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What Should I Do If My Auto Accident Injuries Don’t Show Up Right Away?

close up of auto accident

You probably know that if you’re having symptoms after a car accident, you should get checked out by a physician as soon as possible. Seeing a doctor is important for both your health and your personal injury claim. But, what if you’re feeling okay after the crash, and then symptoms start to emerge later?

It’s more common than you may think.

As a general rule, it’s best to get checked out medically after a motor vehicle accident, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Neglecting medical care can aggravate injuries, sometimes even turning what might have been a short-term injury into a long-term or permanent one.

It’s also wise to speak with a local car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash. You’ll likely be hearing from the responsible driver’s insurance company shortly after the accident, and speaking with them before you get advice from an experienced auto accident attorney can be risky.

Conditions that May Not Be Immediately Obvious after an Automobile Accident

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you have any unusual symptoms at all in the days or weeks following a traffic accident, you should seek medical attention. These are some of the most common types of injuries that initially go unnoticed.

Head Injuries

Head injuries, including concussions and more serious forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) may go unnoticed in the immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle collision. One reason for this is that someone experiencing a headache immediately after a traumatic event like a car crash may write it off to stress or the jarring impact of the collision. Another is that a small bleed may not cause symptoms right away. A third is that many people don’t realize that you can sustain a concussion without hitting your head. And, some symptoms of a TBI aren’t immediately connected with a head injury, such as dizziness and nausea.

Back Injuries

Even a serious back injury may not be immediately obvious. Sometimes, a back injury goes unnoticed because the injured person thinks they are just stiff or sore from the impact, and decides to wait a few days and see whether they improve without medical care. In other cases, it’s because the injured party is unaware of the pain in the shock and disorientation following the car crash. In still others, there is little or no pain initially, but the condition worsens as the injury victim moves around and puts strain on the spine.

Psychological Harm

Many people who have been injured in automobile accidents, especially serious collisions, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychological impacts. But, the injured person may not notice the symptoms immediately. For instance, someone suffering from PTSD after a motor vehicle crash and hospitalized may not experience symptoms until they attempt to get into a car to go home from the hospital. Or, it may be difficult in the early days to distinguish the natural emotional and psychological response in the immediate aftermath from a more lasting psychological issue.

What to Do When You Discover Car Accident Injuries

Ideally, you’ll have been examined right after the accident, and you’ll have been keeping a record of any symptoms you are experiencing following the crash. But, if you didn’t suspect that you were injured and haven’t taken these steps, the next best option is to act quickly when you realize you were injured.

Get a Medical Assessment

The first step, of course, will be to seek medical attention. When you see your doctor or visit an emergency room or walk-in clinic, make sure you tell the physician about all of your symptoms, even if they don’t seem connected. As explained above, you may not always recognize the connection between a specific symptom and an injury you may have sustained in the collision. You should also be sure to tell the doctor that you were in a traffic accident and describe any symptoms you have had since the collision and when they started.

Begin Documenting Your Symptoms and Limitations

Any time you’ve been injured, it’s a good idea to start a record of the symptoms you’re experiencing and how those symptoms are impacting your daily life. Of course, the best time to start maintaining this record is immediately after your accident. But, if your injuries aren’t immediately obvious, you should start documenting as soon as you recognize that you’ve been injured.

In the moment, it may seem that you’ll never forget the details of how you’re feeling and how it affected your quality of life. But, you will. Keeping a record will help you provide accurate information to your treating physicians and to your car accident attorney, so both can do the best possible job for you.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer Right Away

If you didn’t realize right away that you’d been injured and might be entitled to compensation, you may already have made mistakes that could impact your personal injury claim. For example, if you’ve spoken to the other driver’s insurance carrier, they may have tried to lead you into saying something that could hurt your car accident claim. And, if you didn’t get a medical assessment right away, you may have aggravated your injury. When that happens, the other party’s insurer will usually try to prove that it’s partly your fault that your injuries are so severe. If they succeed, it will reduce the compensation available to you.

The sooner you put your case in the hands of a reputable personal injury lawyer who has experience with car accident claims, the better opportunity they will have to mitigate any damage, gather evidence, talk to witnesses, and build the strongest possible case on your behalf.

If you’ve belatedly discovered that you were injured in a car accident or other motor vehicle crash that was someone else’s fault, the next step toward protecting your rights is to call 904-251-1111 to schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced car accident attorneys at Harrell & Harrell.