself within a few days. However, some injuries will require a longer recovery time, which means you are likely to suffer some ongoing discomfort.
- Soft tissue injuries – Soft tissue includes ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Every car accident involves some amount of force that can have an impact on your body including your joints. Whiplash is the most common type of soft tissue injury. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, treatment of whiplash is typically a few weeks but, the discomfort can last for as long as three months and for some, soreness could last much longer.
- Concussion injuries – Concussions are common after a car accident and can range from being mild or serious. A concussion occurs when your brain hits in the inside of your skull when your body is jolted. Victims can experience serious symptoms including blurry vision, headaches, nausea, and dizziness immediately following a concussion. However, long-term problems including lack of energy, abnormal sleep patterns, and inability to concentrate could indicate a more serious problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a mild concussion typically takes a couple of weeks before full recovery. However, for more serious traumatic brain injuries, recovery can take months, or longer and in some instances, victims may never fully recover.
- Facial injuries – Whenever you bang your face against your steering wheel or your airbag deploys, you could suffer from various facial injuries. While in many cases these injuries may result in simple bruising that could take a week or so to recover from, if you have cuts, scrapes, or other abrasions you could suffer discomfort for upwards of a month or more.
- Ribs and clavicle injuries – A broken collarbone or broken ribs can be extremely painful and recovery from these injuries can be very slow. Broken collarbones may require surgery and recovery can take as long as nine months. Broken ribs can cause ongoing pain for several weeks up to several months depending on the severity of the break.
- Broken limb injuries – Should you suffer a broken arm or leg during a car accident, you will be facing several weeks of discomfort including the need for a cast. In some instances, the broken bone may require surgical intervention as well.
The recovery time for other injuries is difficult. For example, a back injury or neck injury could cause you pain for your entire life in some form or another. Victims of car accidents should also not overlook the psychological injuries that can result from a car accident. While these may not cause physical pain, they are just as damaging.
Keeping Healthy Following a Car Accident
Victims of car accidents need to maintain their physical and mental health. Any unusual symptoms should be reported to your primary care physician and any serious pain should result in you seeking immediate medical attention. Remember, your body has been through a very traumatic experience and in most instances, only time will help you recover.
Victims of a car accident often feel the need to “prove” they are feeling better and try to return to work or normal activities as quickly as possible. This is often a mistake, particularly if you have internal injuries that may not manifest themselves for a few days. Most of the time, it is a good idea to at least remain away from strenuous activities for at least a couple of days after a car accident to make sure you do not have any injury that could lead to long-term complications.
During the days following an accident, you should pay attention to what your body is telling you and ensure you are getting a proper amount of rest. Be aware of emotional changes as well because sudden bouts of irritability, being unable to focus on a task, or other issues may be signs of trauma that can be masked because of trauma.
The Truth About Recovery and Insurance Companies
When you initially speak with your insurance company, they will nearly always ask you a series of questions that on the surface may seem innocent. Use common sense and make sure you do not accept any responsibility for the accident, do not answer questions about how you are feeling, and use caution when answering all questions.
In fact, it is typically a good idea to let the insurance company know you will be seeking legal advice before addressing any of their questions. Above all, do not allow the insurance adjuster to record any answers, particularly if they are asking you about your physical health.
Once you have reported a car accident to your insurance company, chances are they will do their best to settle your claim quickly. Most insurance companies feel a quick settlement is better for their bottom line, and the fact is, they are correct. When you suffer any injury, judging your recovery time is nearly impossible because there are so many variables.
This means if you settle fast, the insurance company is not going to be responsible for additional medical bills, time lost from work, or other expenses you may incur while recovering. This is why you should never accept a first offer—the insurance company will make their lowest offer, and have you sign a waiver that indicates they are not responsible for any additional expenses after the date of acceptance.
Another common step an insurance company will make before offering a settlement is to scour your medical history. This tactic is to allow them the ability to determine what health issues you may have had before a car accident. For example, if you have had intermittent issues with back, shoulder, or neck pain the insurance company may try to deny your claim citing a pre-existing condition. While you may have a pre-existing condition, a car accident can exacerbate the condition and cause you further physical pain or discomfort.
Remember, while you have a contract with an insurance company, one that is established by your paying a premium and holding a valid policy, the insurance adjuster who is assigned your case has a directive to save the company money. The most common way to save money is to deny a claim, or to make you a low settlement offer as soon after the accident as possible. An experienced Florida car accident lawyer can help make sure you know your rights, and make sure the insurance company is not taking advantage of you while you recover from your injuries.
Seeking Legal Guidance After a Car Accident
There are several steps victims can and should take following a car accident to ensure their own safety. However, victims of car accidents should also contact an attorney. Typically, the best time to do this is after you have been treated by a doctor and after notifying your insurance company about the accident. The reason for this may not be immediately clear but having solid legal guidance can help you avoid problems with the insurance company.
Keep in mind, Florida is a no-fault insurance state, meaning any accident you are involved in is reported to your insurance company. Your insurer will be the one who is responsible for paying your claim and your policy limits will dictate how much they are willing to pay. Most drivers take only the minimum amounts of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which is $10,000. Those with serious injuries could find their medical bills and lost income is much higher than this amount.
There is never a guarantee that you can file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident because you must take several factors into consideration. However, because every accident is different, it is helpful to consult an attorney who has an in-depth understanding of Florida’s personal injury laws and how they factor into your specific situation. It is common for victims of a car accident to have several questions about their rights and obligations following a car accident and the best way to get those questions answered is to speak with a Florida car accident attorney.
Remember, initial consultations and case reviews are generally free, and if an attorney agrees to take your auto accident injury case, you do not have to worry about paying attorney fees until you have agreed to a settlement in your case. You have nothing to lose by contacting an attorney and having your case reviewed so you know what options are available.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765