Headache After Car Accident Trauma: Why It Won’t Go Away and What to Do Next
Post-traumatic headaches after a car accident usually resolve after a few months. However, a surprising number of crash victims experience chronic headaches for years after their wreck. Unfortunately, insurance companies are skeptical of people who claim ongoing, disabling headaches—and sometimes deny legitimate claims.
In this article, the traumatic brain injury (TBI) lawyers at Crosley Law discuss post-traumatic head pain, common causes of headaches, and how you can regain control when a serious car crash causes head pain that won’t go away.
What Is Causing My Post-Traumatic Headache After a Car Crash?
It’s not easy to identify the exact cause of post-collision headache. Unlike some conditions, you can’t always pinpoint a headache’s cause with diagnostic tests like MRIs and CT scans. Depending on your situation, your doctor may link your headache to a variety of factors.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Head pain can have many causes, but you should always be concerned about a traumatic brain injury after a car crash. Traumatic brain injury is an umbrella term that covers a variety of different types of head injuries, ranging from the relatively minor to catastrophic. Common head injuries include:
- Concussions: One of the most common types of TBIs, a concussion occurs when your brain sustains microscopic damage to its blood vessels and nerves. While some people recover quickly from a concussion, many live with post-concussion syndrome for months or years.
- Contusions: A crash can cause bruising on the brain at multiple locations, as the brain repeatedly slams against your skull during an impact.
- Intracranial Hematomas: Intracranial hematoma involves ruptured brain vessels that are bleeding into your skull or brain. This bleeding is potentially life-threatening as it can cause pressure on the brain.
- Diffuse Axonal Injuries (DAI): Axons are nerve fibers that communicate messages from the brain. As the brain strikes your skull in an auto accident, the forces can stretch and rip your axons.
Any of these conditions may cause various types of headaches. In fact, 90% of people with mild TBIs, like concussions, experience post-traumatic headaches. Other symptoms of a TBI include vision issues, dizziness, memory loss, mood changes, and disorientation. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical care right away.
Whiplash occurs when the neck jerks back or forward abruptly, damaging your neck’s soft tissues and nerves. Whiplash can result in lasting shoulder, back, and neck pain and cause post-crash headaches.
You may have whiplash headaches if:
- You were in a rear-end collision or another sudden and violent jolt.
- The headache starts at the base of your skull (by your neck at the back of the head).
- The headache appears within a couple of hours to days of the car crash and gradually worsens.
- Looking up and other neck movements trigger or worsen your headache.
Stress and Anxiety
Car crashes and their aftermath are undeniably stressful. Besides causing memory and sleep issues, stress can also result in muscle strain and persistent headaches. Although stress headaches are not typically life-threatening, they can be debilitating.
You may have headaches if:
- You feel stressed, anxious, or jittery.
- You experience a feeling of pressure across your forehead, sides, or back of your head.
- Your scalp feels tender.
- You do not experience visual disturbances or light sensitivity (typical signs of migraine headaches).
Reaction to Medications
Many medications list headaches as a potential side effect. If your doctor prescribes you medication for physical or emotional symptoms from the car crash, it could be causing your persistent headaches. Combining multiple medications—or even caffeine or alcohol use—with a medication can also cause headaches.
You may have medication-related headaches if:
- Your headaches appear or worsen when you consume caffeine or alcohol.
- You’re taking higher doses of medication than your doctor prescribed.
- You did not tell your doctor about another medication or recreational drug you use.
- The headaches began within a few days to a few weeks of starting a new medication.
If you’re concerned about medication-induced headache, speak to the prescribing doctor about alternative therapies.
The force of a car accident can crack the bones in your skull. Sometimes, these fractures are immediately noticeable. But it can also take time to discover a hairline fracture—and severe headache is a common symptom.
An x-ray can typically identify a skull fracture—and most heal on their own. However, if your fracture headaches involve liquid coming out of your eyes, ears, or nose, nausea, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, or slurred speech, seek immediate medical care. You might need emergency surgery.
Nerve Damage and Nerve Dysfunction
Herniated discs are a common injury after a car accident. Discs are jelly-filled shock absorbers in your spine. When they bulge out of place in your neck, they can press on the nerves, causing head pain. Nerve dysfunction headaches, sometimes called occipital neuralgia, might also involve numbness and tingling.
