Be Aware of Delayed Symptoms After an Accident

According to the data compiled by the Office of Traffic Safety (CA OTS), just in Sacramento County alone, there were over 9700 injury/fatality accidents recorded in 20145. Nearly one third of those accidents were speed related, and roughly 1100 of them involved alcohol. These statistic are scary, and hit very close to home.

Even a relatively minor car accident can have devastating consequences, both mentally and physically. In a major accident, the injuries are often made obvious very quickly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with car accident victims. For a variety of reasons, injuries can sometimes take days or even weeks to manifest themselves.

This is why it is so important to seek medical attention after an accident, even if it seems minor. There are several potentially life-threatening injuries that are common from car accidents, and many of these do not exhibit symptoms right away, and could show up later and start causing problems. So please, take care of yourself, and make sure you are ok before worrying about anything else.

Don’t talk to an insurance claims adjuster before you consult with one of the Sacramento auto accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Zappettini & Bradley.

Delayed Symptoms to Look Out For:

Traumatic Brain Injuries:

CDC defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI in a car accident, especially children, seniors and those with pre-existing conditions.


Headaches can be triggered by many things, but if you are noticing a nagging or persistent headache after a car accident, it could be a sign of concussion or traumatic brain injury. Either of these are potentially serious and require medical intervention. Persistent or unusual headaches following an accident could also be a sign of a cervical spine (whiplash) injury, blood clot, or even bleeding into the brain. There have been many cases of slow bleeding in the brain (subdural hematoma, or intracranial hematoma) from an accident that has resulted in death weeks, months or even years later.

Changes in Mood, Sleep, Memory, Speech or Personality

Many victims of a car accident begin to notice that they are not able to concentrate as well as they used to, or have trouble sleeping. Perhaps a victim becomes moody or depressed after an accident, or seems to have a hard time finding the right words to use? These changes can all be symptoms of a TBI, and need to be evaluated by medical professionals. Sometimes these changes are observed by friends and family more than the victim, but are significant regardless.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding is one of the most serious consequences of trauma. Usually, the bleeding results from obvious injuries that require rapid medical attention. Internal bleeding may also occur after a less severe trauma or be delayed by hours or days. Some internal bleeding due to trauma stops on its own. If the bleeding continues or is severe, surgery is required to correct it.

Abdominal Pain, Tenderness, or Distention

If you find yourself suffering from swelling or bloating around your midsection, with or without accompanying pain, you may have sustained internal injuries. You may be experiencing internal bleeding as a result of these types of injuries. You may also experience dizziness and fainting. This can be a truly life-threatening situation which requires immediate medical attention.

Difficulty Breathing, or Chest Pains

While car accidents certainly have triggered heart attacks in the past, that not what we are referring to here. Trauma to your chest or rib cage can also be a source of internal bleeding, due to rib fractures, liver injuries, or lung injuries (hemo or pneumothorax), and can cause a victim to deteriorate very quickly. Internal bleeding cannot be stopped by conventional means, and often requires surgical intervention to control.

Spinal Injuries

Car accidents involve a tremendous amount of physics when evaluating the impact on a vehicle occupant’s body. Whiplash is a common cause of neck and back injuries resulting from a car accident, whether the injury is to the spinal disc or facet joint. During a vehicle crash, the speed and force creates a dramatic acceleration/deceleration that the body is not prepared for. Sometimes these injuries can be repaired through physical medicine or pain management intervention as we have previously discussed.

Back Pain

If you develop back pain in the days or weeks following a car accident, you may have been injured. Our spines are truly amazing, but they are also very vulnerable in vehicle accidents. Injuries to the back can include the spinal bones, joints, discs, muscles, ligament, tendons, and the spinal cord itself. to the muscles, ligaments, or nerves in your back. Numbness or tingling in your limbs is big warning sign, and needs to be evaluated by your doctor. Back injuries tend to linger, too, and can become worse over time, or exacerbated by certain activities. Injuries to your back or spine may require some pretty dramatic lifestyle changes, including paralysis. Some spine injuries can not be detected by x-rays from the emergency room and require more sophisticated tests such as CT scans or an MRI to diagnose the problem.

Neck Pain

Similar to back pain, neck pain can signify some more serious injuries. The term “whiplash” is a encompasses several types of neck injury. Specifically, neck sprains and strains are very common, but they can be characterized by a number of different symptoms. Just our neck has numerous parts and components, including the discs, the vertebrae making up the cervical spine, spinal cord, nerve roots, ligaments, muscles and tendons.


A car accident is scary, and it’s very common to experience a number of symptoms associated with PTSD, including:

  • Feelings of anxiety and increased heart rate when you’re faced with reminders of the event. Hearing a horn honk or brakes screeching may automatically activate a fear response.
  • Feeling a little more on edge when you’re driving. You may be jumpy or startle more easily in a car.
  • Being more watchful. You’re more likely to scan your environment for potential sources of threats (for example, people driving too fast).
  • Avoidance. Because of the anxiety that often follows an accident, it’s natural that you may want to avoid some situations or experience hesitation at times, such as driving on the highway.

Treatment for PTSD is most effective when professional intervention occurs sooner rather than later.

What to Do When Delayed Symptoms Occur

On top of the negative health ramifications that can occur from delayed evaluation and treatment, there is also the insurance factor to consider. Many people end up paying out-of-pocket for their medical expenses when accident-related injuries, like delayed whiplash, don’t show up right away. This is even more true if a person settles with the insurance company right away.

Our sole focus is on helping the victims of car accidents receive full and fair compensation. We never rush to settle your case for less than its full value. We do not hesitate to take cases to court when insurers won’t treat you fairly.

Don’t talk to an insurance claims adjuster before you speak with a lawyer. Call us at (916) 457-5022 or fill out our online contact form to request a Free Consultation.