What are delayed onset injuries and how do you recognize the signs that you may have a serious injury that will worsen over time?
After the accident, you feel okay. A bit shaken up, but thankfully no one is seriously injured. You have a slight headache, but that’s normal, right? The officer takes his report, you exchange information with the other driver, and you expect it should not be difficult to get their insurance company to pay for the damage to your car since they were clearly at fault in the accident.
Over the next week, however, your headache gets much worse, and you start experiencing blurred vision and nausea. What does it mean? First, it could mean that you have a traumatic brain injury or another delayed onset injury, and you should have seen a doctor immediately after the accident.
Second, since you did not see a doctor after the accident, it could mean that the other driver’s insurance company is going to deny your personal injury claim and attempt to say that you are either faking your injury or that your injury was caused after the accident and was unrelated to the accident…
What are some examples of delayed onset injuries after an auto accident and how do you recognize the signs that something may be wrong?
Examples of Delayed Onset Injuries After an Auto Accident
Some common injuries suffered in auto accidents may have delayed onset – the pain from the injury may not be immediately noticeable at the accident site and it could be days or even weeks before you realize the extent of your injuries.
Some common delayed onset injuries include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Concussions and TBI are caused by damage to the brain after a blow to the head, which can cause the brain to swell and bleed internally.
Traumatic brain injury suffered in an auto accident may not be immediately obvious after the wreck, and the symptoms may go unnoticed for days, weeks, or even months. TBI can cause permanent damage and the symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision,
- Memory problems, and even
- Personality changes – including an inability to control emotions or becoming prone to frustration and anger.
Whiplash is caused by the violent movement of a person’s head back and forth when the vehicle comes to a sudden stop, and it can cause a range of damage to a person’s neck area, including muscle damage, nerve damage, or injury to the spine.
Internal Bleeding and Blood Clots
Because it can’t be seen on the outside of your body, internal bleeding could go unnoticed for days. As time goes by, you may see unexplained bruises and begin to feel unexplained pain in the affected areas.
Internal bleeding that goes unnoticed can also result in blood clots that can break loose and travel to the heart or to the brain, causing brain damage or death.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries may not be immediately obvious to you, but over time you may begin to experience pain, loss of sensation, incontinence, weakness, loss of balance, or a tingling sensation.
If a spinal cord injury is not treated immediately, it may worsen over time and there is a greater chance that it can result in paralysis or even death.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many people who are involved in auto accidents suffer PTSD, and some never seek treatment for it. If you have symptoms such as persistent bad feelings about the accident, reliving the accident over and over, nightmares, or extreme anxiety around motor vehicles that persists over time, you should immediately see a therapist and seek help.
Signs and Symptoms of Delayed Onset Injuries
There are many causes of delayed onset injuries – sometimes, the injury is simply undetectable at first. In other cases, the signs may be there, but you do not see their significance because you are pumped full of adrenaline or you want to be strong and “tough it out.”
Some of the signs and symptoms of delayed onset injuries include:
- Headaches – a headache seems normal enough, and you may think that it is just the natural result of the stress from being in an accident. You should never assume that is the case, however – a headache after an auto accident could be a sign of a more serious injury such as a traumatic brain injury, a blood clot on your brain, or damage to your spinal cord.
- Neck and shoulder pain – like headaches, you may think that some neck and shoulder pain is normal after an auto accident. It can also be a sign of whiplash, though, and it might take an X-ray, CT scan, or an MRI to diagnose it. If the injury is not caught early enough, it can worsen and result in long-term damage.
- Abdominal pain – abdominal pain may seem normal after an auto accident, and it could be caused by simple bruising or stress related to the accident. It could also be a sign of internal bleeding that can be life-threatening if it is not caught and treated immediately.
- Back pain – back pain is sometimes ignored after an auto accident, but it can be a sign of a range of severe injuries that will worsen over time, including damage to the spinal cord, vertebrae, ligaments, or muscles.
- Numbness or tingling sensations – numbness in the hands or arms might not be felt until hours or days after the accident, but it can be a sign of serious injury to the spinal cord or neck, or it could be a symptom of a herniated disk.
Delayed Onset of Injuries – Why it Matters
It is important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of delayed onset injuries because 1) failure to treat them can result in worse injuries or even death, and 2) the other driver’s insurance company will use your failure to immediately seek treatment as a defense to your injury claim.
The insurance company will deny your claim or reduce your claim any way that they can, and, if they see a delayed onset injury, they may argue that 1) you are lying about the injury, 2) you are exaggerating the injury, or 3) the injury was not caused by the accident and therefore they are not responsible for it.
Get checked out immediately after an auto accident, follow any recommendations from doctors, and follow up with any recommended treatments or doctor visits. If you first notice symptoms days or even weeks after your auto accident, see a doctor immediately and make sure your doctor knows that you were involved in a car crash.
Delayed onset injuries are compensable, but we will have to prove that the injury was caused by the accident – get medical attention as soon as you see the signs and symptoms of a delayed onset injury and consult with your Myrtle Beach auto accident attorney at Axelrod and Associates as soon as possible after the accident.