As many can attest, being injured in a car accident can be an overwhelming experience. While serious accidents such as side-impact and head-on collisions often result in catastrophic injuries, people can even suffer harm in minor fender-benders. In some cases, however, those involved in minor accidents may not immediately notice any signs of an injury. Then, days, weeks or even months later, they experience pain, soreness, dizziness or other symptoms. Nonetheless, when injuries surface long after a car accident, it is crucial to protect your legal rights. Suffering from a car-related injury months after a crash can be devastating but our goal is to equip you with your rights.
Monitoring Injuries After an Accident
Much like an athlete who doesn’t notice an injury until after a game, a car accident victim may not initially experience symptoms either. Depending on the cause of the car accident, the shock may cause the body to produce adrenaline and endorphins, which act as pain blockers. Even if you think you are fine, you may experience pain once those chemicals have subsided. Similarly, symptoms of an injury may not appear until much later or worsen over time. This is often the case with soft tissue injuries.
What is a Soft Tissue Injury?
A soft tissue injury involves damage to parts of the body other than bones or organs, such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. Even in low-speed collisions, a lot of force is generated. When occupants of a vehicle come to a sudden stop, or get jostled around inside the vehicle, a lot of stress is placed on the joints and other parts of the body.
In general, the symptoms of soft tissue injuries include pain, swelling and reduced mobility, most of which do not surface immediately. Not only can it take days or weeks for symptoms to appear, these injuries cannot be detected by X-rays. For this reason, soft tissue injuries are hard to diagnose, and moreover, to document. These injuries can be treated with pain medication, physical therapy and rest. Left untreated, however, soft tissue injuries may not heal properly, resulting in permanent damage.
One of the most common soft tissue injuries arising from car accidents is whiplash, which results from a sudden impact, causing the head to snap back and forth or sideways. Such a violent motion can tear muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck, resulting in pain, stiffness and headaches. Some whiplash victims may also experience fatigue or numbness or weakness in their legs and arms.
The Subtle Signs of Concussions
In a car accident, if you hit your head or your body is violently jolted, your brain can rattle around inside your skull, leading to a concussion. Although this is a serious injury, at times the symptoms may not be immediately apparent. Of course, symptoms such as disorientation or loss of consciousness are obvious; however, other more subtle symptoms include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Blurred vision
- Loss of energy
- Unusual sleep patterns (sleeping more or less)
If you experience any of these symptoms after a car accident, you should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Seek Medical Treatment After an Accident
If you have been involved in a car accident, you should seek medical treatment, even if you don’t think you’ve been injured. A doctor will be able to discover any injuries and alert you to warning signs of other injury symptoms. Moreover, if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim, it is necessary to
(1) show that you sought medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time after the accident and
(2) document your injuries.
Should I settle with the insurance company right away?
After a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company may quickly offer you a settlement and attempt to get you sign a release of any claims. You should never speak to an insurer or accept a settlement without having proper legal representation. Additionally, you should have a complete medical evaluation and wait to settle the claim until all of your injuries have presented. If you sign a release too soon and injuries subsequently appear, you may forfeit your right to compensation to pay for additional medical treatment.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to damages for lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, property damage and other losses. However, obtaining compensation can be complicated if injuries do not become apparent until long after the collision. For this reason, you are well advised to speak with a capable personal injury attorney who can best protect your rights.
Yosi Yahoudai is the founder and managing partner at J&Y Law Firm, a personal injury law firm located in Los Angeles, California. Yosi’s practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents that have caused catastrophic and life-altering injuries.