Injuries with Delayed Symptoms

Car accidents sometimes result in obvious injuries. Obvious injuries include broken bones and cuts. Other times, an injury may not be apparent until hours, days, or weeks later. Sadly, delayed injuries are very common. This is especially in cases where the victim did not seek medical help after the accident.

Some Injuries Take Time to Develop Symptoms

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it is very common for people not to realize the extent of their injuries. People regularly describe how they initially felt okay. But then woke up the next morning in extreme pain. Unfortunately, there are some injuries that simply take time to present themselves. Whiplash is a common example of this. Initially, a person might not experience any symptoms decide not to see a doctor.. But, in the days after the crash they start experiencing pain and stiffness that they think will go away on its own.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) like concussions are also not always immediately apparent. These can occur even without direct trauma to the head. Many people don’t realize they are suffering from a TBI until they try to return to their normal routine. Only then do they notice cognitive processing delays, sensitivity to light or electronic screens, or headaches.
It is crucial to seek medical care as soon as symptoms arise to minimize the impact of the injury and to accurately document symptoms. It’s better to be safe than sorry so don’t assume things will get better with time. Instead, seek immediate medical care.
It can take time for car accident injuries to appear
In addition to having adrenaline masking your symptoms after an auto accident, it can also take time for injuries to appear while your body settles back down after the trauma.
When you ride in a car, your body moves at the same rate of speed as your vehicle. During an impact, your car stops, but your body continues moving until it suddenly stops because of a seatbelt, airbag, or another barrier. This abrupt change in momentum often causes soft tissue damage, like what occurs with whiplash. These types of ligament or muscle strains take time to develop because inflammation, swelling, and stiffness don’t occur immediately.
You can also experience trauma to your spine during an auto accident that affects your intervertebral discs. These discs act as cushions between vertebral bones and give your spine flexibility. When you damage a disc, it can tear, bulge, or herniate. Over time, these injuries can put pressure on nerves and the surrounding tissues, causing pain.

