Yes, car accidents can cause vertigo, and vertigo can be a symptom of a much more serious problem. Vertigo or dizziness after an accident is most often associated with whiplash, a head injury, or damage to the ears.
Below, we’ll discuss how car accidents cause vertigo, how long you should expect it to last, and what your rights are after the accident.
The 4 Main Causes of Vertigo After a Car Accident
Vertigo on its own is a symptom that can be connected to many different causes and conditions. But the “post-traumatic” vertigo you experience after a car accident usually has one of four causes:
- Whiplash. This painful neck injury is one of the most common causes of vertigo after an accident. Whiplash itself takes time to set in, so you can experience vertigo even if you have no neck pain yet. It may be an early warning sign.
- Head injury. Any blow to the head, such as hitting your head on the steering wheel, can cause dizziness among other symptoms. If you hit your head, vertigo may mean you have a concussion—which requires immediate treatment to prevent a more serious brain injury.
- Ear damage. Although uncommon in car accidents, an injury to the ear can cause vertigo, because the inner ear helps the body maintain its sense of balance. These injuries can involve a physical blow to the ear, or in some cases a loud noise or change of pressure near the ear.
- Postural vertigo. In some cases, vertigo happens simply because your body went through a sudden change in position—such as being thrown forward in an accident. This is a normal type of vertigo, similar to what you feel if you spin in a circle too fast. This type of vertigo is usually harmless, but you should still see a doctor; it may be a sign of one of the conditions above.
How long will my vertigo last?
Vertigo after a car accident may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. In some cases it may be long-term. For example, vertigo related to a concussion or whiplash could last days, while vertigo from a serious head injury or ear damage could last longer. A doctor may be able to help treat your vertigo so that it goes away faster.
Why does whiplash cause vertigo?
About 25-50% of whiplash cases involve vertigo. This is because whiplash is not just an injury to the neck—although that’s a very painful part of it. It can also involve the brainstem, a part of your brain that extends down toward the neck. There are arteries in the neck that feed blood and oxygen to the brainstem, along with some other parts of the brain. It’s believed that whiplash causes damage to these arteries, thus reducing blood flow to the brainstem and causing vertigo.
What should I do if I have vertigo after a car accident?
It’s important that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Since there are so many serious conditions that can cause this vertigo, it’s important to get an exam and any treatment you need right away. This can also help prevent many injuries from getting worse, including brain injuries and whiplash.
You should also take the time to speak to a lawyer. Whiplash, concussions and vertigo are all conditions that insurance companies don’t always take seriously. They’re likely to offer you money, but it’s rarely enough money to pay for all of the treatment you should get to make sure you make a fully recovery. And it almost never includes the full amount of pain and suffering damages that you are allowed by law.
Your insurance payment should include all of the following:
- All medical bills after the accident
- The full cost of any physical therapy or long-term treatment you will need
- Medication costs
- Money for missed work time
- Pain and suffering, which may double your settlement or more
Never allow yourself to be rushed into accepting less than you need.
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