There are so many things to process in the wake of a car wreck:
- What just happened?
- Where did that car come from?
- Was it my fault?
- Do I need to call the police?
- Are my passengers OK?
- Is my car OK?
- How much is this all going to cost me?
With all of this swirling around in your head, and adrenaline coursing through your body, you may only be vaguely aware of your injuries. And even when you have a chance to process it all, you may not immediately grasp the full impact on your body.
Some injuries are glaringly obvious, especially if there’s blood, visibly broken bones, and immediate pain. But many common car accident injuries are hard to detect until later. These include:
This neck injury is among the most common car crash injuries. It occurs when the force of impact causes your head to move back and forth, like a cracking whip. It is very common with rear-end car accidents.
Air bags are designed to protect you from whiplash, but not all cars have the latest and greatest air bag technology. Some may not deploy at all or may only deploy partially. Air bags in old cars are often one-size-fits-all, which means they may not offer adequate protection for different body types. In some cases, they may even do more harm than good.
Whiplash damages your soft tissues, but you may not feel it right away. In fact, you may not feel it for a few days. Some whiplash will get better in a week or two. Other cases may stretch on and turn into chronic pain.
The spine can take a beating in a car accident. Unfortunately, the spine is incredibly complex, and when it’s compromised, the effects can be far-reaching. One of the most severe of these injuries is a spinal cord injury. The spine can be fixed in most cases, but how to repair the spinal cord (the bundle of nerves that the spine protects) is still a puzzle to the medical community.
If a spinal cord injury is partial, you will still have some feeling below the injury site, but a complete spinal cord injury will leave you without feeling from the injury down.
Another common spinal injury is a herniated or ruptured disc. In between each of the back bones (vertebrae) is a rubbery disc. Without those discs, the vertebrae rub against each other, which is very painful. The jolt of a car accident can cause your discs to bulge out from the vertebrae or even rupture. This can make your back scream with pain and, depending on the location of the compromised disc, make sitting, standing, bending, etc. all but impossible.
The impact of a car accident can also cause the spine to fracture, leading to pain or numbness (and loss of bladder control).
You may or may not feel the symptoms of your spinal injury immediately after the car wreck. Many victims have returned to life-as-usual only to realize that something is glaringly wrong with their back and mobility.
Traumatic brain injuries
The brain can become injured during a car accident when the impact causes your brain to move around inside the skull. Your head may hit the dashboard or side of the car. Air bags can help soften the blow, but they don’t always prevent TBIs.
And TBIs don’t only happen when your head makes contact with an outside object or surface. The movement of the brain itself due to the impact of the crash can cause an injury as it twists around and stretches the fibers in your neural pathways or slams into your skull.
Mild TBIs are known as concussions and are very common after car accidents, but you may not pick up on them right away. In fact, it may be several days before you begin to experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and trouble concentrating.
A bloody cut from a car accident will be easy to spot, but what happens if you’re bleeding on the inside? It’s common for internal organs like the spleen, liver, and small intestine to become injured during a car wreck. Joints and muscles can even bleed internally.
It may take several days before you notice symptoms of internal bleeding, which may include dizziness, weakness, low blood pressure, vision problems, tingling in your fingers and toes, nausea, and vomiting.
A doctor can order imaging, such as x-rays and CT scans to detect internal bleeding, which can be fatal if left untreated.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Not all damage is physical. You may walk away from an accident with your body intact but your mental health in tatters. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is often triggered by a traumatic event like a car crash. One study showed that among those seeking medical treatment within 30 days of their motor vehicle accident, 25 to 33% had PTSD. The same study showed that motor vehicles are among the leading causes of PTSD.
PTSD after a car accident can cause you to become depressed, have intrusive thoughts or nightmares about the accidents, avoid driving (or avoid driving near where the accident occurred), avoid talking about the accident, feel emotionally numb, and detach from familiar relationships.
The challenge with PTSD is that its onset may be delayed. Some people wake up the day after a car crash with the symptoms of PTSD. For others, symptoms may not show up for months or even years. Many people can work through their symptoms in a matter of months, but others may be haunted by their PTSD for years to come.
How can I Detect These “Hidden” Car Accident Injuries?
The problem with some of these subtle or latent injuries is that they get worse if they go undetected. And there’s also the issue of liability. If the other motorist was at fault and you don’t identify and report your injuries, you may get stuck with medical bills you shouldn’t have to pay.
The most important thing you can do after a car accident is to see a doctor—even if you don’t notice any immediate injuries. Your doctor can identify medical problems that aren’t immediately apparent and recommend treatment.
You should also contact a car accident attorney here in Las Vegas. They can ensure that you get the best care for your injuries and the compensation you are entitled to under the law. This includes payment for your medical care, lost wages, property damage, and more.
The negligent party’s insurance is in it to make a profit. They want you to accept as little payment as possible for your injuries. They may pressure you to settle without accounting for the future implications of your injuries.
A good auto accident injury lawyer won’t let this happen. They understand the most common car accident injuries and their ongoing medical implications. They know how much compensation you need now and into the future, should your injuries stretch out for months or even years.
They can’t undo the car accident, but they can make sure that you receive the settlement that you are entitled to because of the other driver’s negligence.