Last Update: 02/03/16
Just because you don’t seem to be hurt right after a traffic accident does not mean that you haven’t been injured. Many car crashes hurt people that don’t realize they’ve been harmed until days or weeks after the auto accident has happened.
There were 346,943 car crashes in Florida during 2013 according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and it is expected that a similar number of traffic accidents happened in Florida during 2014, although the research findings are still being tallied for last year. Fortunately, only a small percentage of Florida auto accidents result in someone’s death: in 2013, for example, 2402 fatalities resulted from motor vehicle collisions. Most Florida traffic accidents are not so severe that someone dies in them.
However, many people are injured in Florida car accidents every day. Some of the injuries are serious, requiring medical care and forcing the victim to endure weeks or months of treatment (with the victim being unable to walk, drive or work at their job). Even minor fender benders can cause harm, especially rear-end collisions.
The reality is that any collision involving a motor vehicle results in physical force being exerted on the bodies of those riding in the vehicle(s). Force from the crash can injure the human body in many ways, and sometimes those injuries simply do not reveal themselves immediately after impact. Often times, a person may not immediately realize that he or she has sustained an injury to the back, neck, knees, or shoulders.
Severe and serious bodily injuries from a car crash can, and often do, take time to manifest in pain and other warnings. It is important for anyone who has been involved in any collision to know that their body can mask injuries immediately after the crash because adrenaline and other chemicals can serve to mask feelings of pain or discomfort.
In fact, an accident victim may feel fine right after a collision even though they have an injury to their head (traumatic brain injury, concussion) or their neck or spine (whiplash, fractured disc, etc.). Their body’s immediate reaction to the accident may be hiding the fact that they have been hurt.
Injuries That Take Time to Show Up After a Car Crash
Not every injury is obvious immediately after a car crash. For many auto accident victims, their bodies take time to recover from the shock of the crash and alert to the harm suffered from the collision.
One of the most common forms of hidden injuries in a traffic accident are “soft tissue injuries” that include things like torn ligaments and twisted muscles. When the neck is involved, this is called “whiplash.”
Whiplash is the most common type of injury in a Florida car accident. Whiplash can be a serious injury, debilitating in the inability of the victim to move or walk normally, as well as with the severe pain and suffering that often comes with a whiplash injury.
What is Whiplash?
When a car accident happens, the force of the collision pushes the victim’s neck and head forward and back suddenly and with great speed. As a result, the muscles, nerves, and tendons in the neck – which serve both the brain and head as well as the spine and movement of the arms and legs – are damaged. The full harm of whiplash may not be known for days or even weeks after the crash, however.
Whiplash is also difficult to diagnose and treat, especially for victims in which it has not fully manifested, because whiplash injuries are not like broken bones that show up on an x-ray. Medical care is dependent upon the victim’s realization that there is pain and a lessening of movement in their neck and shoulders, giving health care professionals the ability to target and treat the whiplash injuries.
2. Concussions and Brain Injuries
Another common form of hidden injury after a car crash is a concussion or brain injury suffered during the crash. When the victim suffers force to their head and skull, the brain inside is jarred forward and back at great speed and with great strength. The brain is harmed by this jarring but the victim may not be aware of the brain injury at the time of the accident or even for days or weeks thereafter.
Concussion injuries can be hard to spot both for the victim and their loved ones. It may take time for symptoms like the following to be seen as being connected to the car accident:
- Fatigue (lack of energy)
- Sleeping a lot (or suddenly having insomnia, not able to sleep)
- Inability to Concentrate
- Fuzzy Thinking
Medical Care After a Car Accident
Anytime you or a loved one is involved in any kind of traffic accident, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. This is true even if you don’t feel that you have been hurt; it is especially important if you have any feeling of pain or discomfort. Even if the doctor doesn’t find any problems at your initial visit, he or she can provide you with specific directions on how to monitor your condition in order to seek care if you have indeed suffered a concussion, brain injury, or injury to your neck or spine (whiplash). Having the doctor explain what to look for is key in getting proper care and treatment when these “hidden” injuries are still in the process of revealing themselves.
Defense Disrespect of Car Injuries
From a legal standpoint, it’s also important to see a doctor as soon as possible after a traffic accident. This is because the insurance defense argument will be that you weren’t hurt that bad — or you weren’t really hurt at all — because you didn’t bother to get help from a doctor after the accident. It will important to have an aggressive injury lawyer as well as medical expert support to counter the disrespect most insurance adjusters and injury defense lawyers have for any injuries that do not manifest at the time of the accident.
Additionally, some insurance coverage may require you to seek medical care within a specific time frame after a crash. In Florida, for example, PIP coverage now requires a visit to the doctor within a set number of days after the accident occurred.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in an accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
For more, see our earlier post, “Do You Still Have an Injury Claim if You Wait to See a Doctor or if You Don’t File a Timely Incident Report After an Accident .”
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.