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Headache After Car Accident Won’t Go Away: Should I Be Concerned?

Headache After Car Accident: What You Need To Know

A constant headache after a car accident can be painful and debilitating.  They can frequently also be a symptom of another injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or concussion.   Timely medical attention and early documentation is crucial.  Accident victims need to know what to do if they have post traumatic headaches.

What causes a post traumatic headache after a car accident?

A headache after a car accident aka “post-traumatic headache” is caused by the trauma of being involved in a motor vehicle collision. These headaches are very painful and debilitating. Frequently, they present immediately, however, it is not uncommon for onset to be delayed hours or days after a car crash.


What to do if you have a constant headache after a car accident?

To ensure that you get the medical care and legal compensation you are entitled to, you should follow these steps on what to do if you are suffering from them:

  1. Get examined by your doctor immediately: Time is of the essence when it comes to properly diagnosing and documenting any headache after a crash. The sooner a person’s doctor knows that a person is suffering from one, the sooner he or she can begin receiving the necessary medical care to get them back on the road to good health.  Just as important, this also allows a treating doctor to rule in or rule out other potentially serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury.  Finally, as this injury is often an important symptom of a brain injury, early documentation of one can help if an insurance company later refuses to pay for necessary medical care because a diagnosis was made weeks or months afterward.  
  2. Don’t “tough it out”: No matter how much you hope they will get better, they could be a symptom of something more serious if it is not treated promptly and properly.
  3. Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people suffering from a headache after a car accident: They can use a car accident settlement calculator to help you evaluate what your case may be worth, and can help to make sure you are receiving the necessary treatment and care to make the best recovery possible.  Additionally, an experienced auto accident attorney will be able to advise you on how to notify your insurance company so that your injury is included in your claim for auto No-Fault insurance benefits.
  4. Tell your auto insurance company about them: Be sure to include your headaches in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the accident.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  5. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your motor vehicle crash: Until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests, do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.

Common causes

A constant headache after a car accident is common.  They are caused when a victim suffers trauma to the head or neck.  This can be a direct blow to the head, or it can be caused by a violent jolt to or shaking of their head from the forces of the collision. 

Common causes include:

  • Trauma that consists of the victim striking his or her head on the steering wheel, the dashboard, a window or any solid, immovable object.
  • Pinching of nerves in the spine and at the base of the skull.
  • Muscle injuries (including tears, strains and spasms) in the neck and upper back.
  • Fracture of the spine and/or skull.
  • Disc herniations or bulges of the spine.

Rear-end collisions, because of the way they cause a driver’s or passenger’s head and neck to violently whip forward and backward, can cause a post-traumatic headache after a car accident. This is why they are the one of the constellations of common symptoms of a “whiplash” injury.   However, they can also be a common symptom of a traumatic brain injury or a concussion.  Of course, they can also be considered a disabling and very painful injury on its own and they can result from trauma or violent shaking even if the victim does not suffer a concussion and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

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Can you get a headache after a minor car accident?

Yes. People frequently do report a headache even after a minor car accident. However, it is important to remember that the severity is not determined by the severity of the crash. Severe and debilitating headaches can result from relatively low-impact crashes.

Factors that can affect the severity include the injured person’s head position at the time of crash, gender, age, and past history of brain injury or concussion.

What are common symptoms?

A victim may begin suffering from a constant headache after a car accident right away.  

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Dull, aching head pain
  • Sensation of tightness or pressure across the forehead or on the sides and back of the head
  • Tenderness on the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Occasionally, loss of appetite


Below is a list of the different types of headaches – which neurologists would describe as “post-traumatic headaches” – that, for example, an auto accident victim may suffer from:

  • Post-concussive 
  • Musculoskeletal 
  • Muscle-contraction/spasm 
  • Chronic facial pain 
  • Nerve dysfunction 
  • Occipital neuralgia 
  • Vascular 
  • Migraine 
  • Cervical Thoracic somatic dysfunction 
  • Constant daily headaches
  • Tension-type 
  • Cluster 
  • Whiplash or coup-contrecoup 
  • Bone-fracture-related

Can a headache after a car accident be a migraine?

Yes. A migraine headache after a car accident is common.  Symptoms may include: nausea (sometimes with vomiting); light sensitivity; visual disturbances such as blind spots and flashing lights; sound sensitivity; sensitivity to certain smells and movement; clouded thoughts; memory loss; confusion; irritability; anxiety; depression; sleep problems; dizziness; balance problems; and ringing in the ears.

