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Delayed Onset of Symptoms in Personal Injury Cases

Why Delayed Symptoms Are More Common Than You Think

If you have been injured in a car accident, then you probably already know that you should see a doctor right away. That is because in the world of law it is all about what you can prove and, as you know, anything that could be used against you, will be used against you. If you do not seek medical care right away, this will be interpreted to mean that you are not that hurt or what’s worse, in cases with a big delay in treatment, the causal relationship between the accident and the injury becomes more attenuated and the defense may sway the jury to believe that there may have been an unrelated intervening event that caused that injury to take place.

You are probably wondering what do you do if your symptoms don’t show up immediately?

It is actually very common for people who have been in accidents not to notice symptoms for days or, in some cases, even months after the accident. That is because our bodies are equipped with self-preservation mechanisms and we get a large adrenalin rush to help our bodies cope with the shock of the impact.

In this article, we will explain what to do if you suffer delayed onset of symptoms after an accident, and how to mitigate the complications that may come about as a result.

How Delayed Symptoms Can Cause Problems

It goes without saying that the delayed onset of symptoms can be quite scary. There is something uniquely unnerving about walking away from an accident feeling lucky that you avoided injury, only to slowly realize over the next days that, in fact, something is very wrong.

If you do not get treatment for your injuries immediately because the symptoms were delayed, this may make the healing process longer and more difficult. Furthermore, the difficulties are not only health related. Delayed symptoms cause all sorts of legal problems, too.

You see, if you wait to see a doctor after being injured in an accident, then this is known as a gap in treatment. Gaps in treatment, on the whole, are very bad for your case. The insurance company may say that you violated your duty to mitigate damages (i.e. the duty to get medical treatment as quickly as possible so that there are no unnecessary expenses caused by the delay), or they may even say that your injuries were caused by some other factor besides the accident or that you simply were not that hurt if you did not seek treatment right away.

If you are denied coverage for your injuries, then you will still need to seek medical treatment if you want to get better, but this treatment may not be covered by your personal injury case. You will have to find a way to cover it yourself, often out-of-pocket. In the case of a serious injury, medical bills can haunt people for decades.

Of course, with some injuries a brief gap in treatment might be overcome with some good lawyering. However, that will make your case more difficult. Hence, the earlier you get into treatment, the better both for your health and for your case.

Types of Injuries Which Commonly Have Delayed Symptoms

There are a few types of injuries for which delayed symptoms are extremely common. These injuries include:

  • Soft tissue and organ injuries. Aside from the neck (i.e. whiplash), the soft tissue just about anywhere in the body can be damaged in a car accident. Some of these injuries are minor, but others, particularly if they affect the internal organs, can be very serious.
  • Traumatic brain injury. A concussion is a mild type of traumatic brain injury which occurs when the brain is impacted against the inside of the skull. Most people who suffer concussions recover fully, but there are other more severe traumatic brain injuries that lead to serious complications without proper treatment. We cover this topic in more detail in our traumatic brain injury blog.
  • Spinal disc injuries. Different types of impacts may affect different areas of the spine. Often times disc injuries are undiagnosed in the absence of proper diagnostic tests. MRIs and EMG tests are often warranted to properly diagnose a disc injury.
  • Whiplash. This is a regular injury in rear end accidents, even at lower speeds, and involves damage to the neck. It occurs when the head and body are moved back and forth in a whip-like fashion, hence the name.

Although these types of injuries are the most likely to have delayed symptoms, they are by no means the only ones. In fact, just about any type of injury has the potential to have delayed symptoms.

Delayed Onset Symptoms to Watch For

There are as many different delayed onset symptoms as there are types of injuries. However, in the most common injuries, a few symptoms tend to stand out.

If you are suffering from whiplash, you will typically notice pain, numbness, and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back area. Other soft tissue injuries will also lead to these symptoms along with discoloration, swelling, and reduced mobility in different areas. Abdominal pain may be indicative of the most serious internal injuries.

Some of the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, which include headache and neck pain, mirror those of whiplash. You may also lose consciousness at the time of the impact, although contrary to popular belief, not everyone is knocked out after a concussion. However, with a concussion you may also notice changes in cognition, mood, memory, appetite, or sleep, as well as nausea, hearing, and vision problems.

Spinal disc injury symptoms include pain going down the extremities, such as arms, legs, hands, feet, finger and toes as well as numbness and tingling in those areas. In more serious cases, such symptoms as buckling of the knees, bladder and bowel control issues are present.

Typically, you will not need to rack your body looking for symptoms if you are injured. The symptoms will usually make themselves all too apparent, often painfully so. When scanning your body for symptoms after an accident, it may help to take an attitude of relaxed and watchful attentiveness. This will help you avoid both missing any difficult-to-perceive symptoms (a false negative) and overreacting to minor aches and pains (a false positive). Therefore, it often helps to meditate after having an accident, so you can get more in-tune with your body and notice any symptoms you may be missing due to the other competing noise we have in our heads due to our day-to-day busy routines.

What You Can Do About Delayed Onset of Symptoms

While we cannot completely eliminate the problems associated with delayed onset of symptoms, there are a few steps you can take after an accident to minimize these complications as much as possible.

By reading this article, you have already taken the first step. Simply knowing that some injuries have delayed symptoms, and being aware of this after an accident, can make all the difference. You are much more likely to recognize the symptoms when they appear and get the help you need immediately.

The next step you should take is to always seek medical treatment immediately after an accident, even if you do not believe you are injured or if your injuries seem minor. If the doctor misses something or you start to notice new symptoms later, then you should go to the doctor again, as many times as you need to until you get the proper treatment and get back to the status quo, meaning the way you were feeling before the accident.

With this sort of thing, it is best to take a position of extreme caution and err on the side of too many doctor visits rather than too few. You would do far better to be a little annoying than not get all your injuries on the record, and thereby miss out on both proper medical treatment and compensation.

During the course of medical treatment, you should keep a precise record of all your medical appointments and expenses. This is important in any personal injury case, but becomes more so in the case of an accident with delayed symptoms.

The final piece of advice that we can give you is to not settle your case immediately after an accident.

While it may be tempting to settle things quickly, this can be a serious mistake if new delayed onset symptoms show up later. Unfortunately, once the other side’s insurance company has gotten you to sign a settlement agreement, there’s usually no going back.

That is why it is important for you to wait and ensure that you have had a chance to allow all of your injuries to manifest themselves and be properly treated before agreeing to any settlement.

If you have been injured in an accident, don’t delay, contact the Law Offices of Jennie Levin, P.C. right away. We will do all that we can to help you. Also, if you found this article interesting and you believe that your friends would be interested in learning more about this, then share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Finally, feel free to leave us a comment, and let us know what questions you would like us to answer next!