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Why isn’t my headache going away after my car accident?

Post-traumatic headaches are sadly common after auto accidents; learn what they are and what you can do if they persist


Headaches are one of the most disabling injuries people have after car accidents. As an attorney and the Chair-Elect of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, I focus my law practice on helping many people with brain injuries, headaches, and fatigue, get better.   Unfortunately, they often don’t. Headaches commonly persist for many of the car accident survivors I represent, and they can be very difficult to treat. People often wonder why they aren’t getting any better, even after physical injuries have long-resolved.

Headaches can be painful and debilitating. Neurologists and injury attorneys often refer to headaches after motor vehicle accidents as “post-traumatic headaches,” because they begin to occur after a traumatic event, most notably a crash. These headaches can start immediately after a collision or begin within hours or even days, as the brain undergoes chemical changes following trauma.

And the severity of headaches is not always determined by the severity of the crash. Severe headaches can result from relatively low-impact or low-speed accidents. Often, the head position can play an important role, as can age, gender and any past history of concussion or brain injury.

A person who suffers from post-traumatic headaches may experience these headaches only occasionally, or they can be constant. If headaches occur 15 or more days a month for at least three months, they’re considered “chronic.” If they occur fewer than 15 times in a month, they’re considered “episodic.”

How can a car accident cause headaches?

During a car accident, an injury victim may suffer a blow to the head, or a violent shaking of the brain even without a blow to the head.

Post-traumatic headaches can also be commonly found after rear-end collisions, where the accident victim’s head and neck is violently whipped back and forth (also called whiplash).

Why you shouldn’t ignore a headache

While some headaches are mild and may resolve with no lasting side effects, post traumatic headaches are often the sign of something more serious, such as a traumatic brain injury, concussion and closed-head injury.

It’s always best to seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you think your headaches aren’t a big deal and will go away on their own in the days following a motor vehicle crash.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your headaches that could be indicative of a serious head and brain injury:

  • Is there dull, aching head pain?
  • Is there a sensation of tightness or pressure across the forehead or on the sides and back of the head?
  • Is there tenderness on the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles?
  • Do you have a loss of appetite?
  • Do you feel nauseous or dizzy?
  • Did you experience a loss of consciousness at the car accident scene?
  • Are you experiencing mood swings or changes in your personality?

As an injury attorney, I’m always amazed what a spouse, significant other or family member tells me when I start asking about headaches. The tendency of so many lawyers and doctors is to focus on the obvious injuries, like broken limbs, bleeding or soft-tissue neck and back injuries. Headaches are usually ignored unless you specifically report them to your doctor. And in our managed care world, it can often take six months or longer for a primary doctor to write a referral script to a neurologist.

Typically, doctors will first treat an auto accident victim’s post-traumatic headaches with medication.

Treatment for other personal injuries may have a secondary effect of also helping to improve post-traumatic headaches. For more information, here’s a webpage our attorneys wrote on headache treatment after an automobile accident.

What are my legal rights if I have headaches after a car crash?

Every injury, every person and every car accident case is different. That being said, many lawyers will not take cases or bring a lawsuit for pain and suffering if you have headaches only. They feel these “invisible” injury cases are too hard to prove in court.  But as I discussed above, headaches are often the first symptom of TBI, concussion, or other serious closed-head injuries.

If you live in Michigan, you may also be able to recover Michigan No Fault benefits for all of your car accident-related injuries, which include headaches. Your No Fault insurance benefits include reimbursement of medical care and mileage, lost wages for the time you missed from work, and even nursing services and help around the house.

Feel free to call one of our attorneys at (800) 777-0028 if you have more questions about your headaches and your potential legal remedies. You don’t have to face this alone. We’re happy to help and there’s absolutely no charge for us to review your circumstances.

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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