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

Headache After Car Accident Won't Go Away: What To Do

A headache after a car accident (post traumatic headache) can be caused by trauma to the head and neck during a crash. Though painful and debilitating, they also can be a symptom of another serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or concussion. Prompt medical attention and early documentation is crucial.  Accident victims need to know what to do if they have post traumatic headaches.

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 car accident. 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
  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 this ailment after a crash: They can use a 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.

What causes a headache after a car accident?

A constant headache after a car accident can be caused by the trauma to the head or neck during a crash. This trauma can result from a direct blow to the head, though it is common for victims to suffer from headaches even if they didn’t hit their head due to violent shaking of their head and neck during the crash.

Common causes include the following scenarios below:

  • 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 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).

Headache after car accident but didn’t hit head

A constant headache after a car accident is common even if you didn’t hit your head in the crash as they can be caused by trauma suffered to the neck due to whiplash. It is important to remember that the severity of a person’s injury is not necessarily determined by the nature of the crash. Severe and debilitating headaches can result from relatively low-impact crashes.

Factors that can affect the severity of a headache include the injured person’s head position at the time of crash, gender, age, diagnosed injury, 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

Types

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.

Can headaches start months after a car accident?

A headache after a car accident can start months after a crash though it is common for them to start immediately, within a few hours or days after the collision. Whenever they start for you, seek medical attention right away both for the pain and to find out if the headache is a symptom of serious injury such as a traumatic brain injury or skull fracture.

Why you shouldn’t ignore a headache after a car accident

Commonly caused by trauma to the head and neck during a car accident, post-traumatic headaches should not be ignored – regardless if they start immediately or days later – because it may be a symptom of a serious injury such as a TBI, concussion or a closed-head injury that has not been diagnosed.

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.

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.

How to treat a headache after a car accident

Initial treatment for a 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.

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 does a headache after a car accident last?

A headache after a car accident 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 this ailment after a crash 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 a 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. 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.  

Suffering from a headache after a car accident? Call Michigan Auto Law now!

If you are suffering from a headache after a car accident and you have questions about your legal rights and the compensation you may be entitled call now (800) 968-1001 for a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers. There is no cost or obligation. You can also visit our contact page or use the chat feature on our website.

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More importantly, this client-focused approach leads to better and faster settlements for our clients. Michigan Auto Law has recovered more million-dollar settlements and trial verdicts for motor vehicle accidents than any other lawyer or law firm in Michigan. We’ve also recovered the highest ever reported truck accident and car accident settlement in the state.

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Headache After Car Accident