You are sitting in your car on your way to work. You mutter to yourself that you might as well be in a parking lot. Stop and go movement is familiar to anyone who has ever been stuck in traffic. But this time, when you go a few feet and stop, the car behind you slams into you. Your head jerks back and forth. You get out to talk with the driver from the other car. You have a smashed taillight, but other than that the damage does not seem too bad.
You exchange information with the other driver, take notes about the incident, call the police and contact your insurance company — all the things you are supposed to do after being involved in a car accident, even a minor one. But you feel fine, so you think the entire incident is unfortunate but not too serious. After all, nobody seems to have been hurt.
But that’s where you could be wrong.
There are many instances where vehicle accident injuries are not immediately obvious after an accident occurs. Just because symptoms do not readily appear, however, does not mean symptoms will not appear later. These are just some of the reasons why you might not feel injured soon after the accident and what to do should you eventually realize you have been hurt.
A car accident can be a traumatic event, and the adrenaline and endorphins your body releases could mask an injury. Just like many athletes can continue playing in the game after they are hurt, your body generates chemicals that can block pain. You might feel a heightened excitement level and increased energy that can make you think you are fine. Once these chemicals wear off, there is a chance that pain might set in.
Why would you feel a heightened level of excitement after a car accident? After you have been in a collision, your body generates those endorphins and adrenaline. Just because you feel okay does not mean that you are okay. One of the most common injuries that can manifest itself days or even weeks after a car accident is a soft tissue injury.
Your soft tissue includes the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your body. When you suffer a soft tissue injury, it means you have sustained damage to these parts of your body. They do not involve any injuries to your bones.
What you need to know about soft tissue injuries is that they can occur even in what appears to be a very minor car accident. Even low-speed accidents can produce a lot of force. You and your passengers can be jolted when struck from behind or thrown about. This force produces stress on muscles and ligaments and other soft tissue areas of the body.
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What Are the Most Common Kind of Injuries in These Situations?
You should familiarize yourself with the most common types of injuries and their symptoms in case you find yourself in an accident:
Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries that can take quite some time to develop. This is a soft tissue injury that occurs when the neck muscles are affected by a sudden, forceful movement of the head. This and other soft tissue injuries can often reduce mobility and lead to significant swelling and pain, taking days or even weeks to develop.
It is also worth noting that soft tissue injuries do not appear on an x-ray. This makes it more difficult for a doctor to diagnose and properly document. It is very important that you receive proper medical treatment as soon as possible after an accident even if you do not feel any significant pain at first.
If you are a football fan, you have probably heard a lot about concussions recently and how dangerous they can be. Normally, the brain is protected by the skull and the fluid that surrounds it. But if your body is suddenly jolted, or if you hit your head, it is possible that your brain will collide with the inside of your skull with significant force. This could lead to a concussion.
Concussions are not to be taken lightly. The symptoms often do not show up immediately and can sometimes be quite subtle. Signs of a concussion include:
- Frequent headaches
- Clouded thinking
- Trouble concentrating
- Clouded or blurry vision
- Trouble retaining new information
- Low energy
- Unusual sleep patterns, including sleeping more or less than usual
If you are in a car accident, even a minor one, and you notice these symptoms, it could be a sign of a concussion. As we noted above, concussions are not to be underestimated. Seek medical attention immediately.
Pain or Stiffness in Your Neck or Shoulder
Pain in your neck is almost always a sign of whiplash, but a pain in your shoulder can also be a sign that you have soft tissue damage. Most cases of whiplash occur after a rear-end collision at very low speeds.
If your back starts to hurt in the days or weeks following an accident, this could be a sign of injuries to your back muscles or even nerves. It could even be a sign of damage to your vertebrae. Back pain occurs in about half of rear-end collisions and almost 75% of the time when the car is hit from the side.
Pain or Swelling in Your Stomach Area
If you experience pain or swelling in your stomach area, you need to seek medical attention immediately. This could be a sign of internal bleeding. You may also have internal bleeding if you notice deep purple bruising or if you feel dizzy or faint. Sometimes internal bleeding will not manifest itself for hours or days after an accident. This is a very serious condition that needs to be treated immediately. If you notice any of the above symptoms, please seek medical attention right away.
Numbness or Tingling in Your Hands or Feet
This is a side effect of whiplash. It results from injuries to your neck or spinal column, which can create that feeling of numbness. This symptom does not happen as frequently as pain in the neck or shoulder but can be seen in about 20% of people who have been injured in a car accident.
