Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Some car accident injuries are delayed

There are several injuries whose symptoms don't show immediately

When a car accident happens, it's easy to forget about yourself and focus on your car, insurance and tow trucks. Your brain is thinking of a thousand things at once, and then days later, you start to notice aches and pains.

Surely it can't be from that accident last week - it was just a rear-end collision at 20 miles per hour. But in fact, many injuries don't show themselves immediately after you've been in a car accident. So what does that headache or numbness in your hands mean?


One of the best-known and most common car crash injuries is whiplash. This injury is caused by the fast backward-and-forward motion of the neck when your car hits another, like in a rear-end collision. You can get whiplash even when speeds during the accident were 14 miles per hour and under. Although some people feel the pain immediately, some don't show symptoms until days later. Recovery time is usually several months, but some people will suffer chronic pain.

Some warning signs you may have whiplash:

  • Pain and the feeling of stiffness in the neck, which can get worse with movement
  • Headaches, especially at the bottom of the skull
  • Tingling and numbness in hands and arms
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Mental and emotional issues
  • Trouble sleeping


A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that usually occurs when the head is hit or violently shaken. In a car accident, you can hit your head on the steering wheel, dash, a window or an object in the car can hit you. Symptoms can take days after an accident to reveal themselves.

A partial list of symptoms includes:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion or memory issues
  • Personality changes, like depression

Skull fracture

Another injury that may take time to show after a crash is a skull fracture. Usually the head is hit by something or against something, and this in turn can not only bruise the head but make tiny breaks in the skull. The fracture can be obvious if seen, but sometimes the damage can't be seen underneath the scalp. A doctor can find the fracture by simply looking at the head, or using an MRI or X-ray.

A skull fracture can include many symptoms similar to a concussion. These and other symptoms include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain and swelling where the fracture happened
  • Personality and emotional changes
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Irritability and restlessness

Herniated disk

Because of the force and trauma involved in an accident, spinal injuries are easy to come by. Often the pain will feel like your muscles or tendons got jostled in the impact, but it could be one of the disks in your spinal column that has herniated, or become dislodged. Symptoms can present differently, depending on the location of the injury in the spine.

  • Symptoms include:
  • Arm or leg pain
  • Weakness in the muscles of the buttocks, legs or feet
  • Tingling or numbness

Stay diligent after an accident

If you're in a car accident, it's hard to focus on the task at hand. But if you are able to document your injuries as well as any other information about the accident, you'll be better prepared to deal with your insurance company as well as any medical needs or in court.

Any serious injuries you notice right away, like lacerations, bruises and broken or factored bones should be taken care of at a hospital. But if more pain and symptoms like those above start to appear, be sure to photograph them or keep a diary of dates, times and symptoms you're having for at least a week after the accident.

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