Despite advancements in vehicle safety technologies, even seemingly minor car crashes may result in serious and life-altering injuries. In fact, an estimated 4.4 million Americans sustain some type of injury in car crashes on U.S. roadways every year.
Your brain may inadvertently try to trick you after a car accident. That is, the way your brain responds to stress may mask injury symptoms, causing you not to realize you have suffered bodily harm until hours or days later.
How your body’s stress response works
Your brain only has a couple options for dealing with stressful events: fight off the danger or run away from it. Either way, your brain tells your heart to increase blood flow to your muscles. It also uses your adrenal system to produce hormones that decrease your sensitivity to pain.
Put simply, until the stressful event subsides and your body processes return to normal, you may not experience the normal symptoms that often accompany car accident injuries.
Why you need medical care
Even if you feel little or no pain and have few other symptoms, a car crash may leave you with life-threatening internal injuries or other bodily damage. If you wait until symptoms appear, doctors may not have sufficient time to diagnose and treat your injuries. Delayed treatment may also contribute to additional injuries or other medical complications.
Because you cannot override your body’s automatic stress response, you may not be able to trust your brain to alert you to an accident-related injury. Consequently, even if you think you have escaped a car crash unscathed, it is critical for you both to seek emergency medical care and protect your right to financial compensation.