What Happens to Your Body After a Car Accident?

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Anyone who has been in a car accident can tell you that even in the case of relatively small fender benders, your body’s reaction to an accident can be unpredictable and may surprise you. In such situations, your body may be so flooded with adrenaline and endorphins – two hormones that participate in the physiological reaction to stimuli like car accidents – that you may forget what the next logical step should be. It can be helpful to prepare yourself for the potential problems and effects of getting hit by a car. Here are some helpful information from car accident doctors.

Physical Effects

A major concern for those who are involved in car accidents is the possibility of injuries. In just 2019, over 2.5 million injuries were recorded. Car accident injuries are increasingly common in the past few years, as the United States faces its steepest increase in traffic-related deaths since such data began being recorded in the 1940s.

Common Injuries

There are some injuries that occur more frequently with car accidents. What you can expect physically after a car accident includes concussions, broken bones, soft tissue injuries, and relatively minor incisions or bruises. Any of these injuries have the potential to cause greater harm to you if they are not treated quickly – even that relatively small cut on your hand. This could range from infection setting in to sudden pulmonary embolisms resulting in death. It is important that if you are experiencing any pain, to any extent, after a car accident, a doctor should examine you to ensure that there are no major problems. The injuries below are just a few examples of what could happen, but there are many other forms of injuries.


Concussions are caused by physical trauma to the head. They occur to about one in sixty people involved in car accidents. Concussions can have fairly significant effects on your everyday life and can affect your ability to do daily tasks like drive or fulfill the duties of your job.


Whiplash is a muscle strain injury caused by forceful front and back movement of your neck. It can occur even in accidents with very little force, such as in a minor fender bender. People aged fifty or older are particularly vulnerable to this form of injury.

Internal Bleeding

This form of injury has the potential to be especially deadly if not detected early. It can include severe bleeding to your organs that cannot be seen and may not even be noticed for days. There are a few telltale signs, but the best way to determine whether this is an effect of your accident is to rely on a car accident injury doctor.

Physiological Effects

Physiological effects refer to those caused by the normal functioning of your body without you necessarily noticing. Some examples of physiological functioning could be the way that enzymes are sent to your stomach to break down food or the way that your bladder is able to “tell” you when it is full. There are physiological processes that occur during potentially life-threatening incidents like car accidents.

Fight or Flight

You may have heard of the fight or flight response, which is triggered by catastrophic events to help you survive without wasting necessary energy. This response releases adrenaline into your bloodstream. The temporary effects of adrenaline include increased heart rate, decreased pain sensitivity, widened blood vessels for better transportation of necessary oxygen, and heightened strength and stamina that will disappear once you reach safety.

Adrenaline Rush

During the rush of adrenaline flooding your body, you may notice specific things about the way you react. Here are some things other people have reported:

  • Tunnel vision, or intense focus on a very particular detail
  • Tunnel hearing, difficulty hearing anything that you are not focused on
  • Heightened senses of smell, taste, hearing, touch, and sight
  • Lack of sensitivity to pain
  • Burst of energy or strength you would not otherwise be capable of
  • Suppressed emotions or delayed emotional reactions


After a rush of adrenaline, your body resets itself. This comedown arrives with its own set of symptoms. You may notice that you are shaking or trembling due to the swift rise and fall of your blood sugar. The loss of adrenaline can cause you to feel light-headed or even faint. You may also experience a sudden rush of emotion as you begin to process the feelings that were suppressed during the event. These symptoms can be upsetting, but they should fade fairly quickly. You should, however, make sure that you rest and that you eat and hydrate your body to help you recover more quickly.

Psychological Effects


Car accidents are scary, even if you don’t get hurt or come out relatively unscathed. Your body interprets them as catastrophic events and responds to them accordingly.

Your brain also processes these incidents as catastrophic, and as such, car accidents have significant potential for causing psychological or mental trauma. This could manifest in a number of ways and will be affected by a number of factors, including the pre-existing condition of your mental health, genetic and environmental influences, and the severity of the car accident itself.

After the accident, for days, weeks, and even months afterward, you may notice that you associate a combination of emotions with the accident. When you think about the accident, you may experience mood swings or feelings like sadness, grief, anger, or guilt. You could experience increased anxiety, especially around driving near the place where the accident occurred, or just about the experience of being behind the wheel. Mood disturbances are repeated in more than half of people who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Some people experience periods of disturbed sleep. They report developing insomnia related to the anxiety they have about the accident. This side effect may or may not subside with time. People who have experienced a car accident are also at increased risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which manifests within a month of the accident.

After experiencing a car accident, you should seek help from a licensed mental health professional if you notice changes to your mood or emotional needs.

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