Delayed Pain - Adamson Ahdoot LLP

Delayed Pain After Car Accident: What Should You Do?

When you experience a car accident, your first reaction is to check for injuries. If another car sideswiped you on the driver’s side, for example, impact injuries to the left side of your body could be apparent.

Sometimes, a car accident doesn’t immediately result in a clear, noticeable injury – whether the accident is traumatic or a fender bender. You may think you’re fine, but then notice over several hours, days, or even months that something just isn’t right with your lower back or legs.

That could be the result of delayed pain. Delayed pain caused by a car accident can begin anywhere from a few hours to a few days, up to a month or longer. If you’re experiencing delayed pain, it’s important to seek medical treatment before filing an insurance claim.

Woman suffering back pain after a car accident

Key Takeaways

  1. A car accident is a traumatic event that often causes bodily injury. An “injury” is essentially any bodily harm and ranges in severity from manageable to requiring medical attention. On the other hand, “trauma” is a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention.
  2. Some injuries will be apparent at the scene of the accident. For example, broken bones, open wounds, or head injuries. These “apparent traumas” are injuries other than those that are fatal or incapacitating and clear to observers at the scene.
  3. The fact that you don’t immediately feel any pain following a car accident doesn’t mean that you won’t in the future. Some injuries simply don’t present until anywhere from hours to months after the wreck. Delayed pain is evidence of a more serious underlying problem.

What is Delayed Pain?

The vast majority of car accidents are not fatal. But that doesn’t mean they don’t cause serious injuries! Injuries like bruises, cuts, scrapes, or broken bones are easy to spot. It’s the problems brewing beneath the skin’s surface that may not attract your attention until after the wreck.

Unfortunately, there’s no strict definition of “delayed pain.”

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may feel fine. For different people and different injuries, you may not feel any pain at all for anywhere from a few hours to one or two months.

You might feel fine after an accident. That doesn’t mean that you won’t experience delayed pain in the coming days or weeks.

That’s why it’s so important to seek medical care, even if you do feel okay following the crash. This not only gives you peace of mind, but also establishes a paper trail should you need to file an insurance claim.

Dealing with Delayed Symptoms After a Car Accident

It’s common to feel musculoskeletal pain after a car accident.

That pain may seem unimportant. But you should look out for the following causes of delayed symptoms after a car accident.

1. Shock

Shock is a natural response to a traumatic event – either physical or emotional.

To deal with the immediate stress of an accident and injury, your body experiences a sudden drop in blood pressure. The body reallocates blood from the extremities to the vital organs, protecting your body’s most important systems.

This reduction in blood flow can cause you to lose sensation in your arms, hands, legs, and feet.

If you suffered an injury to any of these extremities, it’s possible you won’t notice at first – or even until days or weeks later.

2. Adrenaline

Adrenaline is what causes your body’s physiological “fight or flight” response. It’s the body’s way of providing energy that keeps you going in dangerous situations.

When the body releases the adrenaline hormone, it produces a self-preservation effect. Body systems unnecessary at that moment are reduced. Functions like tissue repair, for example, will halt. This ultimately disguises bodily injuries and limits pain signals.

Like the effects of shock, adrenaline can also reallocate blood flow to other parts of the body. This can also give you a false sense of strength and inhibit your awareness of injuries.

3. Inflammation

Shock, adrenaline, and inflammation are natural responses to injury. Inflammation occurs after adrenaline and shock wear off.

Once you’ve escaped mortal danger, inflammation begins. The injury site may experience swelling and increased warmth. Similar to the other bodily reactions, inflammation moves blood to your injury to initiate the healing process.

Shock, adrenaline, and inflammation work together to hide the pain you may otherwise feel immediately after a collision.

Depending on how traumatic your wreck or injury was, it could take several hours or days before you notice the swelling. That’s one reason you may not feel back pain until three weeks after the car accident.

Injuries that Cause Delayed Pain

It’s more likely for a significant injury than for a simple cut or bruise to cause delayed pain. If you’ve experienced something like a torn muscle or traumatic brain injury, symptoms may not manifest for 24 to 48 hours. Delayed pain could take even longer to present.

It’s important to seek medical care after a car wreck, not only to ensure everything is okay, but also to create a trail should you need to eventually prove causation.

Once you feel delayed pain after a car accident, it’s important to seek medical care.

It’ll likely take a medical professional to both locate the pain and diagnose the issue. But remember that the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more severe the injury may become. A delay can also make it more difficult to prove causation, a crucial element in any insurance claim or lawsuit you may bring.

Even if you don’t perceive your injuries as “serious,” obtaining medical care after your wreck can reduce the chances of an injury growing more severe and make a potential lawsuit easier to win.

1. Whiplash

Many people experience whiplash following a car accident. This is caused when the impact of a collision forces the neck and head to move quickly, either back and forth or side to side.

Because the movement is unexpected, whiplash can cause muscles and other parts of the neck, such as ligaments, tendons, facets, and nerves, to tear or stretch. Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Shoulder pain and swelling

The body’s response to whiplash includes inflammation. It’s possible that swelling and pain could be delayed up to several days.

2. Soft Tissue Damage

After a car accident, you may experience an injury to your muscles, ligaments, tendons, or nerves. These soft tissue injuries often present as a sprain (i.e., a ligament tear) or a strain (i.e., a muscle or tendon tear).

Like with whiplash, the body’s natural inflammatory response may delay pain for several days. If you notice the following symptoms, you may have a soft tissue injury:

  • Pain or tenderness at the injury
  • Muscle spasms or cramping
  • A reduced range of motion
  • Bruising or swelling
  • Weakness

3. Spinal and Back Injuries

The most dreaded injuries are back and spinal cord injuries. Pain could be emblematic of a severe injury to your spinal discs, muscles, or vertebrae. Because of the nature of a serious back injury, you may not feel back pain until months after a car accident.

For instance, you may not notice a herniated disc until months after the injury that ruptured the disc. The disc slowly puts pressure on the surrounding nerves until the pain becomes more pronounced.

Similarly, injuries to the spinal cord can cause or contribute to leg pain. If a disc presses on a certain nerve, for instance, you may have delayed leg pain after a car wreck as well.

Delayed back or leg pain can indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Symptoms of concern include:

  • Neck or lower back pain
  • Reduced motion or limited mobility
  • Intense pain when coughing or with certain movements
  • Muscle spasms or cramping
  • Numbness or tingling

Injured in a Car Accident? Adamson Ahdoot Can Help

When you’re injured in a car accident, sometimes the damage is apparent. But it’s not always immediately clear that you’ve sustained a serious problem. You may not feel any back, leg, neck, or other pain for several days or sometimes even weeks. If that’s the case, a seasoned lawyer can help get you the justice you deserve. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience and have a proven track record of getting their clients maximum compensation.

Contact us or call (800) 310-1606 today for a free consultation.

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