Delayed Injuries: I Didn’t Know I Was Seriously Injured Until Later

June 29, 2021 | David Abels
Delayed Injuries: I Didn’t Know I Was Seriously Injured Until Later Anyone who’s been involved in a car accident knows what it feels like to be glad you weren’t severely injured or killed. Close calls like that usually bring us an unexpected wave of emotion and gratitude. But just because you were not killed or visibly injured doesn’t mean you’re walking away unscathed. What you thought were normal aches and pains could mean that something more serious is going on. It’s well documented that violent motor vehicle accidents cause shock and a rush of adrenaline. This protective physical response is helpful in life-threatening situations. But it can also mask serious injuries. Sometimes, it can take days or weeks for serious injuries to present themselves. Because of this, it’s critical that you get checked out by a medical professional right away after a car accident. if you thought you were fine and delayed medical treatment, but it turned out you weren’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have ruined your personal injury claim.

How Delayed Treatment Can Impact Your Claim And What To Do About It

Far too many people forgo immediate medical attention after a motor vehicle collision. Whether it’s because of optimism that your injuries will heal on their own, the demands of a busy life, a lack of health insurance, or just putting your head in the sand, delayed treatment can create an obstacle when you need to pursue a personal injury claim later. The personal injury claim process is already tedious to carry out on your own. And once insurance companies are involved, they’ll immediately begin identifying problems or inconsistencies to justify denying or lowballing your claim. The obvious way to do that in this scenario is to say that if someone was seriously injured, surely they would have known about it or sought medical care. However, years of experience in the personal injury field has proven time and again that this isn’t necessarily true. In addition to arming insurance companies with arguments to counter your injury claim, waiting weeks or months to see a doctor creates another issue for injury victims. Insurance companies will say that your injuries didn’t originate from the crash. Therefore, it would not be their responsibility to cover your damages. The best thing you can do to protect yourself after a car accident in the event that you need to file a personal injury claim is to get immediate medical treatment. Not only can you be assured of your physical state, but a medical professional will document your injuries. This allows your car accident attorney to establish a causal connection between the accident and your injuries.

What if you’re already delayed medical treatment after an accident?

If you’re already in this situation, “coulda woulda shoulda” won’t help. The next step to take is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will help you prove that your injuries were caused by the incident in question and document reasons for your delayed treatment. With an experienced attorney working on your behalf, a delay in treatment doesn’t mean certain loss of your lawsuit. [Learn more: Why Getting Medical Treatment after an Injury is So Crucial]

Symptoms That May Indicate a Serious Underlying Injury

The following are some common symptoms that may indicate that your injuries are more serious than you originally thought.

Back Aches and Pains

Lots of people expect to have aches and pains in their back after a car accident. But in some cases, this pain is a sign of a more serious underlying back injury. The back pain you experience after a car accident may be due to:
  • small fractures in the spine
  • nerve damage in the spinal cord
  • damaged vertebra, such as a herniated disc
If you’re experiencing back pain after a personal injury incident, a medical professional’s diagnosis is the best way to ensure your physical well-being.


Another common symptom people experience after car accidents that may be a sign of something more urgent going on is numbness. Numbness is often a result of nerve damage, which could have serious repercussions if left untreated. For example, numbness in your extremities could mean that you have a spinal cord injury. In other instances, numbness may indicate poor blood circulation caused by trauma. This can lead to permanent damage or infection and may even necessitate amputation.

Neck Pain or Stiffness

Neck pain is one of the most common complaints reported to medical staff after an accident. If you experience neck pain or stiffness, you definitely want to get it checked out. Pain and stiffness in the neck could be a sign of damage to the spine. If you also experience dizziness, nausea, or vomiting, it may be linked to structural issues in the cervical spine. This can indicate a serious physical issue that requires treatment. Whiplash is so commonly associated with car accidents that many people think it’s not a big deal. Just because you feel like you have whiplash doesn’t mean that something more critical isn’t hiding behind the stiffness. Some injuries can present as whiplash when in reality the victim is suffering from a fractured vertebrae, herniated disc, or nerve damage in the upper spine. Any one of these delayed neck injuries could cause a person to have serious issues down the road.

Headache or Head Pain

A headache may seem normal after being involved in a collision. But it could also be the first sign of a traumatic brain injury. If your headaches are also causing nausea, impaired vision, or fainting, seek medical intervention right away. What initially presents as head pain could actually be:
  • brain injury
  • spine injury
  • nerve damage
  • cerebral edema
  • fractured skull
If you’re experiencing head pain after a car accident, it’s best to not take any risks. An untreated brain injury could cause life-altering changes to one’s behavior, cognitive abilities, executive functions, communication skills, and emotions. What starts as a headache can also lead to a sudden coma, vegetative state, or death, especially if treatment is delayed.

Changes in Mood, Thinking, Memory, or Personality

Changes in mood, thinking, memory, or personality can be hard to recognize. However, they are classic symptoms of a serious brain injury. If you were involved in a car accident or other traumatic event and you’re experiencing changes in any of the above areas, you should get emergency medical care immediately. It’s normal for people to overlook aches and pains from a car accident as nothing serious. But anything to do with brain function should never be ignored.

Difficulty with Movement and Coordination

Both brain injuries and spinal cord injuries can impair communication between various body parts. If you experience muscle spasms, lack of balance, or loss of coordination, don’t ignore it. Injuries like these can cause more damage if left untreated. So getting medical care right away is key to preventing life-long problems like paralysis or permanent disability.

Stomach Pain

Abdominal pain, especially with bruising and dizziness, could indicate serious internal issues. Internal injuries include damaged organs or internal bleeding. Organ damage or blood loss can eventually send the body into fatal shock if left untreated. Stomach pain related to an accident can easily be passed off as a digestive issue or some “routine pain that everyone experiences after a car accident.” These aren’t good approaches to take when it comes to aches and pains. Stomach pains can actually be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that may require emergency surgery to save your life.

Pain in Your Arms, Legs, or Ribs

A broken bone is usually obvious right away. Nonetheless, adrenaline and shock after traumatic incidents can temporarily mask pain. Additionally, some types of bone injuries are harder to notice. For example, rib and skull fractures, broken tailbones, or internal bone breaks aren’t necessarily outwardly visible. In these situations, it’s not uncommon to go days without noticing that something is seriously wrong.

Can I still get compensation if my treatment was delayed?

There are many reasons that people don’t realize they’re seriously injured and, as a result, delay medical treatment. Some of the most common reasons that victims don't get treatment after a serious car accident include:
  • thinking that their symptoms are normal
  • thinking they have a less severe injury
  • the injury was masked by shock and adrenaline
  • fear getting treatment because they have no way to pay for the large medical bills
Delaying medical treatment for serious injuries is not a sign someone is being deceptive. Sometimes, there is simply a good reason. If you delayed getting medical treatment for a severe injury, it’s still possible to get compensation through a personal injury claim. The case may be harder to prove and some evidence may be lost. Additionally, it may be more difficult to link your injury to your damages. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be denied justice. The experienced attorneys at Abels & Annes are here to help. We offer a free consultation to discuss your legal options, explain your rights, and determine if you have a viable case. Call us at 312-924-7575 or contact us online to be connected with our attorneys.  
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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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