Why you shouldn’t ignore

Regardless of when they start – whether it is immediately after a crash or days later – a headache after a car accident must not be ignored because they may be a symptom of another serious injury such as a traumatic brain injury, concussion and closed-head injury that has not been diagnosed yet. 

A person who is suffering from this ailment must seek immediate medical attention, even if he or she hopes that it will go away. Timing is important to help a person receive the proper treatment and help to put someone on the fastest route to recovery.  Early documentation and treatment can also help to prevent the chance of long-term disability.  

Importantly, seeking medical attention also helps to document that you were having them in close temporal relationship to a trauma.  This can safeguard your legal rights as an accident victim to continue to treat and to have your medical care and treatment paid for by an insurance company.  If you were injured due to the fault and negligence of another, early documentation also will help you and your attorney to seek full and fair legal compensation for all your medical losses arising from your accident. The sooner you receive medical treatment, the easier it is to show that these injuries were caused by a trauma, such as a motor vehicle collision, and the harder it will be for an insurance company to later reject your claim or argue they are not caused by your crash.

The answers to the following questions will be extremely helpful for medical providers who are trying to figure out if a headache after a car accident is also a symptom of another injury, such as 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 scene of the crash?
  • Are you experiencing mood swings or changes in your personality?

As an injury attorney, I always ask my clients if they are suffering from headaches.  And I’ve learned to listen carefully to what a spouse, significant other or family member tells me when I start asking about them.  The tendency of too many lawyers and even doctors is to focus only on the obvious injuries, like broken bones, and to disregard injuries like these that are invisible to the eye.   

A constant headache after a car accident will always be ignored unless you specifically report them.  In our managed care world, failing to report them and failing to have early documentation that you are suffering from them can mean problems down the road in getting insurance companies to pay for needed treatment.  In the context of a lawsuit for pain and suffering, long delays and gaps in treatment can mean these injuries settle for less money than they should.  Finally, the earlier you can document that you are suffering from headaches, the faster you can be referred for specialized care.  Referrals to a neurologist from a primary doctor can often take six months or longer in many health insurance plans. 

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Can they be a symptom of a more serious injury?

Yes. A constant headache after a car accident – especially when the victim has suffered a blow to the head – may be symptoms of an as-yet-undiagnosed very serious medical condition such as a traumatic brain injury, concussion and closed-head injury, with sometimes deadly consequences.

Treatment for a headache after a car accident

Treatment for a person’s headache after a car accident usually starts with medication such:

  • Antidepressants
  • Beta blockers
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

But there are many other treatment options available if medication alone is not successful in resolving them. The other treatments include:

  • Procedures – These include injections (injections of a local anesthetic around a nerve) and trigger point injections (injections of a numbing agent and corticosteroid at the point of pain).
  • Alternative Medicine – These include: (1) acupuncture; (2) biofeedback (controls them by becoming more aware of and then changing certain bodily responses such as muscle tension, heart rate and skin temperature”); (3) meditation; (4) massage; (5) herbs, vitamins and minerals; and (6) chiropractic care.
  • Therapy or counseling – This may include support groups, counseling or therapy for victims struggling to cope with the pain, discomfort and disruption of normal life that comes with a constant headache after a crash.

Importantly, treatment for other personal injuries and conditions – such as traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome – may have a secondary effect of also helping to improve them.

How long do they last?

Some headaches can last for 30 minutes and some last for an entire week. Some are intermittent and some are constant, unrelenting.  Traumatic ones can really run the gamut in terms of their clinical presentation.  

Generally speaking, if they occur 15 or more days a month for at least three months, they are considered “chronic.”  One that occurs fewer than 15 times in a month is considered to be “episodic.”

Every injury, every person and every case is different, but a headache can be a permanent, painful, and disabling injury that is worth significant legal compensation. That being said, many lawyers – even many auto accident lawyers who should know better – will not take these cases or bring a lawsuit for pain and suffering for them only. They feel these “invisible” injury cases are too hard to prove in court.  Therefore, it’s important to find an experienced injury attorney with a demonstrated record of success with these types of injuries.    

And as I discussed above, a headache after a car accident can also be among the first important  symptoms of other very serious injuries, such as of TBI and concussion.

If you live in Michigan, you may also be able to recover Michigan No-Fault benefits for all of your collision-related injuries, which includes a constant headache after a car accident. Your No-Fault insurance benefits include reimbursement of medical care and mileage, lost wages for the time you missed from work, replacement care and possibly even attendant care depending on the severity of your injury.  

Need help? Call the auto accident attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

If you have suffered from a headache after a car accident and you have questions about your legal rights and the compensation you may be entitled to, call us toll free at (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. You do not have to face this alone. We are here to help.