Recent statewide statistics show that California roads see nearly 200,000 traffic accidents involving injuries every single year, affecting over 250,000 people in the state.
Even if you walk away from an accident or you “feel fine” in the aftermath of a collision, car crashes often cause latent injuries with delayed onset symptoms. Once the adrenaline and immediate trauma wear off, it’s common to experience neck pain, muscle aches, headaches, trouble concentrating, and even mental health issues like anxiety or depression. You may experience these symptoms days, weeks, months, or even years after your accident.
If left untreated, your symptoms could get worse over time. You may experience unexpected manifestations of internal injuries after a car crash – including traumatic brain injuries (TBI) such as concussions and other types of internal organ damage or bleeding. You could even have hidden hairline fractures or bone injuries that you don’t realize.
Because these types of injuries have late-appearing symptoms, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor or medical professional as soon as possible after a car accident, even if you feel okay. That way, you can get the treatment you need to get better and you can make sure to get compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury claim.
Understanding Latent Injuries After a Car Accident
The body has a way of trying to recover and compensate on its own, especially after a big trauma like a car accident. You may even consider certain aches and pains to be “normal” after a crash. But it’s impossible to know the extent of your injuries without consulting a doctor. And the way your body tries to heal on its own might not actually be effective.
To make matters worse, when symptoms start appearing after weeks or months, you may not even realize that they’re related to the injuries you suffered in your accident. Traumatic brain injuries are notorious for this – symptoms like headaches, light sensitivity, dizziness, trouble concentrating, mood changes, memory changes, or a decline in mobility. The timeframe for delayed concussion symptoms post-car accident can be as long as a month or more.
If you skip the doctor after your accident, you might struggle to understand why you’re experiencing these symptoms later. And if you wait so long to address your injuries that you pass the statute of limitations in California – usually 2 years from the date of your accident – you could lose the chance to file a legal claim to get compensation for your injuries.
Common Latent Injuries and Their Delayed Symptoms
Every injury is different. Whatever symptoms you have, only a doctor will be able to identify the nature and extent of your injuries, whether that’s your PCP or an urgent care physician.
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) often do not show symptoms immediately. Instead, you may develop headaches, dizziness, memory problems, issues with concentrating, mood swings, or sensory disturbances months after your accident. Even “mild” TBI like a “minor” concussion should be taken seriously considering the critical functions of your brain and the sensitivity of brain tissue to injury.
- Whiplash and soft tissue injuries also often have delayed onset symptoms days after your injury including neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and restricted movement.
- Spinal cord injuries and nerve damage may not be obvious immediately because the symptoms are often subtle and develop over time. Gradually, you may experience numbness or tingling in your limbs, muscle weakness, or even paralysis. Nerve injuries can take time to manifest symptoms such as loss of sensation, which only becomes noticeable as inflammation develops in the affected area or the nerve compresses.
- Internal bleeding and organ damage to your liver, spleen, kidneys, or other organs may not exhibit immediate symptoms. Instead, your symptoms may manifest later as pain, internal bleeding, or organ dysfunction. Internal bleeding in the abdomen can often be asymptomatic initially, only to cause issues later such as abdominal pain, bloating, fainting, or changes in blood pressure. These types of undetected injuries could have a dramatic effect on your health, with consequences that escalate quickly if not treated.
- Psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often take time to become evident, as your body and mind start to process what you went through. Your anxiety or depression could worsen over time, even if you were okay at first.
- Fractures, bone injuries, and joint damage may not be immediately noticeable, especially if adrenaline is masking your pain. You may experience swelling, pain, or decreased mobility in the affected area only after some time. Joint injuries to your knees, shoulders, hips, or elbows could manifest days after your accident.
- Post-traumatic arthritis can develop in joints affected by the crash, manifesting in long-term joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation several months or even years later. Other parts of your body may overwork to compensate for your injury, putting the stress onto other joints in a way that only becomes apparent after months or years.
It’s important to get medical attention within the first hours or the first few days after an accident. Ideally, you can get checked out before a full week passes by.
The Importance of Seeking Medical Attention After a Crash
Medical care is most effective when a patient is treated in a timely way. The sooner you get your injuries diagnosed, the sooner you can start to address them with a medical professional who can point you in the right direction to heal. If you wait too long, your injuries could worsen over time – and treatments may not be as effective when you delay intervention.
In addition, getting diagnosed early will also help you with the legal aspect of establishing causation by proving that your accidents caused your injury. As soon as you talk to a medical professional, you start an evidence trail documenting your injuries – and evidence is one of the most critical parts of a successful personal injury case to recover damages.
If someone else caused the accident that caused your injuries, then you can hold that person financially responsible for your losses, pain, and suffering. A good personal injury attorney can help you get the medical care you need while fighting to make sure all of your treatments now and in the future are covered by your personal injury settlement.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we help clients all over California get the justice and compensation they deserve after an accident caused by someone else’s negligent actions. Contact us now for your free consultation – we work on contingency so you don’t pay us unless we win for you.