The Invisible Injuries of Auto Accidents

Aside from the frantic rush hour commute to work or the crazy dash for the school run, most of us consider driving a relaxing, leisurely experience. And it is, right up until the unthinkable happens.

Spend long enough on the road and your statistical likelihood of a collision will increase incrementally. In fact, the Association for Safe International Road Travel estimates that around 2.35 million people are injured in auto accidents every year and the insurance industry estimates that you’ll file an insurance claim for a collision once every 17.9 years.

When you’ve been involved in a traffic collision, you know the incredible stress and emotional damage involved but today we’re going to go into a little detail pertaining to the physical injuries that many of us endure in traffic collisions that we may not be immediately aware of.

The big stuff like broken bones or a shard of windshield stuck in your arm are obvious and immediately treatable but you may have endured injuries that could take you weeks or months to identify by which time they’ll have been exacerbated causing you undue pain and potential disability.

The psychological and emotional effects

The psychological effects of a collision are easily overlooked but in the long term could prove far more damaging than that shard of glass in your arm. Post accident depression is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  which could have very real and damaging psychological and psychosomatic effects such as:

  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • Flights of anger
  • A pervasive sense of guilt

These debilitating factors could make the prospect of getting back into a car extremely daunting. As a result of this you may even find yourself having to take more time off work, which can be financially damaging and cause yet more stress and emotional trauma. In this case it’s worth talking to a personal injury lawyer, we recommend Tom Kiley injury lawyers, to try and mitigate any financial issues caused by loss of earnings and to secure the best possible chance of a compensatory award that will help to take the edge off the emotional stress caused.

Needless to say you should also seek psychiatric help from your doctor to address these symptoms with either cognitive therapy, medication or a combination of the two.


Because of the rise in personal injury claims over the past few decades, whiplash has developed some very unfortunate connotations to the point where some are afraid to seek a diagnosis for fear of being accused of hopping on a multi-million dollar “gravy train”.

The reality is that Whiplash is a potentially damaging condition that is undetectable at the time of incident that can become severe if untreated. In an auto collision neck gets thrown backwards then forward very quickly. In some severe cases spinal nerves and joints can be damaged but most injury occurs to the ligaments, muscles and tendons.

When not treated properly symptoms and chronic pain can persist with up to 50% of whiplash victims never making a full recovery.

While it may take days or even weeks for the muscular pain and stiffness associated with whiplash to manifest you should seek medical attention as soon as they present. Don’t just shrug it off or assume it will go away. An X-ray should be taken to rule out fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae, and in more severe cases an MRI or CT scan of the neck and head may help to diagnose potentially any torn ligaments, spinal cord damage or herniated discs

A course of physical therapy should be sought immediately following these initial checks to improve the symptoms as quickly as possible by stretching and mobilizing the muscles of the neck. Not only will this stabilize and eventually eliminate the symptoms, it will reduce the risk of recurring injury.

In the longer term you may want to pursue a course of massage therapy to reduce muscular inflammation, reduce muscular spasming and promote the relaxation that will also help to ease some of the psychological effects. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture may also reduce pain and inflammation while also releasing healing endorphins and serotonin.


Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), commonly known as concussion, is another invisible but damaging effect of injury. While concussion is usually identified by medical professionals at the point of injury its effects are often overlooked. A Grade 1 injury may result in some confusion and disorientation that passes after a few minutes, whereas a Grade 3 injury can result in loss of consciousness and / or memory.

If left untreated a MTBI can cause permanent disruption of normal brain activity. If you find yourself increasingly distracted, irritable or prone to mood swings following the incident it is recommended that you seek medical help immediately.

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