If you get involved in a serious car accident, you may think you’re fine. Your heart will be racing, sure, and you’ll feel that rush of adrenaline. But you may not feel any pain.
When you hear stories about people turning down medical care at the scene, this is often why. They don’t think they need it and they don’t want to spend the time or risk the debt to find out.
That can be a serious problem, though. Your body’s natural adrenaline rush isn’t a painkiller, per se, but it can cover up the injuries by masking the pain. In short, you won’t really notice it until later. It can take hours after the crash for you to realize that you were actually badly injured and you need to go to the hospital.
Why does the body do this?
This seems counter-productive. If you’re hurt, isn’t it in your best interests to know it so that you can get medical help? Why would evolutionary development favor a flight-or-fight response that may mask your symptoms and cause you to ignore major injuries — or at least delay treatment?
The reason is that, if you do have to fight or flee, it’s harder to do that when you’re in pain. Remember that cars are only a century old. You haven’t evolved to be ready for car accident injuries. Your body expects injuries from a fall, a predator or an attack from another human. If you have to fight off the threat or make a long trip home — on foot — to get help, you’re better able to do that if your pain is delayed.
Of course, this response doesn’t help in the modern setting. You need medical care and delaying treatment can make things like brain injuries or internal injuries far worse. But your body does not know that, so you need to be careful and get proper treatment, no matter how you feel.
What about the cost?
Medical care is incredibly expensive in the United States. The good news is that, if someone else caused the accident, you may be able to seek substantial compensation for those costs.