You were in a car accident. The other driver was distracted by their cellphone or radio and plowed right into you at a stoplight. You felt lucky to walk away from the wreck of your vehicle with nothing more than a few bad bruises.

Hold on. Before you decide your bruises aren’t worrisome, you should know that bruises can be a signal that something is seriously wrong. For example, a lot of car injury victims suffer from something called “seat belt syndrome,” where they suffer internal injuries related to the compression of their bodies against their own seat belts. Sometimes these life-threatening conditions are erroneously dismissed as “nothing more than a few bruises” until a patient collapses.

Your bruises may be hiding a severe injury if:

  • They appear somewhere where you feel no pain from an injury
  • They are on your legs and black
  • You have severe pain and the area around the bruise feels hot
  • You have increased swelling and pain
  • The bruise seems to be getting worse, not better
  • You have blood in your urine, stool or the whites of your eyes

Most of the time, it’s far wiser (and safer) to have a doctor evaluate your injuries following any kind of car accident, even if you think you’re only bruised. That way, the doctor can make sure that a hidden injury isn’t lurking.

If you’re the victim of a car wreck, focus on getting the appropriate medical care first, above all else. Once you’ve begun to recover, you can find out more about how to pursue compensation for your medical bills and other losses.