Personal Injury Lawyers
Tampa, Florida

Delayed Symptoms in Car Accident Claims

Know your legal rights and get effective representation

A car accident is one of the most frightening things that can happen to anyone, so you might think you got off easy if you’re able to walk away. For some people, though, it’s not that simple. You may notice something is off days or even weeks later. Those symptoms can stay hidden for some time – and that delay can affect your legal rights.

That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to be careful after a car accident, even if you think your injuries are minor. The decisions you make after the wreck can have implications for the rest of your life.

Why do car accidents cause delayed symptoms?

During and immediately after an accident, your ability to self-diagnose injuries is undercut by your body’s biological response to a traumatic event. Your body releases a sudden surge of adrenaline, which in turn produces increased energy, strength, flow of oxygen, vision, and hearing – while reducing or blocking pain. Simultaneously, the body produces endorphins that make you feel in control and change your reaction to pain and stress. These responses are important to help you survive the accident, but they can also mask symptoms of an injury after the danger has passed.

In addition, the injuries themselves may take time to manifest in your body. We think of a car accident as a single event, but many symptoms are result of the body’s gradual response to that event. For instance, when a car accident causes soft tissue damage like ligament or muscle strains, it takes time for inflammation, swelling, and stiffness to occur. Torn and herniated discs take time to start putting pressure on nerves and surrounding tissues. Damage to internal organs (including the brain) can take time to become noticeable as the undamaged part of the organ works harder to pick up the slack, until it can’t anymore.

What this means is that serious injuries – including brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and internal bleeding – can take some time to become known, and the consequences for both your health and your legal rights can be catastrophic.

You absolutely must see a doctor after a car accident

Even if you feel fine or think your injuries are minor, get medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident. Go to your primary care provider, an urgent care center, or the emergency room. Tell the provider who sees you about all your symptoms – don’t exaggerate, but don’t understate them either. You may need diagnostic tests to get to the root of the issue. Go to your follow-up appointments, follow your doctor’s instructions, and pay attention to your health.

One of the reasons it’s so important to get medical care is to create a record of your injuries. Make sure you save copies of your visit summaries, doctor’s orders, prescriptions, and all other medical records. Just as importantly, keep your own journal of your symptoms, starting the day of the accident. Include observations from people close to you, as well, since they may be better positioned than you are to notice emotional or behavioral symptoms of a brain injury. You need to have everything documented to support your claim for damages.

Delayed symptoms can make it easier for an insurance company to dispute your claim

In theory, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes for your symptoms to appear after a car accident. If your injuries were sustained in the accident, the law says you should be compensated for your losses due to those injuries, even if they didn’t become obvious for days or weeks afterward.

In practice, however, a delay is an opportunity for the insurance company to dispute your claim. They may argue that you’re faking your symptoms, or that something else happened in the intervening time to cause the injury. The longer the gap between the car accident and the appearance of symptoms, the easier it is for an insurance company to downplay or dispute your claim, and that can make a big difference in the compensation you receive for your car accident.

Again, this is why you need to document everything. It’s also why you need to watch what you say to an insurance company (even your own) and push back on any claims you disagree with. If an insurance company representative says “I’m glad you’re feeling better,” and you aren’t actually feeling better, then politely correct them. More generally, it’s best to avoid offering specific information on your injuries before the full extent is known and you’ve gotten legal advice on your situation. “I am getting medical treatment” is plenty.

An experienced injury attorney can help you navigate this situation

When your symptoms take a while to become apparent, that’s just one more excuse for the insurance company to use to downplay your claim. They do this every day, and they have well-practiced techniques to protect their bottom line at the expense of injured people. That’s why it’s so important to have your own advocate in your corner, fighting for your legal rights and interests.

If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in Tampa or any of the surrounding communities, one of the first things you should do is talk to an experienced attorney about your legal rights and options. We’d be honored to discuss your situation in a free consultation.

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