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  • Writer's pictureMERCADO KRAMER LLP

Why you may not feel pain right away after an accident

A picture of an amusement park ride. We experience adrenalin both during thrill rides and after trauma such as a car accident. This can delay how we feel pain.

When someone is in a car accident, they often experience a rush of a chemical called adrenalin. Adrenaline serves an important function in the body – it helps protect us in times of crisis or emergency. In ancient times, adrenaline might help a hunter escape when mauled by an animal. Adrenaline dilates blood vessels, opens our airways, releases endorphins that help us stay calm and in control – and lowers our pain response. Adrenaline is useful in modern times too – let’s say you have to escape from a burning car after a crash.


But even when we are not in immediate danger, our bodies are conditioned to have an adrenaline response after a perceived threat, such as the impact from a car accident. The end result is that you may not feel pain for several hours (or until the next day!) after you are in a collision. This is also true when you experience something like slipping and falling. Unfortunately, many important things can happen during the time that your body’s adrenaline response is high and before pain sets in:


· You might decline the offer of taking an ambulance or being examined by paramedics

· You may tell the police officer who arrives on the scene, or other involved drivers, that you feel fine and aren’t hurt

· You might notify your own car insurance company about the collision and, when they ask how you feel, say that you are fine

· You may refuse to go see your doctor or urgent care

· Even when you do start to feel pain, you may brush it off as not that serious because you are determined to live your life, go to work, and ignore the hurt

All of the above actions are perfectly normal and human – but an insurance company may use them against you later to downplay your injuries or say you weren’t really hurt. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to get checked out for injuries after a car wreck or other trauma. Keep asking yourself:


· Do I feel dazed?

· Did any part of my body hit the inside of the car? (such as your knee hitting the dash or your hands bracing hard against the steering wheel, or the seatbelt yanking your shoulder)

· When I try to move around, am I stiff? Do I have normal range of motion without pain?

· Did my body whiplash or get tossed around due to the force of impact?

· Can I feel nagging pain anywhere, even if it doesn’t feel strong yet?

· Is my pulse racing, and do I still feel like my adrenaline is high?

If someone asks how you feel, it’s okay to say, “I’m not sure yet. I still feel in shock.” And when in doubt, get checked out by a medical provider. Doing so on the same day as the collision can be very important for both your health and a potential personal injury case.


In an ideal world, you seek medical treatment right away. But even if you haven’t gotten treatment, a personal injury attorney may still be able to help. If you’re not sure, ask us! Our personal injury attorneys are ready to help you today in Salinas, San Jose, or wherever you need us.

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