You’ve just been in a car accident, and aside from some bruising, you feel fine, although you are annoyed you were rear-ended. You refused medical attention at the scene of the accident, and now it is hours or days later and you are not feeling 100%. Should you be concerned?
Yes. Your body was flooded with adrenaline when you first experienced the trauma of the accident, masking any pain that would indicate a serious injury at the time. Here are seven signs and symptoms of the types of severe injuries you can sustain in an automobile accident that may not show up until days or weeks later.
If you show any of these signs or symptoms when the adrenaline subsides, seek medical attention immediately. You may have suffered a severe injury in your car accident and not know it.
This advice is from the office of a prominent car accident attorney in Media, PA.
It is common for a car accident victim to have a headache in the hours after the accident, and usually, it is nothing serious. However, if you develop a headache days later, or the pain seems unusually severe or is located in a specific area, it may be a sign of a blood clot on your brain, a neck or head injury, or a concussion.
A car accident can also cause traumatic brain injury if the soft tissue of the brain impacts your skull, causing swelling, bruising, bleeding, and even damage to the brain. A headache that persists may be a sign of traumatic brain injury.
Do not ignore a headache that will not subside or that appears days or even weeks after the car accident. Seek medical attention to ensure that your headache is not a sign of a more serious injury.
Neck or Shoulder Pain or Stiffness
If you experience neck or shoulder pain or stiffness after a car accident, you are likely suffering from whiplash. Whiplash is the common term for when the victim’s nerves, joints, and muscles in the neck are overextended beyond their normal range of motion. Whiplash usually occurs in rear-end collisions.
The pain or stiffness may take hours or even days to set in. See your doctor as soon as you can. You will likely have an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI performed to diagnose your injury accurately.
More serious than whiplash is a spinal injury, which might also manifest as neck or shoulder pain. Again, your doctor will use diagnostic tools to determine what is causing the pain and prescribe the appropriate treatment for your underlying injury.
Do not ignore neck or shoulder pain or stiffness. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms because timely, accurate diagnosis and course of treatment will lessen the chance or serious or permanent injury.
Back pain is a common delayed side effect of a car accident injury and may indicate a strain or herniated disc or discs, or damage to ligaments, muscles, or vertebrae. Back pain can occur in car accidents of any type and at any speed and can be a sign of serious damage to your spine.
Back pain may be accompanied by numbness or tingling, or not. Numbness and tingling may be signs of a pinched nerve or a damaged disc and compression on a nerve.
If your back pain is a sign of a serious injury and you allow it to go untreated, you risk causing further damage, which can affect your mobility and quality of life. Have the source of your back pain diagnosed as soon as you can following the accident.
Numbness or Tingling
Numbness or tingling in your arms, hands, or legs can indicate damage to the spinal column such as a herniated disc or discs, which will press on nerves, or a pinched nerve.
Your doctor will have an X-ray or MRI performed and will be able to diagnose the severity of the damage, and whether surgery is indicated or any number of other therapies might relieve the pressure on the nerve causing the numbness or tingling. Do not ignore these symptoms because this type of injury will only worsen with time and without treatment.
If you experience abdominal pain even days or weeks after an accident, seek medical attention immediately because it could be a sign of internal bleeding, which is a life-threatening injury if untreated. Any or all of the following symptoms may be a sign of internal bleeding or a brain bleed:
- Deep bruising or purple skin anywhere on the body;
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded;
A victim of internal bleeding will not be able to tell if a headache or a bruise by itself is internal bleeding, so if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, go to the emergency room.
Behavioral or Personality Changes
Changes in personality or behavior can be signs of traumatic brain injury or PTSD.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Changes in behavior or personality following a car accident can be a sign of traumatic brain injury. These changes may include
- Impaired thinking or memory;
- Impaired movement;
- Impaired vision or hearing;
- Appearing depressed;
- Other personality changes.
If you or someone you know was in a car accident and are suffering any of these warning signs of a traumatic brain injury, seek medical attention immediately.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
You’ve heard of military personnel and first-responders suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but this is not an injury to mental health that is unique to them. Victims of car accidents can suffer PTSD, and so can witnesses to car accidents.
Common symptoms of PTSD include:
Intrusive memories, such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe distress when reminded of the event, or obsession with the traumatic event.
Avoidance of anything or anyone reminding the victim of the traumatic event.
Negative changes in mood or emotions, such as anxiety, hopelessness, detachment, feeling numb, lack of interest in activities the victim formerly enjoyed.
Extreme and unwarranted reactions or changes in behavior, such as extreme irritability, always being on guard or being easily startled or frightened, overwhelming guilt or shame, self-destructive behavior such as binge eating or drinking, trouble sleeping, or difficulty concentrating.
Victims may experience any or all of these symptoms and in varying degrees of severity. They may experience a symptom constantly, or when reminded of the car accident, and symptoms may arise immediately after the accident or years later. Some people living with PTSD have suicidal thoughts.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of PTSD, talk with your doctor or mental health professional about it.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, she frequently works with Craig Altman, Esq., a car accident lawyer in Media, PA.