Hidden injuries from car accidents can cause debilitating symptoms for crash victims. It’s one of the many reasons why you should get checked by a medical practitioner following an auto collision. Self-checks – including medical evaluations by emergency medical technicians at the scene – can miss these hidden injuries.
You may be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking you’re fine when you have concealed trauma. Those injuries might not become physically obvious for hours, days, or even weeks after an accident.
Even after a minor fender-bender, consider visiting a local emergency room or your primary care doctor for a thorough examination. It may seem like an overreaction, but a medical professional familiar with hidden injuries from car accidents is more likely to spot any of these serious conditions.
1 – Internal injuries
Airbags and seatbelts save lives during car accidents. However, they can cause some hidden injuries in the process. These safety devices accomplish the greater task of preserving your life by holding you in your seat. Depending on the force of impact during the collision, the restraint can cause extensive trauma to your internal organs.
The pressure from your seatbelt can cause internal bleeding, which is life-threatening. You may not have any immediate symptoms, so it can be easy to think you’re fine when you’re not.
Some of the warning signs of internal bleeding include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Chest pain.
- Low blood pressure.
- Numbness in the extremities.
- Severe headache.
- Weakness on one side of your body.
- Vision problems.
Get to an emergency room immediately if you have any of these symptoms in the hours or days after a car crash. You could be dealing with a hidden injury.
2 – Neck injuries
Whiplash can be common among car crash victims. During a collision, the force of impact creates a whipping action between your head and neck. Whiplash causes soft tissue damage that might not be immediately detected.
If in the days following a car crash you begin to experience these signs or symptoms, it’s a good idea to get checked by a medical practitioner:
- Neck pain and stiffness.
- Tenderness in your arms, shoulders, or upper back.
- Loss of range of motion in your neck.
Treatment can include physical therapy and pain management techniques to resolve whiplash sooner.
3 – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While not a physical injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can happen after a car accident. It’s a hidden psychological injury that can sometimes get overlooked.
Depending on the severity of the crash, victims can be left traumatized by what they’ve witnessed. PTSD can be more common in automobile accidents with fatalities.
It can take days or weeks for PTSD to surface. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms after a car crash, it’s time to see a mental health expert:
4 – Soft tissue damage
You may not be thinking about your ankles, back, feet, or knees after a car accident, but they can be the location of soft tissue damage that cause pain or mobility issues later. Other places that can experience soft tissue injuries are your elbows, shoulders, and wrists.
It might take a few days for soft tissue damage from a car accident to surface, but when it does, you can experience any of the following symptoms:
- You can’t bear weight on the injured area.
- You experience joint instability.
- You have knots or lumps at the injury site.
- You have limited range of motion.
- You have muscle cramps or spasms.
- You have swelling at the injury site.
Call your doctor right away if any of these signs surface after a car accident. They may prescribe pain management strategies that include medications and physical therapy.
5 – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Brain injuries can be scary. They also can be common after a serious car crash. Whiplash, which we mentioned earlier, can cause concussions and TBIs that go unnoticed at first. If you lose consciousness during a crash, you should automatically be evaluated for brain injuries.
However, it’s possible to get a concussion or a TBI without losing consciousness. Symptoms of concussion and TBI that signal it’s time to get a medical evaluation include:
- Memory loss
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a concussion and TBI because they share some common symptoms. TBI has lasting cognitive effects that impact daily living. If you start to have any of these symptoms, it could be a warning that you’re suffering from a hidden TBI:
- A decreased awareness of yourself and others.
- A failure to follow multiple-step directions.
- An inability to understand abstract concepts.
- A shortened attention span.
CT scans and MRIs are the only way to determine if you have hidden brain injuries from a car accident.
How to handle hidden injuries from car accidents
Seeking medical attention right after a car accident can help identify hidden injuries. It also can provide valuable documentation needed if you decide to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
Car crash victims should consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling hidden injuries from car accidents to ensure their rights are protected.