There are few things as relieving as experiencing a car accident and finding that you did not suffer any serious injury. While damage to a vehicle is not usually something most people enjoy dealing with, avoiding serious harm is a good day by just about any metric.

Sadly, many car accident victims’ relief is short-lived and they would have been better off seeking out medical treatment after the accident, despite believing they survived the experience unharmed. The fact of the matter is that many injuries don’t cause pain, even serious injuries that can turn deadly.

After any car accident, except perhaps slight fender-benders, it is wise to go see your doctor as soon as you can. He or she can examine you thoroughly and identify any injuries you do not feel yet, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in medical expenses, months or years of needless pain and misery, or even saving your life.

Life-threatening injuries don’t always hurt… at first

Some injuries that do not cause pain, often called delayed pain injuries or delayed onset injuries, can turn fatal before you feel any pain at all. In fact, by the time you do feel pain, your life may be in serious danger.

The most common deadly delayed pain injuries involve internal blood loss and organ damage, both of which only cause pain once they are already very dangerous. Internal bleeding, for instance, is just as dangerous as bleeding out from an outside wound, because your circulatory system is losing blood even though it is all still inside your body. Just as a person who suffers a serious cut or other outside wound can quickly die from losing too much blood, a person who suffers from internal bleeding can also die very quickly from blood loss.

However, a small internal injury with only a little blood loss is just as dangerous. While the victim may not suffer any real threat from the blood loss itself, the area where the bleeding occurs may easily become infected. If you do not identify this quickly and receive proper treatment, this small injury can grow a massive bacterial infection that spreads throughout your body.

Likewise, if you suffer some damage to an internal organ, your body will try to fix it on its own, at least for a while. However, if the body cannot heal the organ, then it will shut the organ down entirely, and once one organ shuts down, all the other organs also shut down. This is not only deadly, it is unbelievably painful, and it does not kill you quickly.

Protecting your health with legal resources

Your first priority after an accident is your health, of course. As a general rule, any driver who experiences a car accident should seek professional medical care as soon as possible, preferably the same day as the accident or soon after.

But, once the dust settles, if you DO have injuries and DO need treatment, who is going to pay for it? And what about the income that you may lose while you recover? These are not small questions you can deal with later (or never). Protecting your health should also include protecting your rights with a strong legal claim, if you believe that some other person is responsible for the injuries. A well built legal strategy helps you focus on the parts of your recovery that you alone can control, while keeping your rights secure and protecting your priorities now and in the future.