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Can Car Accident Injuries Show Up Years Later?

December 28, 2020

It is always good to get checked for both mental and physical injuries after a car accident. Injuries do not always show up right away, so it is prudent to know how the accident might affect one’s health in the future. Sometimes, injuries do show up right away, but related medical conditions or problems do not show up until months or years later.

What are Common Car Accident Injuries?

The severity of the injury depends on where and how the car was hit, the force of impact, speed, weather conditions, geography, and many other factors. In general, common injuries for passengers and drivers in a car accident include:

Head Injuries: No matter how well they are buckled in or how quickly airbags deploy, passengers and drivers can strike their heads against steering wheels, windows, dashboards, or on the pavement. Injuries can range from mild concussions, contusions, and abrasions to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), coma, skull fractures, and vision and hearing loss.

Back Injuries: Anyone in the car can suffer back injuries in an accident from hitting up against a seat, door, window, roof, or an outside object. Injuries can include significant damage to the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis or loss of control, and damage to muscles, nerves, and discs. A herniated or slipped disc is a common car accident injury.

Neck Injuries: Any impact that causes the neck to move suddenly, forcefully, or awkwardly can cause damage. Common neck injuries include whiplash, which is often the result of being hit from behind. Ligament and muscle damage in the neck and vocal cord or throat injury can also occur in an accident.

Chest Injuries: Some impacts will cause passengers or drivers to hit something with great force on their chest area, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, or seat in front of them. Injuries to the chest include blunt force trauma, causing broken ribs, collapsed lungs, internal bleeding, cardiac arrest, and other heart problems.

Organ Damage: Blunt force trauma can also occur in other areas of the body, causing organ injuries. Common injuries include internal bleeding, organ or stomach laceration or rupture, bruising, and other damages.

Broken Bones: Broken bones are extremely common in a car accident. Injuries include broken legs, arms, shoulders, pelvis, ankles, and feet. Often, bones in the face are damaged as well.

Muscle, Tendon, and Ligament Damage: These injuries can severely limit a person’s ability to function and may require surgery and therapy. These injuries include torn ACL and MCL of the knee, shoulder impingements, and ankle and other sprains and strains.

Lost Digits or Limbs: Losing a body part in an accident is both physically and mentally damaging and often requires years of therapy and treatment.

Burns: Fires are relatively common in certain types of accidents, and victims may suffer burns and resulting scarring.

Injuries to Motorcyclists, Bicyclists, and Pedestrians: All the same injuries can occur when a vehicle is involved in an accident with a motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian. Injuries may even be worse since there is no protection surrounding these travelers.

What Types of Injuries can Appear Later?

Some injuries can appear years later. Sometimes, the victim is in shock or has an adrenaline rush that masks the pain. For this reason, it is important to get checked by a medical professional after an accident, even if there is no immediate pain or obvious injury.

A victim can experience delayed pain and may not attribute it to the accident. They should consult a doctor and mention the accident if the pain is indeed related to a condition caused by the accident. This helps with documentation for insurance and legal purposes.

Here are signs and symptoms to look for after an accident. Some may not show up until even years later, so it is important to document them as they happen:

Cognitive Issues: Sometimes, head or brain injuries do not manifest into cognitive problems until well after the accident. Car crash victims who notice personality changes or have trouble concentrating, focusing, learning, remembering, or processing information should see a doctor as soon as possible. A simple concussion or brain injury can worsen over time.

Delayed Back or Neck Pain: Soft tissue injuries can arise after an accident. It is always important to tell the medical provider about the accident as that may help them with diagnosis and treatment.

Tingling and Numbness: Nerve damage can cause problems with the body’s nervous system. Spinal and back injuries can also cause tingling and numbness. Do not ignore these sensations. Spinal cord injuries can worsen over time.

Abdominal or Organ Pain: Sometimes, damage to organs and internal bleeding may take some time to show up or be diagnosed. Bruising, dizziness, stomach or abdominal pain, malaise, and weakness need to be checked immediately.

Excessive Sleeping and Fatigue: After a car accident, it is common for people to sleep due to stress, shock, or as the body starts healing. However, excessive sleeping and the feeling of fatigue can indicate other problems.

Headaches and Nausea: A blood clot can form after a car accident, or the brain could swell. Seek medical attention immediately after a collision.

Are Emotional or Psychological Problems After an Accident Considered Injuries?

Emotional or psychological problems that develop after an accident are medical injuries. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common diagnosis after an accident. This is a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a horrific event. Symptoms can include severe anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and inability to control thoughts about the event. They can be short-term or last for months and years and could interfere with day-to-day functions.

Emotional distress and depression are also problems for many victims or witnesses of accidents. Some people may even avoid driving due to their underlying fear or memory of an accident. Emotional distress should be treated just like a physical illness.

Some accident victims develop such deep emotional or psychological issues that they cannot work or their relationships suffer. No matter the issue, mental and emotional concerns after an accident should be treated for as long as needed.

Will Insurance Cover Injuries That Arise Later?

The at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will help cover immediate medical costs in most cases, but a delayed injury can be hard to prove. Even if the carrier agrees to pay for delayed conditions, it may be less than adequate to cover all the costs. A person who settles with an insurance company will not be able to file a lawsuit later, so it is important to contact a lawyer before accepting an insurance settlement for delayed injuries.

How Long After an Accident can a Victim File a Claim?

In Virginia, victims have two years from the accident date to file claims for damages and losses. A lawyer can advise a victim after a car accident. A lawyer will collect evidence, gather witnesses and expert testimony, negotiate on behalf of the victim, and prove that delayed injuries are due to the car accident. It is always good to consult with a lawyer before taking any settlement from an insurance carrier. A lawyer can help calculate future expenses, lost wages, and costs for medical needs.

Virginia has laws regarding contributory negligence, meaning anyone who can be proven to be even the least bit negligent in an accident cannot receive monetary damages in a lawsuit. An experienced lawyer can help navigate often-complex laws.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Advocate for Victims with Delayed Injuries

Victims of car accidents sometimes have delayed physical or mental injuries. If you have an injury, contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we protect the rights of car crash victims. Contact us online or call us at 757-352-2237 for a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910