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Headaches & Car Accidents: How Long Should a Headache Last After a Car Accident?

Not all car crash injuries are as visible as broken bones and abrasions. Numerous car accident survivors suffer headaches after their crash, with some lasting only a few hours and others persisting for weeks or months.

Is a headache normal after a car accident? While headaches are common, they should not be ignored, especially if they’re difficult to manage. Pain or throbbing in the head could be a sign of a serious injury and should be checked by a physician.

Contact a San Diego brain injury attorney if you have a car accident injury and would like to sue for pain and suffering.

When to See a Doctor: How Long is ‘Normal’ for a Headache After an Accident?

A headache is expected if you hit your head in an accident. It may be a harmless pain if it tapers off over a few hours or a couple of days. Even so, always consult with a physician as soon as you can after an accident.  

When do you need a doctor for your headache? Don’t skip a doctor’s visit if any of the following occurs:

  • Your headache worsens instead of waning.
  • Your headache comes and goes for about 15 days in a three-month period.
  • Your headache only starts several days after the accident.
  • Your headache is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears, memory problems, movement problems, and the like.
  • You didn’t hit your head but are getting headaches after the crash.

Understanding the Different Types of Headaches After a Crash

Various symptoms help a physician determine the type of headache you are experiencing after an accident, and how to treat it.

Concussion Headache (Post-Concussion Syndrome)

A concussion is one of the most common mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by a blow to the head or a sudden jolting motion. The brain is rocked back and forth within the skull, leading to chemical changes or mild damage to brain cells.

This injury often results in migraine headaches, which feel like a dull ache, pressure, or throbbing in the head. It can be accompanied by light sensitivity, dizziness, and nausea. These should only last briefly — a few hours at most. If the symptoms remain for days, it may be a more severe case of post-concussion syndrome, which warrants a medical checkup.

Spasm Headaches/Tension headaches

Also a common result of vehicle accidents, spasm headaches are caused by sudden muscle contraction or muscle strain on the head, neck, or upper back. You don’t have to get a blow to the head to experience this head pain — even a sudden jolt to the neck or head is enough to cause it.

Other symptoms associated with this injury are swelling of neck or shoulder muscles, tenderness of those muscles, pain during certain movements, and reduced range of motion.

Whiplash Headaches

“Whiplash” refers to the sudden back-and-forth motion of the neck, resulting in various symptoms on the neck, shoulders, and/or head. If your headache is focused on the base of your skull, it may be due to whiplash. Other signs include stiff muscles, neck soreness, shoulder pain, and reduced range of motion.


Bruising on the brain is medically called a cerebral contusion. It is a traumatic brain injury that happens when the brain hits the skull hard enough that blood pools at the spot. Some contusions are mild with no long-term effects. However, severe cases of contusion can lead to permanent brain damage if not treated immediately.

Symptoms of a contusion are similar to that of concussion: pressure-like headaches, nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to light. If your doctor suspects brain bruising, they will order further examinations like x-rays, CT scans, and MRI.


“Hematoma” is the medical term for a severe bruise that involves heavy bleeding, clotting, and swelling of blood at a specific spot. This is one of the most dangerous injuries to the head

What makes it more dangerous is that it doesn’t always show symptoms right away. Some cases of hematoma only manifest days after the accident.

If your headache is accompanied by vomiting, slurred speech, confusion, or loss of consciousness, see a doctor immediately. Early hematoma detection via CT scans or MRI could be crucial to prevent life-threatening or permanent damage.

Headache Expenses: Will Insurance Pay for Post-Accident Headache?

Some people are reluctant to see a physician for their headaches as they worry about the costs. This should not stop you from getting medical attention, which may spell the difference between your health and long-term injury.

In California, the person who caused your accident is liable to pay for your injuries, usually via auto insurance. Even headaches are compensable if you can establish that they are a head injury you sustained from the crash. To prove this, you’ll need the help of a personal injury attorney.

Insurance settlements for headache injuries vary widely, amounts differ depending on specific factors like injury severity, medical costs, long-term care needed, and impact on future earnings.

Consult With a Head Injury Attorney in San Diego County

If your post-accident headache is interfering with your life, or if you are concerned it may be a more serious injury, don’t hesitate to see a doctor. If you want to be compensated for your medical bills and other damages call on a trusted injury attorney.

In Southern California, the Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers have an excellent track record in motor vehicle accident cases. In fact, founding attorney Robert Hamparyan has been at or near the top injury lawyer list of San Diego “SuperLawyers” since 2009. His experienced legal service has helped numerous Californians obtain full and fair settlements, allowing them to get proper care for their injuries and the compensation they need and deserve .

Consult with us for free about your accident head injuries (and other injuries). Call (619) 550-1355 or use our online contact form


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