For those who have experienced a car accident, the event may just be one of the most stressful and terrifying moments of their lives. The seconds that seem to last forever while bracing for impact are as surreal as they are unforgettable. The physical, emotional, and financial stress following an accident can also have a long-lasting impact on injured victims.
Experienced car accident attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. Even minor accidents can cause serious injuries with lasting pain. The time required for an injured accident victim to fully recover will depend. How the accident happened and the severity of the injuries suffered will undoubtedly affect an individual’s recovery process.
The Physics of a Car Accident
The laws of physics apply to anyone traveling in a motor vehicle. At a basic level, the applicable laws of physics include:
- An object at rest (or in motion) will remain at rest (or remain in motion)until an unbalanced force acts upon it.
- Force equals mass times acceleration.
- For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In a car accident, all of these factors come into play. The human body is not designed to withstand the sheer amount of force caused by a collision between vehicles traveling at high speeds. When traveling at excessive speeds in a motor vehicle, passengers are subject to the same laws of physics that keep the vehicle driving forward.
In a collision, a vehicle hits another vehicle, roadside object, or person. The speed and mass of the vehicle at the time of the collision will determine the force of the impact. During a collision, the forces of the impact will be exerted onto the passengers inside the vehicle.
As mentioned above, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, the action associated with the impact of a collision will produce an equal and opposite reaction. Passengers in a car accident will experience reactive forces with equal and opposite force of the initial impact of the collision.
To protect the human body during impact, cars are equipped with safety devices such as selt belts and airbags. Safety equipment is intended to absorb the force of the impact, protecting passengers from suffering extensive injuries. However, in the most severe accidents, safety equipment may fail to protect passengers from the external and reactive forces of a collision. The forces at play in a head-on collision, rollover, or high-speed crash may be unavoidable, leaving individuals extremely vulnerable. Serious accidents typically cause severe injuries, which may include cuts, bruising, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries.
What Happens to the Body
In the event of a car accident, in most cases, the body will tense up to respond to the impending impact. The body’s muscles contract as a result of a natural reflex caused by the body’s increased production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Signaled by adrenaline, the body tenses up to increase the strength of the muscles in preparation for a physical force. Increased adrenaline also diminishes the sensations of pain and reduces fine motor skills. Blood pressure increases, cortisol is pumped into your brain by your endocrine system, and your body is basically on lockdown, bracing for the impact.
Self-preservation, created through hundreds and thousands of years of evolution, refers to the development of bodily functions designed to ensure human survival. Self-preservation includes our body’s flight or fight response that dangerous situations trigger. However, despite the activation of the body’s flight response in a car accident, the body can’t fully protect itself against the impacts of a high-speed collision.
While the body does receive some protection from the activation of its flight response system, the increased production of hormones can also produce adverse consequences. High cortisol levels in the brain can cause stress and anxiety. Increased adrenaline can result in sore muscles—the hormone causes the muscles to instantly contract, exerting excessive physical strain on the body. While the adrenaline remains in the body, we do not feel the pain associated with the injuries and physical strain our body endured. However, as the hormone levels begin to normalize, we become acutely aware of the pain caused by an accident.
Severity of an Accident
As mentioned, even minor accidents can cause severe injuries. For example, even a fender bender may trigger our body’s self-preservation function exerting major physical strain on the body. In some car accident cases, individual’s self-preservation reactions are so forceful they can snap their brake pedals. The muscles tighten to protect themselves from the impending impact—increasing individual strength. The skeletal system also reacts to prepare for the force, for example, your jaw may become clinched and your neck rigid. The muscular and skeletal systems work together to withstand the impending impact, even if that impact is only a minor fender bender.
In more serious accidents resulting in broken bones, lacerations, contusions, or brain injury, the body undergoes a significant number of changes. Brain bruising, pressure from sheared blood vessels or arterial bleeding, and organ and tissue damage will eventually result in pain. Pain is our body signaling that we should remove ourselves from danger. Additionally, pain indicates the body requires healing and recovery. The duration of the healing process will vary depending on the individual and their specific injuries.
Your Nervous System
Nerve damage may have an impact on an individual’s level of pain. In spinal injuries, nerves may be severed resulting in a loss of the body’s ability to feel pain. In other cases, nerve damage may increase an individual’s ability to sense pain, enhancing it. When your body feels soreness, that feeling comes from your nerves. Your nervous system allows your brain to interpret external information and translate it into an appropriate way to respond.
When you are in a minor accident and experience a lot of soreness, it is your nervous system still working with the brain to heal those damaged areas. Once the damaged areas are healed, the nerves stop signaling the brain to feel pain. Nerves are highly specialized cells, and when they become damaged, the recovery process can be extensive. And in some cases, nerve damage may be permanent, causing injured victims pain for the rest of their lives.
An individual’s physical condition and health before an accident play a significant role in their ability to recover from pain and soreness. Physically fit individuals can typically respond to injury and heal more quickly than individuals who are not in shape. Recovery times may be shorter as a result. Simply having a higher pain tolerance might improve the chances of recovery from soreness after an accident. Health conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases might extend the length of soreness after an accident.
Of course, the severity of the accident will impact an individual’s recovery process. In addition, the area of the body that is impacted may be more difficult to heal than other areas.
Talk to a Professional
If you continue to feel sore for an extended period of time following an accident, talk to your doctor. Treatment for long-term soreness may include pain management medication, stretching, or physical therapy. However, lasting soreness might indicate a more serious health condition. From a fender bender to a head-on collision, almost every accident can cause those involved to experience varying levels of soreness. Soreness typically goes away after a few weeks, but the severity of your injury can extend that much further, if not make it a permanent condition.
If you have been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to contact us to see what an attorney can do for you.