Common Injuries with Delayed Symptoms

At Essa, Janho, & Associates., we have found that some of the most common delayed car accident injuries are:
1. Whiplash
Whiplash is a serious injury with a funny name. It is a neck injury that results from a violent and quick snapping motion of the neck. The weight of the head and the force of an impact can cause soft tissue damage and even bone fractures.
Symptoms of whiplash include:
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
Twelve percent of all people involved in car crashes are diagnosed with whiplash. Whiplash can disguise as other injuries. Or even be so mild at first that it’s overlooked in all the other stresses of being in a collision. Because whiplash often does not appear until days after a crash, many people do not seek treatment. Then they are suffering excruciating pain, immobility, or unshakeable symptoms.
Just because it’s common does not mean that whiplash cannot be serious. The damage that is done by violent force on a person’s neck can be severe, and it can cause life-long problems. In some cases, these problems might have been avoided if extended treatment had been available, like physical therapy.
2. Concussion
Another above-the-shoulders injury is a concussion. Concussions are now rightfully understood as serious traumatic brain injury (TBI) it is. A concussion results when force, whether a blow or bump to the head or a whiplash-type movement, causes the brain to bounce or twist in the skull.
A concussion alone is not necessarily life-threatening, but they are serious. Repeated concussions, even mild, or injury to an already-concussed brain can be especially dangerous. So it is important to know when you have experienced a concussion. Generally, the symptoms of the most severe concussions will be obvious right away:
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • memory loss
  • loss of consciousness
Unfortunately, the symptoms of a mild or even moderate concussion can take time to develop.
When it comes to a concussion, it is important to understand what delayed can mean, especially in contrast to some other injuries.
The median amount of time that elapsed between injury and the onset of symptoms for those who experienced delayed onset was only 60 minutes. But think about all that can happen in the 60 minutes after a car accident, especially if you think you are uninjured.
In 60 minutes, you might
  • have been looked over by first responders,
  • given a statement to police,
  • shared insurance information with another driver,
  • called a tow truck, had your vehicle towed, and be on your way home.
By the time you might realize you are experiencing symptoms, you are likely already busy. You are dealing with the aftermath of the accident, or you are already at home, a little sore, and you don’t want to go back out.
However, the longer you delay treatment, the more chance you have of experiencing long-term effects from your concussion.
3. Internal Bleeding and Hemorrhagic Shock
If internal bleeding doesn’t sound scary enough, what about occult bleeding? How about hemorrhagic shock? We promise we are not out to scare you. But the medical terms used to talk about these dangerous and potentially deadly hidden and delayed-symptom injuries just happen to be appropriately spine-chilling.
Occult bleeding is bleeding that is not easily apparent to either the patient or their doctor. Hemorrhagic shock refers to the body’s lack of oxygen at the cellular level as a result of blood loss. The most common causes of both of these dangerously difficult-to-diagnose injuries are blunt trauma and penetrating wounds. Both are especially common in car accidents.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take ignoring medical care altogether to miss these kinds of injuries. In fact, it can even be the presence of other injuries that make it more difficult to notice the onset of internal symptoms. Pelvic fractures, which studies show are increasing rapidly in car accidents, can even hide internal bleeding, as can femur fractures.
4. Blood Clots and Hematomas
Like internal bleeding, blood clots can take time to present after a car accident. Unfortunately, they may not even be noticed until they are life-threatening or even fatal. Blood clots can form as the result of blunt force trauma. While the clots themselves are generally not dangerous, the consequences can be severe if they break away and travel to the lung or brain.
One such example is a condition known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. With DVT, a clot forms in the deep veins of the body’s muscles, most often in the leg. Symptoms of DVT can mimic other, less serious ailments or even be mistaken for “normal” soreness after an accident:
  • muscle pain
  • swelling
  • soreness/aching
  • redness or warmth in the affected area
  • low-grade fever
One of the more serious consequences of DVT comes in the form of a pulmonary embolism, which is when the clot travels to the lung. If caught early, pulmonary embolisms can be treated, so it is especially important not to ignore a rash of new symptoms, including:
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • coughing
  • fever or clammy skin
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • excessive sweating
Another injury with delayed onset of symptoms is a hematoma, which is a collection of blood outside the blood vessels. Many people see the signs of minor hematomas constantly: bruises. However, in the most serious cases, hematomas can cause severe and even deadly results. When an artery is affected or when the hematoma results in damage to an organ, such as in the case of the person whose kidney continued to fail, unnoticed, for weeks after being damaged in a seatbelt injury.
5. Back injuries
Who isn’t sore after a car accident, right? Back pain after a car accident is extremely common. But it may not happen right away — more importantly, you may not realize right away there’s more to it than just a simple ache. In fact, a meta-analysis of 1136 articles found that 63 percent of patients with chronic lower back pain were initially injured in a motor vehicle accident.
Not only can back pain take months or even years to fully develop, but the many kinds of back injuries and their many symptoms can be difficult for injured people to articulate. Herniated and bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and spinal fractures of dislocations can all take time to present as more than just a muscle ache, but unfortunately, they also are known to progress and worsen over time, especially if left untreated. Some of the symptoms to look out for, even long after your accident, include:
  • Pain in the neck or back
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms or legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Cramps in the legs
  • Problems with balance
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
Back pain should never be taken lightly, especially after a car accident. The spine is a delicate system that is the entirety of your body’s central support system. Not only can any of its three primary sections be permanent, but damage to the spine can cause life-threatening secondary complications, such as pneumonia and septicemia. Thankfully, in many cases, if the onset of symptoms is delayed, that may mean an increased chance of stopping the damage in its tracks and, in some cases, even recovering from it.
6. Psychological Injuries
PTSD is a serious and not uncommon psychological consequence of traumatic events like car accidents. Car accidents cause most people to experience the body’s natural “fight or flight” response. This can lead afterward to short-term feelings of distress, anxiety, fear, or even heightened senses of elation for having survived a dangerous event. These are all normal stress responses, but sometimes those normal stress responses continue on, leading to additional symptoms. Common symptoms of PTSD include:
  • Intrusive thoughts or experiences, like flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoidant behaviors, like refusing to get in a car or listen to the song that was playing at the time of the car accident
  • Negative mood changes, like feelings of shame, guilt, or detachment
  • New or worsened behaviors or responses, like irritability, recklessness, or fear
Most people begin to experience symptoms of PTSD within the three months after the car accident, but they can begin occurring at different times and may not immediately be connected. In other cases, people with PTSD from a car accident may not experience symptoms for days, weeks, or even months after their accident.


Car Accident Delayed Symptoms

The most common symptoms of delayed injuries include:
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back, neck, or shoulder pain
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Trouble sleeping or waking up
  • Blurred vision, dizziness, or nausea
  • Memory problems or memory loss
  • Numbness in the hands or feet
  • Sensitivity to light or loud noises
  • Changes in behavior or personality, such as not feeling like yourself


What Causes Delayed Symptoms After a Car Accident?

The reasons for delayed symptoms after a car accident vary. In some cases, it may be that the initial injury simply hasn’t had time to hurt you yet, such as in the case of internal bleeding. However, in other cases, like a blood clot, it may be because the clot itself has not worked its way up toward being dangerous.
In many cases, the delay of symptoms is directly the result of your body’s incredible ability to care for itself. When your mind knows you are in danger, your body reacts. The fight or flight response is really the quick and powerful release of adrenaline. This adrenaline release can mask the symptoms of physical injuries.
When a car accident results in fatalities, survivors often experience additional psychological impacts. However, these impacts may be confused for grief, or the grief response may delay the onset of PTSD symptoms.

How Long Do You Have to Make a Claim After a Car Accident?

Even if you did not seek immediate medical attention for your injury, you likely still have plenty of time to file a claim. However, every state has an applicable statute of limitations, which is a deadline within which a legal claim must be filed.
We recommend that you contact an attorney as soon after discovering an injury as possible. This is so that no deadlines pass that could prevent you from bringing a claim in the future.
Essa, Janho, & Associates has a team of accident attorneys skilled in helping car crash victims recover full and fair compensation for their injuries regardless of when their symptoms arise. If you have been injured, we are here to fight tirelessly for you.