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Can Car Accident Injuries Be Delayed?

A car accident can result in more than damage to your vehicle. You may wind up with injuries that chart a different course for your life.

While some accident injuries are apparent in the immediate aftermath, others may lurk beneath the surface. The signs and symptoms of possibly life-threatening harm can prove so subtle that you may dismiss them as normal. When you know the severity of these delayed injuries, you can start to address their symptoms sooner. Learn more about common car accident injuries that may go undetected and the signs you should not write off.

Internal Organ Damage

Car crashes can exert extreme forces on you. When your vehicle gets hit from any angle, the power of the collision jostles your body around, sometimes violently. The type and placement of the collision point factor into the movement you take. For instance, a rear-end collision often results in your body moving forwards and backward, whereas a side impact typically causes your body to move sideways.

Regardless of your body’s movement, you are likely to strike the seatbelt, the airbags, the headliner, and the door. While airbags and seatbelts prove lifesaving, they may inflict damage on internal organs. Your chest is susceptible to injury from the seatbelt and the airbag. However, the abdominal area is prone to delayed injuries due to the force of the lap belt. Here your organs are more susceptible to damage as they do not have the skeletal protection that your heart and lungs do. The liver and spleen, for instance, may start to bleed without your knowledge. Arteries, such as the abdominal aorta, may also get a severe punch from a crash.

When organs start to bleed, two things can happen. The bleeding may stop, and the body begins to heal. The second path is more life-threatening. If your organs do not stop bleeding, they could rupture. Organ and artery ruptures require surgical intervention to mitigate permanent damage and dramatic blood loss.

Symptoms of an Internal Bleed

You may believe that the pain in your stomach is due to nerves or stress from the crash. While this is sometimes the case, watch out for the following:

  • Late-onset bruising that grows dark purple and spreads
  • Swelling that does not decrease
  • Feeling lightheaded even when lying down
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Pain in the shoulders on the side of the impact

If a bleed or ruptures continues without intervention, you may wind up losing pieces of the damaged organ. You may also wind up experiencing a blood clot somewhere in the body, which can cause a stroke or heart attack event if the clot travels far enough through the bloodstream.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Perhaps the most severe delayed-onset injury is one to the brain. With the entire body relying on healthy brain function, any damage to this super-organ can result in long-term, lingering and even fatal consequences.

Striking the head may not always yield a bruise or cut, as you may assume. Some of the most severe brain injuries occur with little or no direct contact with the skull. Instead, the brain hitting the inside of the cranial bone may result in a light bleed in one or more areas. These bleeds, like those of other internal organs, need locating and stopping immediately.

What makes a brain bleed so dangerous? When the brain is bleeding, it is not always evident. There is no bruise pattern to look for or even swelling. A bleed can start days before the first sign appears. A brain bleed may result in permanent damage to the tissue, significantly impacting physical as well as mental health. Sometimes, the pressure from a bleed is so bad that a stroke event occurs.

Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Injury

To identify any brain injury remain vigilant about the way you feel in the hours and days following a car crash. While some head pain is normal, it should resolve with over-the-counter medication or rest. A headache that gets more intense even after taking medication is a sign that the brain may have suffered damage. A rushing sound in the ears, pressure in one or more eyes, and reddening eye whites are additional clues that the brain is bleeding. The quicker you get to a hospital, the better your chances for effective intervention.

Other signs of a traumatic brain injury may not cause any pain. These can be changes in your cognitive function. Issues with speech and memory may sound the alarm that something is wrong. Slurring words, having difficulty forming sentences or saying things that do not make sense are indications that something is wrong with your cognitive system. Poor memory recall that begins suddenly is another sign you should not brush off.

Back Injuries

A back injury after a crash is not abnormal in and of itself. The large muscles of the back provide support to the spinal column, which consists of vertebrae and disc cushions meant to allow movement and support for the entire body. The spinal column serves as one of the most intricate protection systems shielding the spinal cord from damage, but it can still suffer damage in the violent forces of a car accident.

Spinal cord injuries are often catastrophic. This means that the chance of a full recovery is slim. The cord is a tightly woven complex of nerves and fibers responsible for passing messages between the rest of the body and the brain. If this cord is damaged, the body from that point down may no longer be able to receive nerve impulses. This can result in paralysis or loss of bodily functions.

Telltale Indicators of a Back Injury

Some back injuries appear immediately after a crash, while other aches and pains you may write off as normal. Soft tissue damage generally yields immediate discomfort. However, too-quick dismissal of back pain may lead to a more significant issue later on. Your back pain may signal that you have an injury to the spinal column. In some instances, a cracked vertebra can manifest as an ache in the muscles surrounding it. If you do not get a proper diagnosis, that crack may start to widen and the vertebra may shift into the spinal cord.

Pain is the most significant indicator of a back injury, but when trauma may have inflicted damage to the cord, there are other symptoms to continue looking out for. Numbness and tingling in various body parts are signs that the spinal cord may have sustained an injury. Swelling of the soft tissue may also put pressure on the spinal column and send the cord into overdrive. The recommended course of action for any pain in the back is to have it checked out by a physician.

Protect Your Health and Future After a Crash

When it comes to your long-term recovery after a crash, getting a handle on the damage to your body sooner rather than later is critical. Even when the aches and pains seem normal, err on the side of caution and get a complete checkup. Tell your physician any other abnormal symptoms or events that have occurred since the crash.

With any of the injuries mentioned above, timely intervention is critical. After a collision, consider speaking with a personal injury law firm. An attorney well-versed in navigating the fallout from a crash can assist you in recovering financial compensation that helps you move towards recovery, regardless of the injury.