Personality Changes or Problems Functioning Physically
If you or your loved ones notice changes in your personality in the days after a car accident or if you suddenly have trouble doing normal physical activities, these could be signs of a traumatic brain injury. More serious than a concussion, a traumatic brain injury can be a sign of a serious condition. The CDC notes that car accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries.
PTSD does not happen only to soldiers returning from war. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can frequently occur after a car crash. Is not uncommon for people involved in a car crash to relive the incident, suffering from vivid or disturbing memories. Nightmares are another sign. PTSD is a particular problem for children or younger passengers involved in an accident.
Once the adrenaline and endorphins subside after an accident, you may feel anxiety or depression. This could be the result of either your memories of the accident or undiscovered physical injuries. If you find yourself depressed or overly anxious after a car accident, seek medical treatment right away.
How Long Do I Have to Get Checked Out After an Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, you need to see a doctor as soon as you can, even if you think you feel fine. He or she can talk to you about what types of car accident injuries you may have suffered as well as the symptoms you need to be aware of that could indicate a significant problem.
If you need to make an injury claim after the accident, especially about an injury that did not manifest itself until days or weeks after the incident, it is very important to show that you sought medical treatment as soon as possible afterward. If you wait until you start to feel poorly several days or weeks later, the insurance adjuster for your company or for the other driver’s company will maintain that you could not have been hurt badly if you waited so long to seek medical attention.
As we noted above, it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons to seek medical attention either from your family doctor or in a hospital emergency room or an urgent care facility as soon as possible after a car accident. Even if you are not noticing any problems at the moment, that does not mean nothing happened to you. As we mentioned above, it may be days or weeks before you notice any physical injury, especially a soft tissue injury.
Each state approaches the statute of limitations differently. Here is what you need to know in Pennsylvania:
- In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim or lawsuit is two years from the time of the accident.
- Please note that if you are involved in a car accident with any kind of government vehicle from the city, county or state, you only have six months from the time of the accident to file a lawsuit.
After the accident, you will probably be contacted by an insurance company representative who will try and get you to agree to a settlement. Never sign away your rights — always speak to an experienced car accident attorney first. You might have a serious injury that has yet to manifest itself and will result in substantial monetary expenses.
You should always wait until you have been fully examined by your doctor and spoken to your lawyer before you sign anything. If you can, wait long enough to make sure that all injuries that have occurred as a result of the accident are known. You should wait until your doctor tells you that you have reached “maximum medical improvement.” This is the point at which you will not recover any further from the injuries you have received. At this point, you will probably have a much better idea about any future costs you may have to bear for medical treatment.
If you take the money the insurance company offers at first and sign a release form, and if some form of injury manifests itself at a later point, you cannot go back to the insurance company and get them to pay for any more medical treatments. This is why it is so important to talk to a lawyer first.
Who Will Pay for the Damages?
Pennsylvania operates under a no-fault system, which means your own insurance company will cover medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who was at fault. If, however, you have suffered serious injuries, even if they do not manifest themselves until days or weeks after the accident, it is possible to file a lawsuit against the “at-fault” driver.
Pennsylvania follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This means any award you receive will be reduced by an amount proportional to the degree to which you are found to be responsible for an accident. If you are responsible for more than 50% of the accident, however, you cannot collect anything from other at-fault drivers.
It works like this:
If you file a lawsuit and during the trial it is determined that you are 25% responsible for the accident, and you are awarded $10,000, the amount you receive will be reduced by 25%. You will only receive $7,500.
Why Should I Contact a Lawyer?
You should contact a lawyer about your accident as soon as possible, especially if you know you have suffered some form of injury.
Filing a claim or lawsuit to recover the damages to which you are legally entitled can be a complicated and frustrating experience if you are doing it on your own. After all, this is not something you do every day. It is, however, something adjusters for insurance companies are extremely familiar with. They know all the loopholes and pressure points. You need an experienced car accident lawyer who is as knowledgeable about filing a lawsuit or claim as any insurance company advisor.
Make no mistake — your insurance company or the insurance company for the other driver will do their very best to pay you either nothing or as little as possible. Do not assume they will show you sympathy because you’ve been in a car crash. They will not. You need an experienced car accident lawyer fighting on your side to help ensure you recover all the damages to which you are entitled.
Let KBG Injury Law Help You With Your Car Accident Claim or Lawsuit
If you have any reason to believe you have suffered any form of car accident injury, whether serious or minor, contact KBG Injury Law after speaking to your doctor. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers can help you with your situation. If you do not receive any compensation, we will not charge you any fee.
If you would like to schedule a free consultation, call on us at 1-800-509-1011 or request a free consultation online. Tell us about the details of your accident and we will contact you as soon as possible with the guidance you need.