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Delayed Symptoms of Injuries After an Accident

Serious injuries are not always apparent, particularly after a traumatic event like a car accident. Victims often tell others at the scene that they’re not hurt because they don’t feel the injuries—yet.

Symptoms of many severe injuries, and even the injuries themselves, often do not develop until several days after an accident. Delayed shock and other late-onset conditions can cause serious problems for accident victims. That makes it essential for anyone in a car accident to seek prompt medical attention immediately after the collision and to return to the doctor as soon as any new symptoms appear.

Overview of Delayed Injuries

Car accidents stun your system. Mentally, physically, and emotionally—the effect of a crash is overwhelming. Pain receptors often do not operate normally. Even if you’re badly hurt, you may barely notice.

The impact of a collision can continue to cause effects within the body and mind for several days. Often these continued effects lead to serious injuries that make it difficult for victims to function normally.

Delayed onset injuries commonly include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Internal bleeding (often leading to hemorrhagic shock)
  • Whiplash
  • Back injuries and spinal shock
  • Hematomas and blood clots
  • PTSD and other psychological injuries

Many people try to ignore the symptoms of these problems, which only allows them to continue to grow worse. If you notice any symptoms, it is critical to get a diagnosis from a medical professional and make sure they know you have experienced the trauma of a car accident.

Protect Yourself in Case of Delayed injuries

Because you will not be able to tell whether you are injured or know the extent of your injuries until some time has passed, it is wise not to discuss injuries with any insurance companies and avoid the temptation to accept a quick settlement. It may feel reassuring to have cash to cover expenses right after an accident, but insurance companies generally do not offer fair value for a claim until you put some pressure on them.

You could accept a settlement and then learn you will need years of additional medical care or lost earning capacity and the settlement does not begin to cover it. You could be entitled to receive far more for your pain and suffering than the insurance company offers initially. Before accepting anything or even making a statement about injuries, it is a good idea to seek advice from an experienced attorney.

Concussions and Other Traumatic Brain Injuries

A blow to the head or shaking motion as the body is whipped back and forth can cause severe injuries to the soft tissue of the brain. Car accidents often subject victims to both types of head trauma. As the head shakes back and forth, the brain smashes against the skull internally. Then if the victim’s head makes contact with an object during the crash, the brain suffers an additional impact.

Symptoms of a concussion or other brain injury often take time to develop. Swelling resulting from multiple impacts also takes time to develop. It may be hours or even several days before the victim realizes something is wrong.

Hypovolemic and Other Forms of Shock

When a sudden drop in blood pressure prevents the regular flow of oxygen to your organs, your body goes into shock. Your brain, heart, and lungs don’t have what they need to function, and the condition can cause serious damage or lead to death.

The body can go into shock soon after an accident, but the condition can manifest hours or days later. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood sugar
  • Changes in pulse rate

Victims who experience shock need to receive treatment for this condition as well as the underlying disorder that caused the drop in blood circulation. The word “shock” often makes people feel that the condition is mental or emotional, but it is a serious physical ailment.

Internal Bleeding

Blunt trauma to the body and penetrating wounds both can cause internal bleeding that is often hard to detect, even for doctors. Car accidents frequently lead to both of these types of injuries, and conditions such as pelvic fractures can mask dangerous internal bleeding.

Internal bleeding can lead to hemorrhagic shock as the body lacks oxygen at the cellular level due to blood loss.


The damage caused to the neck by the violent thrashing during a car accident often does not manifest until approximately 2-3 days after the collision. At first, it may appear as a mild soreness that is easily ignored. But it can develop into a condition marked by excruciating pain and immobility. If not treated, whiplash injuries can lead to long-term disability.

Back Injuries

The majority of people suffering from chronic back pain first suffered injuries in a car or truck accident. Symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over days, months, and years. A slight muscle ache can mask spinal stenosis, herniated disc, or even spinal fracture.

Not only symptoms but the actual spinal injuries themselves frequently worsen over time. It is vital for anyone noticing back pain after an accident to receive a thorough medical exam to diagnose the damage. A condition that starts with mild discomfort can lead to permanent disability over time.

Hematomas and Blood Clots

A collection of blood outside blood vessels, known as a hematoma, can cause serious injuries when it impacts an organ such as the kidneys. Blunt force trauma can cause blood clots to form. When these clots break away and travel to the brain or lungs, the results can be fatal. Car accidents can trigger these conditions, but they do not become apparent until time has passed.

PTSD and Other Psychological Injuries

Physical injuries are not the only type of trauma that can keep victims from being able to return to normal life after a car accident like a head-on or rear-end collision. Post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of mental trauma can disrupt sleep, lead to heightened anxiety and depression, trigger avoidance behaviors, and otherwise cause severe damage to the quality of life.

An Attorney Can Help You Receive Fair Treatment After Delayed Injuries from a Car Accident

Attorneys who work with car accident victims are well aware of the injuries that often appear long after an accident. That is why they frequently advise everyone to hold off making statements about injuries or accepting offers from insurance companies.

The experienced team at Levine Law can talk to insurance companies on your behalf and help you ensure you receive the care you need after a car accident. For a free consultation to learn the many ways we could assist, contact us today. We serve clients throughout the Denver region with locations in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Loveland, and downtown Denver.

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