The physical and mental trauma of a car accident happens in a flash. Just a fraction of a second can turn your health, finances, and entire life upside down.
But that fleeting moment isn’t always the end of it.
Unfortunately, some collision injuries don’t fully show up for days or even weeks after impact.
This article will help you understand why these occur, what signs to watch for, and what to do if injuries emerge in the aftermath of your accident.
What Kinds of Collision Injuries Might Be Delayed?
Car accident injuries are often delayed when they involve soft tissue, including the brain. Factors like psychological stress and hormonal responses may play a role, although they’re harder to observe.
Some of the most common types of delayed car accident injuries are:
- Neck strain (e.g., whiplash)
- Concussion and brain trauma
- Back pain, spasms, or stiffness
- Internal bleeding
From skin to ligaments to brain matter, our bodies are filled with soft tissue. It’s all vulnerable to impact, and even to drastic changes in momentum.
But unlike skeletal injuries, which are relatively immediate and simple to diagnose, soft tissue injuries can manifest slowly and may require special medical imaging.
Why Are Some Car Accident Injuries Delayed?
For the most part, bones either break or don’t break, which is generally clear from an X-ray.
But soft tissue injuries can be a product of bruising, excess stretching, inflammatory responses, and even postural compensation. These things may not leave immediate signs, and can be hard to detect clinically—especially before a little time has passed.
Additionally, our bodies respond to the indescribable stress of a collision by releasing a flood of hormones. This classic fight-or-flight response may numb pain and inhibit inflammation, but only for a matter of minutes or hours. Symptoms may evolve rapidly during that time as hormones return to normal levels.
What’s more, the psychological trauma of a serious collision can affect when and how we perceive pain. This phenomenon remains a bit mysterious, but it’s safe to say that it’s highly individual and no less real than broken bones or lacerated skin.
What Are the Signs of Delayed Car Accident Injuries?
Many injuries that show up later actually begin with minor discomfort. Normally, you might not pay much attention to a little tightness, stiffness, or soreness. But after a car collision, these may be the earliest manifestations of significant damage to soft tissue.
Be especially vigilant regarding your neck and back, since brain and spinal injuries are among the most common and most life-altering. There’s no need to panic at every little twinge, but it’s critical to get a physician’s opinion if you notice changes in neurological functions like movement, vision, or even memory or focus. The same goes for dizziness or fainting, which could reflect any of several underlying problems.
Along those lines, take note of any odd sensations or numbness, especially in your limbs. This often suggests injury to or inflammation of tissue around major nerves.
New abdominal pain may also emerge after a car accident. Our internal organs are surprisingly robust, but with sufficient force, they can still suffer damage. They’re also surrounded by delicate blood vessels, which may develop slow but worrisome internal bleeding.
Less often discussed, but equally important, are changes in mental health. Our brains simply aren’t designed for the trauma and fright of a collision, so it’s not uncommon to experience anxiety, mood disorders, and even sleep dysfunction. If you or people close to you notice behavioral changes, then take them seriously and get a professional evaluation.
What to Do if You Suspect Delayed Injuries
Above all, never sign or agree to anything until you’ve been thoroughly checked over by a medical professional. Once you’ve attended to your care, consider speaking with an attorney who specializes in car accidents.
Remember, insurers and other parties are fully aware that not all injuries appear right away. It’s in their best interest for you to waive or release potential claims as soon as possible. It’s in your best interest to ensure your injuries are fully and patiently documented.
Secondly, get a doctor’s evaluation even if you haven’t noticed any serious injuries. A healthcare provider may still find damage that’s poised to cause problems later. This affects not just your well-being, but also the compensation that you can pursue.
Finally, consider working with a legal team that specializes in collision injuries. We’re here to help accident victims like you to win fair compensation for the full extent of harm suffered.
Courts remain as backlogged as ever, so contact us promptly to schedule a consultation.