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 man suffering from heart attack in car

Partner with Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp Personal Injury Law Firm

Post-accident chest pains can often be attributed to severe injuries like bruised or punctured lungs, cardiac contusions, internal organ damage, a fractured sternum, fractured ribs, or any combination thereof. These and other injuries are often the result of trauma to the chest caused by the impact of the collision. Chest pain following a car crash is fairly common since the front-seat occupants are in close proximity to the vehicle’s airbags and seat belts. The inertia generated by the sudden impact hurls the occupants forward, where a deploying airbag or shoulder restraint can cause injuries to the upper body. Although chest pain after a car accident could simply be a strained or bruised muscle, victims should still seek immediate medical attention to rule out any potentially life-threatening injuries. Then, schedule a free consultation with the experienced Virginia Beach car accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to discuss your legal options. 

Are Chest Pains Caused By a Car Accident Serious?

Chest pains always have the potential to be serious regardless of the situation. There are, however, specific symptoms that could indicate a medical condition or internal injury after a Virginia Beach car accident. These include experiencing discomfort or pain when:

  • Inhale or exhale
  • Move even a tiny bit
  • Sneeze, laugh, or cough
  • Someone touches your chest or ribs

Other symptoms to be aware of are a squeezing, tight, or heavy sensation in your chest, especially if it occurs alongside pain in your chest or arm. These symptoms can indicate a serious cardiac event, such as a heart attack, which can be induced by the trauma and stress of a car accident. Symptoms such as fainting, vomiting, or dizziness can signify life-threatening internal injuries. If you experience chest pain after a car accident, especially severe pain that worsens over time, please seek medical care right away.  

What Injuries Cause Chest Pains?

The most common car accident injuries that can lead to chest pain are:

Locomotor Injuries 

A seat belt that is worn properly will go across your lower ribs and the middle of your breastbone. In an accident, the restraint tightens, placing a high degree of pressure on your chest. Although it isn’t usually immediately obvious after a collision, the force applied by the seat belt could cause severe bruising to the chest and ribcage.

Extreme bruising and broken ribs can also occur if your chest strikes the steering wheel or is hit by an airbag as it deploys. Virginia Beach car accident victims who experience broken or fractured ribs are at risk of sustaining serious secondary complications including punctured lungs, pulmonary effusion, retained hemothorax, empyema, aspiration, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pneumonia.

Strained Muscles

Accident victims often experience muscle inflammation caused by the violent impact of the collision. If you are severely shaken or jolted during a crash, your muscles can be twisted and stretched in ways they are not meant to. This unexpected and sudden movement can result in intense chest pains that can last for days or even a few weeks. Keep in mind that you should never assume that a minor injury, such as a strained muscle, is the cause of your chest pains. The only way to diagnose any internal injury is through diagnostic testing like CT scans, echocardiograms, X-rays, and MRIs. 

Heart Attacks

Heart tissue is comprised of cells that deliver oxygenated blood throughout your body and keep your heart beating. Any injury or disruption could potentially lead to a heart attack. A tear or rupture to an artery, damage to a heart valve, or an injury to the heart muscle itself could also prompt a post-accident heart attack. In some people, especially those already at risk, the anxiety and fear that often accompany a car accident can also be traumatic enough to induce a cardiac event.

Damage to Internal Organs

Another common car crash injury that can lead to chest pains is blunt force trauma. If you experience chest pains after an accident, you may have a lacerated kidney, internal bleeding, or any number of other serious internal injuries. Without prompt medical attention, internal injuries, especially those involving ruptured or lacerated organs, can be fatal.


Whiplash is a common injury sustained by car accident victims. Although whiplash is an injury to the neck, it can cause chest pains since the muscles, tendons, and nerves are connected. 

What Steps Should I Take if My Chest Hurts After a Car Crash?

The best way to make sure that you do not have a life-threatening injury is to go immediately to a hospital emergency room and get a thorough medical examination that includes diagnostic testing. The most harmful thing you can do is ignore your symptoms. After you have been diagnosed, it is critical that you stick to your doctor’s treatment plan exactly until you are told to do otherwise. This goes beyond receiving treatment and taking medicine. It also includes decreased physical activity, staying on bed rest, attending physical therapy sessions, and anything else your doctor has recommended to aid your recovery. Once your injury or condition is stable, contact an experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyer to find out if you are entitled to take legal action. An insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit can help you collect financial compensation for your hospital bills, lost earnings, physical therapy costs, pain and suffering, and more.

Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The Virginia Beach car accident law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp was founded back in 1985 and the attorneys now have over 70 combined years of experience helping car accident victims gather compelling evidence and build strong cases for substantial monetary recoveries, like the $1 million settlement we obtained for a client who sustained multiple spinal disc fractures, a fractured neck vertebra, a collapsed lung, 15 broken ribs, a serious concussion, and severe abdominal bruising when another driver’s careless lane change forced her Harley Davidson off the roadway. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team, call (833) 997-1774 or fill out our quick contact form. You usually only have two years from the day of your accident to file a claim, so don’t wait. For your convenience, our main office is located in Virginia Beach with satellite offices in Hampton, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. 


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