Here’s the scene: you were involved in a car accident recently. It was scary, and you felt a little shaken up afterward, but you walked away from the scene unharmed and feeling fine. That’s great, right? Since you’re not in any pain, you must not have sustained any injuries.


Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Car accidents frequently cause delayed pain, delayed symptoms, and delayed injuries. Following a crash, you need to be vigilant about monitoring yourself for pain over the next several weeks. Keep reading to learn more about delayed injuries and how to identify them.

How Long After a Car Accident Can Injuries Appear?

Car accident pain, symptoms, and injuries can manifest hours, days, or even weeks after the crash. One common reason for delayed symptoms is that our bodies experience an enormous surge of adrenaline and endorphins during a traumatic event like an auto accident. The release of these chemicals can mask feelings of pain directly after an accident.


Everyone reacts differently to stress and trauma, and researchers have yet to uncover why some people feel immediate symptoms while others experience delayed pain and symptoms. Regardless, the takeaway is that even if you feel fine after a car crash, you’re not out of the woods yet. You need to monitor yourself closely in the days and weeks following the accident and call your doctor if you develop new onset of pain and injury symptoms.    

What Are the Symptoms of Delayed Injuries?

Remember, delayed injuries can manifest anywhere from hours to weeks after the crash. After an auto accident, be alert for the following signs and symptoms.  


  • Headaches
  • Back pain or neck pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Behavior or personality changes
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal sleep patterns (not being able to sleep or sleeping too much) 


See a doctor if you experience any new or uncommon pain after a car accident, even if it’s mild or appears unrelated to the accident. 

6 Delayed Injuries That Occur After an Auto Accident

The following injuries can develop hours, days or weeks following a crash.


  • Whiplash. Whiplash develops when the head and neck jerk rapidly forward and backward upon impact in a car crash. The forceful motion stretches and damages the soft tissues, nerves, vertebrae and spinal discs in the cervical spine. Common whiplash symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, difficulty moving the neck through its full range of motion, pain that radiates down the shoulders and upper back, numbness and tingling, and headaches. 


  • Concussion. A concussion (also called a mild traumatic brain injury) occurs when the head is forcefully jolted upon impact in a car crash, causing the brain to bounce around the inside of the skull. The movement damages brain cells and soft tissues. Common concussion symptoms include loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea and fatigue, dizziness, mental fogginess, confusion, memory problems, concentration and focus problems, loss of balance and coordination, mood and personality changes, fatigue, abnormal sleep, and sensitivity to light and sound.


  • Soft tissue injuries. Sprains, strains and contusions occur when the soft tissues are stretched, torn or injured during a car accident. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, muscle spasms, and reduced range of motion.


  • Slipped or herniated disc. A slipped disc occurs when the inner, jelly-like fluid of a spinal disc presses against the outer ring of the disc, causing the disc to protrude into the spinal canal. A herniated disc occurs when the jelly-like fluid breaks through a tear in the outer ring and leaks into the spinal canal. Both injuries can occur from forceful impact during a car crash. The first sign of a slipped or herniated disc is usually back or neck pain (depending on the location of the damaged disc). If the disc moves to press against a nerve root or the spinal cord, you may have symptoms like electric pain, weakness, numbness and tingling that radiates down an arm or leg. 


  • Spinal injury. A car accident can injure or damage the vertebrae, spinal discs, nerves, spinal cord, and connective soft tissues in the spine. Common symptoms include back pain, stiffness, muscle spasms, loss of spinal mobility, numbness, and tingling. 


  • Depression, anxiety, or PTSD. A traumatic event like a car crash can significantly impact your mental and emotional well-being. Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to a car accident and associated injuries can present weeks, months, or even years after the initial traumatic event.

Can I Still File a Personal Injury Claim for Delayed Injuries?

The answer to the above question isn’t black and white. Unfortunately, your insurance company does have the right to deny a personal injury claim if you wait too long to report it. Here are some tips to help ensure that you’re able to file an injury claim for delayed injuries and get the compensation you deserve after an accident.  


  • Get a police report at the crash scene and report the car accident to your insurance company ASAP. Make sure the car accident is on record with your insurance provider. If you fail to report a crash due to no injuries and no car damage at the time it happened, your insurance is more likely to deny a claim if you seek compensation for delayed injuries later.


  • See a doctor right after the auto accident, even if you feel OK or only have mild pain. A doctor can evaluate you for potential injuries and tell you what kind of signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for in the following weeks. Provide the evaluation documentation to your insurance provider to prove that you sought medical care within an appropriate time period. 


  • Ask for help from a personal injury attorney. If you don’t feel confident navigating a personal injury case by yourself — especially if delayed injuries are involved — seek professional advice from an experienced attorney. An attorney can represent you to the insurance companies and prove that delayed injuries were caused by the car accident. 

Were You in a Car Crash? Call Integrity Spine and Orthopedics.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact Integrity Spine and Orthopedics to get an evaluation and treatment. Our medical team has experience treating common car crash injuries like whiplash, concussions, soft tissue damage, fractures and spine damage. 


Call us today at 904-456-0017 or fill out our online contact form to request an appointment in our Jacksonville, FL, clinic.

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