Symptoms of an injury may present themselves days, weeks, months, or even years following an accident. While injuries such as broken bones, lacerations, etc. are readily apparent following a crash, there are many other injuries that can take the time to manifest and present symptoms that are identifiable. Thus, it is important for individuals injured in an accident to pay close attention to their health and the signals their bodies exhibit long after the dust has settled. In all cases, individuals should receive a thorough medical evaluation following an accident and these records should be kept for reference in the event that symptoms present themselves in the future.
Common Delayed Symptoms
Headaches – Headaches can manifest hours, even days following an accident and it is common for accident victims to experience strong headaches after an incident occurs. While some headaches are little more than the result of a bump on the head, they can point to serious underlying injuries including blood clots, pressure on the brain, neck injuries, concussions, and contusions.
Stiff Muscles – Stiff muscles occur due to tension and stress caused by the accident. These are benign causes that will subside, however, they can also occur as the result of deep trauma to the muscle tissue. Muscle stiffness can also be caused by bacterial or viral infections acquired during the accident. Symptoms can develop anywhere from 24 to 72 hours following an accident, and any muscle stiffness that lasts longer than a week should be thoroughly investigated.
Neck Pain – Whiplash is a leading cause of neck pain following an accident. It can develop any time after an incident occurs, although most cases present themselves within 1-3 days following an accident. Common symptoms of whiplash include headaches and neck pain, shoulder pain, dizziness, numbness, memory loss, and irritability. These symptoms can last for days, weeks, and even years if left untreated.
Swelling/Bloating – Swelling or bloating can become apparent in the hours and days following an automobile accident. They can cause pain, or be absolutely painless. When they do appear, they can be symptoms of damage to organs and internal bleeding within the abdominal cavity. As such, the presence of either swelling or bloating following an incident is something that every accident survivor should have examined by medical personnel as the injury could be life threatening.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is one of the most insidious of all delayed injuries. It can present itself weeks, months, and even years down the road. PTSD symptoms can include anxiety, depression, changes in behaviors and personality, emotional outbursts, etc. These symptoms often go unrecognized by the victim and many times are first noticed by family and friends.
Motor Functions – The majority of the 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries that take place in the US each year are the result of automobile accidents. Changes to motor functions are frequently the result of traumatic brain injury. The development of tremors, speech problems, mobility issues, and changes in memory function are all symptoms of neurological damage. These symptoms often present themselves long after an accident has taken place. Neurological injuries are a leading cause of death following an automobile accident and victims who notice these changes following an accident should seek medical treatment in order to prevent further injury.
What Causes Delayed Symptoms?
There is no one cause for the delay in the appearance of symptoms. The presence of adrenaline during the accident, the individual’s physiology, age, mental health, prescriptions they are taking, post-accident treatment, etc. all play a role in determining when and how injuries will present themselves. Thus, it is very difficult to try and pinpoint why injury symptoms are delayed.
However, that doesn’t mean that the cause of an injury can’t be directly tied to an accident. Indeed, it is imperative for individuals to receive a thorough medical evaluation following an automobile crash. Every nick, scratch, and bruise should be thoroughly documented because these can establish points of injury that can be connected to the symptoms that may develop later on. A personal injury attorney can use the accident report, photographs from the scene, and medical records gathered following an accident to establish a direct linkage between the accident and the injury.
The Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims
Illinois personal injury statutes place a statute of limitations of two years from the date of injury. In most cases, this statute starts running from the date of the accident. However, in the case of delayed onset of symptoms, an individual and his or her personal injury attorney can argue that the discovery date is the most appropriate date to start the clock. The discovery date is the date when an individual discovers he or she is injured, whether it is days, weeks, months, or years following an accident.