While some injuries are recognizable immediately after a car accident, some injuries take a day, or even days or more to develop and be detectable. Further, because each and every accident has a different outcome, it can be difficult to predict how your body will recover. There are two general types of injuries associated with car accidents, which are impact injuries and penetrating injuries. Injuries that are apparent immediately following an accident are typically penetrating injuries while injuries that may be apparent right away or take hours or days to develop and be detectable are impact injuries. So, when will an injury show up after a car accident? Depends on the injury.
Impact Injuries that may show up within days of the accident include traumatic brain injuries, head and neck injuries, internal organ damage injuries, and psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury happens when there is a quick and forceful movement of the head, resulting in an abrupt movement of the brain. A traumatic brain injury can vary in the type of damage it causes and may range from broken blood vessels in the brain and blood clots to a concussion and temporary loss of consciousness. Some traumatic brain injuries will not show up on a CT scan or MRI unless there is gross damage to the brain, meaning that larger structures of the brain are involved. Because the damage in some TBIs is at the axon or cell level, it will only show up with certain imaging tests, such as a functional MRI, quantitative EEG, or Diffusion Tensor Imaging. Moreover, because a car accident can be such a stressful and traumatic event, an individual may not associate a loss of memory or headache to the physical injuries associated with a TBI and instead believe they are related to the stressors of the event. Also, symptoms and long-term effects from TBIs develop over time and symptoms may appear gradually. Common issues related to a TBI include:
● Cognitive impairment
● Motor impairment (loss of coordination and balance)
● Sensory impairment (inability to assess and filter environmental stimuli)
● Memory problems
● Mood impairment (depression, anger, anxiety)
● Head pain (chronic headaches)
● Sleep problems
● Energy dysfunction (inability to keep energy levels constant)
Neck and back injuries
During a car accident, the body is often unnaturally and suddenly moved by the force and trauma of a vehicle colliding with another vehicle. Soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash, will be noticeable in the day or days following an accident. Other neck and back injuries may include a neck sprain, vertebrae damage, and herniated discs. Further, injuries in the neck and back related to the muscles, ligaments, or nerves may be in the form of soft tissue injuries and will take hours to days to be readily apparent. These symptoms include:
● Stiffness in the head, neck and/or back
● Limited range of motion, such as an inability to turn the neck from side to side or up and down
● Tingling sensation in the neck and back
● Numbness in different parts of the body may occur if the spinal cord was damaged in any way
● Headaches may signal that there is damage to the neck, head, and back
● Persistent pain in the arms, legs, or lower back may indicate injury to the back, such as a herniated disk
Internal organ injuries
If someone develops chest or abdominal pain, swelling, or bruising after a car accident they should seek medical care immediately. During a car accident, the body may be suddenly jolted forward or back or side to side. The chest or stomach may hit the steering wheel, dashboard, or be impacted by the seat belt. These may be life-threatening injuries. Sometimes these symptoms show over hours or days after the accident. Areas that are affected may include:
● Abdominal area – this area includes organs such as the spleen, colon, and liver, which can be damaged due to the blunt force of a car accident. Symptoms of damage to the abdominal area include nausea, vomiting, swelling and bruising.
● Back area – kidneys may be damaged due to damage in the back area. Symptoms of kidney damage include pain while urinating and bleeding while urinating.
● Chest area – the chest may also be involved because of the blunt force of a car accident and the impact that follows, leaving a victim with broken or
fractured ribs as well as other injuries to the lungs. Symptoms of damage to the chest area may include pain or difficulty while breathing and bruising in the upper body.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) happens to many people who are involved in car accidents. Adults and children are susceptible to developing PTSD after these events and the symptoms that arise as a result of PTSD may take days, weeks, or months to develop. The symptoms of PTSD after a car accident include:
● Flashbacks of the accident
● Vivid memories from the accident
● Fear of driving after the accident
Why don’t injuries show up immediately after an accident? When will an injury show up after a car accident?
Car accidents can put your mind and body through major stress and your body develops endorphins and adrenaline as a result. Both of these chemicals send signals that may decrease the sensation of pain to the injured person immediately after an accident.
What do I do if I am not sure whether I am injured or not after a car accident?
The most critical first step after a car accident is to call 911 and seek a medical evaluation. Even if you are not sure whether you have been injured or not, a medical team can evaluate your condition and let you know the signs and symptoms to watch out for. Further, if you do not seek a medical evaluation after a car accident, it can be difficult to later recover compensation for your damages, which can include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Contact us today if you have been in a car accident so that we can go to work for you.