In the wake of a car crash, some injuries are obvious. For example, you may be immediately and acutely aware that you have a broken arm or a puncture wound. But other injuries can be invisible—sometimes for hours, days, or weeks after your accident. Unfortunately, car accident nerve damage is a common condition and often overlooked in your initial post-crash medical examination. Below, we take a closer look at the typical symptoms of nerve damage and long-term consequences if not treated effectively. We also explain your legal options for securing proper compensation for accident-related injuries and medical expenses.
How Car Accidents Cause Nerve Damage
The human body is home to an estimated 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons, that make up the nervous system. This system winds its way through the entire body, allowing us to be aware of the world around us, sense pain and pleasure, and ultimately function on a day-to-day basis. When these nerves are damaged, this has drastic and permanent effects on our lives.
Since nerves weave throughout most areas of our body, it’s no surprise that almost any injury—from contusions to lacerations to broken bones—can cause nerve damage. These are called peripheral nerve injuries. However, other conditions result in serious nerve damage, too. Here are some important ones to highlight.
Spinal Cord Injuries
These catastrophic injuries can lead to paralysis, loss of sensation, and a range of other debilitating symptoms, depending on the location and severity of the damage. There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves, each responsible for critical mobility, organ function, and bowel and bladder control.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
This condition occurs when the network of nerves controlling feeling and movement in the shoulder, arm, and hand is damaged due to the violent forces involved in a collision. Victims may experience weakness, numbness, or loss of motor function in the affected limb.
A sudden jolting of the head and neck usually results in one of the most common car accident injuries, whiplash. A large number of important nerves in the area—including eight pairs of cervical nerves—are often damaged, causing chronic pain.
Symptoms of Nerve Damage
Nerves help our bodies feel, sense, and move. But they also do so much more, such as help with organ function and body regulation. When a nerve or a ganglia (cluster of nerves) is damaged, there are numerous symptoms including, but not limited to:
- Loss of feeling
- Increased temperature sensitivity
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic pain
- Throbbing pain or shooting pain
- Lack of coordination
- Digestive or bowel issues
- Issues regulating blood pressure and body temperature
- Dulled senses
The Most Important Thing to do After a Car Accident
It’s human nature—and a common trauma response—to just want to get home and return to everyday life after a car accident. Unfortunately, while this is what your body and brain are asking for, it’s not in your best interest at all. Even though you might look fine after a traffic collision, your body has been through a distressing event and there may be serious harm.
For this reason, the most important thing you can do after an accident is to get a thorough medical evaluation. Adrenaline often covers up a significant amount of pain directly after your accident, and nerve damage might not be as apparent as other injuries.
In addition, it’s absolutely vital to go to a doctor as soon as possible if you start to feel symptoms of nerve damage in the days and weeks after an accident. Don’t ignore pain, tingling, or other symptoms, especially if you’re in the midst of settling your case.
Serious Consequences of Nerve Damage
Nerve damage can be treated and managed, but many types have permanent and lasting effects that can significantly change your quality of life, income, and abilities. Some consequences of nerve damage such as:
- Chronic pain
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Weakness and loss of coordination
- Loss of organ function
- An inability to detect skin issues, injuries, or severe temperatures
- Sexual issues
- The inability to engage in your interests and hobbies
- Lost wages or the loss of your career
- The inability to care for yourself or your loved ones
There are also mental health consequences to suffering serious nerve damage. A person dealing with long-term or permanent nerve damage is more likely to suffer from issues including but not limited to:
- Mood swings
- Social disorders
Collecting Damages for Nerve Injuries After a Car Crash
Washington State law makes it possible for victims of nerve damage to collect damages from any liable parties that contributed to the cause of their injuries.
You may be able to collect monetary damages for:
- Medical expenses, including future medical expenses
- Lost wages and loss of earning potential
- Medical devices
- Medical supplies
- Rehabilitation and therapy