Diagnostic studies, like MRIs, CT scans, and nerve conduction studies, are often used to diagnose pinched nerve headaches.
Can I Get Compensation for My Post-Traumatic Headache?
If you can show that your headache and related issues were caused by the accident, and that it’s costing you in medical bills, lost income, and decreased quality of life, you might be eligible for compensation.
Because headaches are sometimes “invisible” injuries or caused by a “minor” accident, it’s vital that you be proactive in getting the treatment you need and staying in touch with your medical team. The following actions can show the insurance company that you’re doing all you can to treat the pain and lessen its impact on your life:
- See a doctor or get medical attention right away after the accident, even if you don’t have a headache yet. Medical professionals can look for signs of things that might lead to headaches in the coming days and weeks.
- Follow the directions from your medical team, including going to your appointments, taking medications, and getting therapy. Ignoring these directions is a quick way to lose credibility.
- Inform your doctor of any changes in your headaches regarding frequency, severity, location, and related symptoms, such as vision problems, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.
- Talk to your primary care doctor before seeing a chiropractor or other provider, as a serious injury could be worsened by certain movements and treatments.
- Hang on to your medical records, bills, receipts, and treatment expectations, as well as details on lost income due to the injury.
- Work with an experienced personal injury attorney who can offer guidance and discuss how the law affects your case.
Because headaches are sometimes “invisible” injuries or caused by a “minor” accident, it’s vital that you be proactive in getting the treatment you need and staying in touch with your medical team.
How Much Money Can I Get for a Headache Settlement?
Every case is different, and how much money you get in a settlement depends on the specifics of your financial costs and non-economic costs, like pain and suffering.
Because Texas is a fault state, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay your settlement. Drivers must carry policies that cover $30,000 for each person they injure (limited to $60,000 per accident) and may carry additional coverage to supplement.
You might also seek damages from your own insurance if you carry personal injury protection, medical payments, or underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. Again, your lawyer will know how best to pursue compensation from all possible sources.
What Should I Do if the Insurance Company Won’t Cover My Headaches?
Insurance companies are continually looking for reasons to deny injury claims. When your headaches don’t resolve quickly or aren’t easily explained, it may use this as an excuse to deny your compensation. The adjuster may even argue that you’re exaggerating your symptoms or faking your car accident injury.
To fight back, you’ll need strong medical evidence that documents your headaches and links them to the crash. When you’re experiencing a severe headache, contact your doctor or headache specialist. They may be able to help alleviate your symptoms, run tests, and track your headache’s progression.
However, you’ll also need help from a lawyer who understands the nuances of crash-related headaches and has a track record of success with complicated claims. Tom Crosley’s team of TBI lawyers carefully evaluates our clients’ medical records and crash reports, looking for information that strengthens and explains their disabling headaches. We understand that every survivor’s situation is different and treat them with the respect and care that they deserve.
When you’re experiencing a severe headache, contact your doctor or headache specialist. They may be able to help alleviate your symptoms, run tests, and track your headache’s progression.
Call the Experienced Head Injury Attorneys at Crosley Law
At Crosley Law, we always urge our clients to see a doctor if they are experiencing headache pain after a motor vehicle accident or other traumatic event. The at-fault driver may also be responsible for your medical bills and other damages.
Our attorneys have years of experience helping victims of TBIs and other injuries sustained from car crashes and are here to help. If you’ve been in a car crash and are experiencing headaches or other symptoms, contact our attorneys. Call us today at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or complete this brief online contact form to schedule your free consultation to discuss your rights and options.
Evans, R. (n.d.). Mild closed head injury and headache. American Migraine Foundation. Retrieved from https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/mild-closed-head-injury-headache/
Post-traumatic headache. (n.d.) American Migraine Foundation. Retrieved from https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/post-traumatic-headache/
Tull, M. (7 October, 2019). The link between PTSD and headaches. Very Well Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-association-between-ptsd-and-headaches-2797467
Medicines that can cause headaches. (16 May, 2019). WebMD – Migraines & Headaches. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/medication-headaches#1
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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