A car accident victim may assume that if they do not feel pain immediately after the collision, they are not hurt; however, this is not always the case, injuries may take days or even weeks to manifest. Even if a victim does not think they are injured at first, it is important to protect their right to future compensation by taking several steps. The first few steps should be to seek medical attention right away and take legal action within the statute of limitations.
Even minor car accidents can be stressful. The body reacts to stressful events by releasing endorphins, which help to mask any discomfort, including emotional trauma and physical pain. For this reason, people who are involved in car accidents may not be aware that they sustained any injuries until later when their endorphin levels have decreased.
Which Injuries May Show Up Later?
The type and severity of car accident injuries varies, depending on the circumstances of the crash. Some types of injuries may be immediately apparent, such as cuts and bruises. Others may not show symptoms until some time has passed. The following injuries may show up later:
Whiplash is a type of soft tissue injury that occurs when the neck is forcefully and rapidly moved back and forth. It is a common injury in car accidents, especially in rear-end crashes. Symptoms of whiplash include pain and stiffness in the neck or upper back, headache, and dizziness. Although whiplash injuries can be extremely painful and debilitating, they do not typically appear on diagnostic tests, such as X-rays and MRIs. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention for whiplash injuries as soon as possible and to keep copies of all records.
Penetrating brain injuries may occur as a result of a flying object piercing the skin and entering the brain. These injuries are visible and typically evident at the scene of the car accident. However, other types of brain injuries may develop that have delayed symptoms, such as concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Delayed effects of internal brain injuries include headaches, amnesia, nausea, blurry vision, dizziness, and various cognitive difficulties. Some brain injuries can be treated or mitigated if addressed early. Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Someone involved in a car accident may not feel back pain immediately, but muscle, ligament, or vertebrae damage may eventually appear over time. Some examples of delayed onset back injuries include sciatica, pinched nerves, and lumbar spine injuries. A medical diagnosis can be made through the use of X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other types of tests.
Spinal cord injuries tend to be severe and can lead to permanent damage, loss of feeling, and paralysis. Those experiencing back pain after a car accident should get a diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as possible.
Delayed internal injuries may have serious consequences and should be treated immediately to avoid worsening symptoms. Blunt force trauma or broken bones from a car accident can cause damage to internal organs, including the stomach, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Such organ injuries can lead to internal bleeding, which may sometimes be delayed by hours or days. If it is left untreated, internal bleeding can lead to organ failure, coma, or even death. Car accident victims should seek emergency medical treatment if they experience any symptoms of internal bleeding, such as abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, and lightheadedness.
Neck and Shoulder Injuries
The neck and shoulders are among the areas of the body most commonly injured in car accidents. In addition to whiplash, those injured in car accidents may suffer neck injuries, such as cervical vertebrae dislocation, muscle spasms, neck strains and sprains, and vocal cord paralysis. They may also sustain shoulder injuries, such as fractures, torn rotator cuffs, and dislocations. Delayed neck or shoulder pain is common after a car accident and should be treated immediately to avoid complications.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Injuries from a car accident are not always physical; sometimes, psychological injuries may develop as well. For example, anyone involved in an accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially if the crash was severe. Delayed-onset PTSD may occur six months or more after the triggering traumatic event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD includes symptoms of flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and reactivity. An experienced mental health provider can help those with PTSD to determine whether psychotherapy or medication are appropriate treatments based on their particular circumstances.
When Should I File a Claim?
Those who are injured in car accidents must bear in mind that the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Virginia is two years. This means that in order to remain eligible for compensation, car accident victims must file suit within two years from the date of their accident.
Virginia is a fault-based car insurance state, which means that injured car accident victims may seek compensation directly from the other driver who was responsible for the accident. Those who do not exhibit symptoms immediately will have less time to prepare before the statute of limitations expires; therefore, it is advisable to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as symptoms appear. If the two-year statute of limitations passes, a personal injury claim is subject to dismissal, and the car accident victim will be barred from recovery.
What is the Contributory Negligence Rule in Virginia?
Even if a claim is filed within the statute of limitations, a Virginia plaintiff may not recover an award unless they can prove that the other driver was 100 percent at-fault for the accident. This is because Virginia is one of only a few states that follows the contributory negligence rule. Other states may follow the comparative negligence rule when it comes to car accidents. Under this rule, plaintiffs may recover for their injuries, even if they were partially at-fault for the accident. In Virginia, plaintiffs must bear no responsibility for their accident in order to be eligible for compensation. Therefore, plaintiffs who are even one percent at fault may not recover from the other driver for their car accident injuries.
What Type of Awards are Available in Car Accident Cases?
In Virginia, plaintiffs may recover various types of damages for injuries they sustained in a car accident. If they can prove that the other driver was solely responsible for their injuries, personal injury plaintiffs may be able to claim compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
A dedicated car accident lawyer will be able to help a victim obtain necessary damages for their injuries.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Advocate for Victims with Delayed Injuries
If you are experiencing delayed injuries from a car accident, there is no time to waste. Contact a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC to see if you are eligible for compensation. Our experienced legal team can evaluate your case and ensure that you comply with all applicable legal rules and deadlines. Contact us online or call us at 757-LAW-0000 for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.