Car accidents, even low speed/low impact ones, can cause significant injury to vehicle occupants. Sometimes people walk away from an accident feeling a little shaken but otherwise fine, but find themselves in pain several hours, days, or even weeks later. There are a multitude of reasons why accident victims may fail to notice—or simply dismiss—injuries, and delayed manifestation of symptoms is common with certain types of injuries.
Adrenaline and Distraction
Amid the chaos of a car accident and its immediate aftermath, many people simply do not notice some injures. The shock of a crash may give them an adrenaline rush that can minimize or mask pain for hours. Or the pain of one injury may be sufficiently distracting that someone may not even notice a second injury that may be more severe. These points may seem obvious when it comes to not noticing scrapes, cuts, and bruises, but the human body is designed to react to trauma in extraordinary ways, and can even overcome severe pain, such as a broken neck. A thorough medical evaluation after a car accident can be crucial to identifying injuries you may not have noticed yourself.
Symptoms May Take Time to Develop
Soft tissue injuries occur when you damage your muscles, tendons, or ligaments, thus resulting in strains, bruises, or sprains. Whiplash is a common form of soft tissue injury to the neck that people suffer after a car accident. It is caused by sudden and forceful movement of the head backwards and forwards, such as those experienced by people in a rear-end collision. The whip-like motion of the head in such an accident can cause damage to the joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, or nerves in the neck.
Symptoms of Whiplash Include:
- Neck pain and stiffness;
- Pain or limited range of motion when moving the neck;
- Fatigue; and
As with many soft tissue injuries, these symptoms may not appear immediately, and can take up to several days to develop.
Minor Symptoms May Signal Something Severe
Even if you notice a symptom after an accident, it may be hard to determine the cause. And some severe injuries may manifest with fairly mild symptoms at first. For example, lots of people get headaches after a car accident. If they did not hit their head in the crash, and the pain is not particularly severe, they may assume that it is merely a side-effect of stress, and that it will go away on its own. Lots of headaches do fade fairly quickly, but sometimes they are a sign that something else is wrong. The force and speed of a car accident can cause severe head injuries even without a direct head strike.
Headaches Can Be a Symptom Of:
- Neck or skull fractures;
- Pinched nerves;
- Traumatic brain injury; or
- A blood clot in the brain.
A traumatic brain injury is considered “mild” if it results in a short period of unconsciousness or disorientation, though its effects can be quite severe. It is also known as a concussion, and can have a wide range of physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep-related symptoms that can last for months.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Can Result In:
- Balance problems;
- Visual problems;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Depression; and
- Disrupted sleep patterns.
That is only a partial list of symptoms, and many of them are common to other medical conditions. Diagnosing MTBI is further complicated by the fact that symptoms may take weeks to manifest, and the injured person may not recognize the symptoms immediately, either.
Not All Damage Is Physical
Car accidents can cause trauma, and not just the physical type. Psychological damage can be devastating, especially if left untreated. Some people even develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and can experience symptoms such as disrupted sleeping patterns, depression, anxiety, poor concentration, and flashbacks for years. Studies estimate that nine percent of people who have suffered a car crash will develop PTSD, but many people may never be properly diagnosed. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for victims to recognize the symptoms as stemming from the accident and seek appropriate treatment. Children, especially, are vulnerable and may have difficulty coping with—and communicating—their emotions and fears.
After an Accident
Seek medical attention immediately, even if the crash was fairly minor. A doctor can review your description of the crash and examine you for the most likely types of injuries, and provide advice on injuries that may take some time to manifest. Then you need to file your claim against the insurer of the person at fault. An adjuster reviewing your claim will want to mitigate the amount the insurance company pays out by minimizing your injuries, or through tactics like claiming they are pre-existing conditions. Therefore you need to be careful in your interactions with the insurance company. Make sure you know what they are asking you to sign. You will need to release the relevant medical information to the insurance company in order for them to process your injury claims, but they should not be given carte blanche access to your full medical history.
Be aware that accepting an insurance settlement will likely foreclose on your ability to make additional claims for injuries that you discover later. Therefore you should take that into account when negotiating a settlement. Settling too quickly may not be in your best interests if you are at risk of late appearing injuries.
Seek Legal Advice
If you have been in a car accident, the determined auto accident lawyers in Cincinnati at the Chester Law Group Co. LPA will work with you to best ensure that you are fairly compensated for the injuries you have suffered. From providing advice on how best to document your injuries to preserve your claim, to fighting an unfair settlement offer from the insurer, to filing a lawsuit in court, our lawyers will provide you with experienced guidance as you go through a difficult time. Remember: you can still accept a settlement from the insurance company even if you have filed a lawsuit, but you cannot sue after accepting a settlement that waives any additional claims. If you believe that your claims are not being taken seriously by the insurance company at any time, get a free consult from the Chester Law Group Co. LPA.