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When you are involved in a car accident, it can lead to injuries that may require you to take time off from work. As you juggle doctor appointments and insurance paperwork, you may wonder how much time you need off from work to heal.

The CDC reports that most emergency room visits for non-fatal injuries result in an average of 11 days of missed work. However, it’s not one-size-fits-all. In the wake of a serious crash, it’s essential to take the time necessary to heal from injuries like fractures, bruised ribs, or head trauma.

Our South Carolina car accident injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm can explain how the timing of your return to work may affect your legal case, and will advise you on when to resume work in the course of your treatment.

Recovery Timeframes for Car Accident Injuries

Following a car accident, the path to healing might seem endless. Having an estimate can help you organize the time you’ll need to be away from your job. Here’s a look at typical healing times for common car crash injuries:


Injury Description Timeframe for Recovery Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
Broken arm Injuries range from simple to complex breaks; may require surgery for severe cases. Simple: several weeks; Complex: about 6 months. Reached when healing is sufficient that no further recovery is expected.
Broken leg Fractures might need a cast; severe breaks requiring surgery could have extended recovery. Cast: 6-8 weeks; Surgery: Several months to 1 year. Reached when the leg’s function is restored to its fullest expected capacity.
Bruised ribs Pain limits movement and deep breathing; manageable with rest and limited physical activity. 4-6 weeks. Reached when rib pain subsides, and normal activities can be resumed without additional recovery expected.
Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) Can include herniated discs or fractures; may require long-term rehab or result in permanent disability. Several months to a year or more; possible permanent damage. Reached when no further functional improvements are expected, or the condition stabilizes.
Whiplash Typically results from rear-end collisions; can cause prolonged neck pain and limited mobility. Several weeks to 3 months; some symptoms may persist longer. Reached when neck mobility and pain return to a stable state with no anticipated improvement.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) Varying severity from mild concussions to severe trauma with a wide range of recovery timelines. Mild: A few weeks; Severe: Months to years; possible permanent damage. Reached when cognitive functions stabilize or return to pre-injury level.


When Should You Return to Work After a Crash?

If you’ve experienced injuries in a crash, it’s imperative that you wait to return to work after receiving medical clearance from your doctor. Returning prematurely could aggravate your injuries as well as jeopardize your ability to claim full compensation.

Insurance firms may argue that your injuries are less severe than they really are if you can work, even if you have reduced capacity or find performing work duties more painful than before your injury. It’s essential to hold off on resuming your job until cleared by your doctor. That could mean waiting until you have achieved Maximum Medical Improvement.

MMI, or Maximum Medical Improvement, is the point where an injury has stabilized and is not expected to improve with any additional medical intervention, even if the injured body part is not fully restored to the state it was before the injury. When you reach MMI, your attorney can then accurately assess compensation for your injury’s lasting impact, which includes:

  • Current and future medical expenses: Pays for the cost of treatment to date and any anticipated future medical needs stemming from the injury.
  • Lost wages and earning potential: Compensates for income lost and potential future earnings affected by the injury’s lasting effects.
  • Pain and suffering: Accounts for the physical pain and emotional distress experienced due to the injury.
  • Permanent disability: Compensation for long-term or permanent loss of function or ability caused by the injury.
  • Rehabilitation costs: Covers expenses for physical therapy and other rehabilitation services required for optimal recovery.
  • Home or vehicle modifications: Covers the cost of necessary adjustments to living spaces or vehicles to accommodate permanent injury-related limitations.

Protect Your Health and Your Rights After a Car Accident

The time it takes to recover from a car accident isn’t predetermined. Adhering to medical advice and seeking legal counsel can help you achieve complete recovery and a fair settlement.

For guidance on the right time to return to work after a car accident, reach out to our attorneys at Joye Law Firm. We can review your medical records and work with specialists to figure out when you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement, ensuring you return to work only when you’re as recovered as possible.

Contact us today to discuss your case during a free consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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