If you’ve ever been in an auto accident or have narrowly avoided a collision, you’ve felt the rush of adrenaline that pours through your body. Your heart races, your stomach turns, and you have to take a moment to catch your breath. What you may not know is that this can mask serious injuries, delaying pain after a car accident. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.
Car accidents and other types of sudden physical trauma trigger adrenaline and endorphin production. These chemicals are the body’s self-defense mechanisms, which allow you to keep moving and get yourself out of a dangerous situation. Adrenaline also stimulates the body and blocks pain, allowing the body to focus on survival.
Once those chemicals wear off, however, the pain starts—and the injuries become more apparent. It is not uncommon for someone to be involved in a car accident without noticing any immediate injury, only to discover later that they have suffered serious harm directly related to the accident.
Some injuries known to have delayed onset pain include:
- Soft-tissue damage: Soft-tissue damage refers to injuries sustained by the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the body. In a car accident, the sudden impact and force can cause strains, sprains, or tears in these tissues. The delay in pain is often due to adrenaline and endorphins masking the discomfort. As these chemicals subside, the pain associated with soft-tissue damage may become more apparent. Additionally, inflammation and swelling may take time to develop, which can contribute to the delayed onset of pain.
- Bruised or cracked bones: Bruised or cracked bones can occur when the force of a car accident causes direct trauma or puts excessive pressure on the bones. While fractures are usually immediately painful, minor cracks or bone bruises may not cause noticeable pain right away. The delayed pain may arise due to swelling around the injured area, internal bleeding, or inflammation, which can take some time to manifest. The pain may gradually intensify as the body begins to respond to the injury.
- Concussions: A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head, which can occur in a car accident. The impact causes the brain to move within the skull, potentially damaging brain cells and causing chemical imbalances. Immediately after a concussion, a person may not experience pain or other symptoms due to adrenaline and the body's initial response to the injury. However, as the brain begins to heal and the effects of the adrenaline wear off, symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and cognitive difficulties may emerge, sometimes days or weeks after the accident.
- Whiplash: Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the head is forcefully and rapidly thrown forward and then backward, as commonly experienced in rear-end car accidents. This sudden motion can stretch or tear the muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues in the neck, causing pain and discomfort. The onset of whiplash pain can be delayed for several reasons. The initial adrenaline rush may temporarily mask the pain, and it may take time for inflammation and muscle stiffness to develop fully. In some cases, the pain may not become noticeable until normal activities are resumed and the neck is subjected to additional stress.
When Pain After a Car Accident Is Delayed: What You Can Do About It
Feeling “fine” after an auto accident is normal—even when you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury or severe soft-tissue damage. In some cases, the worst of your pain may not manifest for days or weeks. The America Migraine Foundation found that 25% of car accident victims who did not have a headache immediately following the collision reported “delayed onset headaches” 6 months later. If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know how much this can impact your day-to-day life.
Concussion victims not only suffered delayed headaches but developed new symptoms like TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain in the months between initial treatment and follow-up. The phenomenon of delayed pain is well-documented in medical circles, but what actually causes delayed pain is not totally understood. Adrenaline and endorphins likely have something to do with it, and there may even be an emotional or psychological connection to consider.
The best way to avoid delayed pain after a car accident is to seek medical care. See a physician after any traffic collision to get a complete evaluation of your condition. Even if you feel you are not injured, allow time for the injuries to manifest themselves fully and see a doctor just in case. Tell your doctor that you were involved in a crash so he or she knows what symptoms and injuries to look for.
Seeking immediate medical care after an auto accident is crucial not only for your health and well-being but also for the strength of your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. Prompt medical attention can help identify and treat injuries early, potentially preventing delayed pain and minimizing the severity of your injuries. Moreover, obtaining medical care right away establishes a clear connection between the accident and your injuries. This medical documentation serves as crucial evidence for your claim or lawsuit, demonstrating the cause and extent of your injuries to the insurance company or in court. Timely medical care not only aids in your recovery but also lays the foundation for a stronger legal case, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
For you, what’s important is knowing that the full impact of your car accident may not be known for months afterward—which is why you need to avoid giving the insurance company a statement or signing a release before hiring an attorney. Delayed pain after car accidents is a real problem—and one that the insurance company doesn’t want you to know about.
Should I Sign the Settlement Agreement If My Insurance Offers One?
Not without consulting your attorney first. Here’s why: First, you must realize that an insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, not for you. He or she may urge you to sign a release of claims, legally waiving your right to claim damages for any injuries or pain that may appear later. Adjusters know that your accident may yield future damages—the point of a settlement agreement is to let them off the hook for the injuries you haven’t discovered yet.
The settlement agreement might save you time—but it won’t get you everything you need to recover. Once you sign a release, you may have no recourse to compensation for your treatment. Releases are worded to waive your legal right to compensation. So, if you’re involved in a car accident and experience delayed pain, you could have trouble getting the full value of your claim.
What About Lump Sum Settlement Offers?
Remember this: all lump sums are lowball offers from insurance companies who are more interested in protecting their profits than helping you regain your health. Insurance adjusters offer you the bare minimum needed to get your case closed. Don’t be surprised if the adjuster offers you a lump sum settlement as a more enticing offer to sign. Under no circumstances should you fall for their trick. They know about the pain after a car accident that’s delayed—they want to sneak in the offer before you know too.
Even if they offer you more money than you’ve ever had in your life, it doesn’t matter—you’re probably entitled to even more.
Remember who the adjuster works for. Realize that any immediate offers are ones that the insurance company is comfortable giving you—not what you deserve for your injuries and treatment. After all, the insurance company makes money by collecting premiums and limiting payouts, not by being generous with their payments.
Was Your Pain After a Car Accident Delayed? Call Our Pennsylvania Attorneys.
Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC has been helping the injured people of Pennsylvania since 1922 get back on their feet after suffering wrongful injuries and unjust harm. We have witnessed firsthand how serious pain after a car accident can be when it’s delayed. With law offices in Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Hanover, and Carlisle, we have an office near you to help you get the legal advice you need after a crash. We can advise you of your options and rights if you’re suffering from whiplash, head trauma, or any type of injury that was not immediately apparent to you after your collision.
If you’re not sure if you have a strong case, one call with our team will give you the information you need. We’ll review your case for free, outline your legal options, and tell you the benefits and risks of each one. If your case has merit and we decide to take it on, you’ll pay no upfront costs—we’ll get to work while you focus on getting better.
Call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online for a free review of your case—get the answers you need today.