What are the Most Common Delayed Symptoms after an Accident?

Friday, November 17, 2017

What are the Most Common Delayed Symptoms after an Accident?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

After an accident, it is common to have an injury.

In fact, per the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 20 to 50 million people are injured in motor vehicle accidents each year in the world, with an estimated 2.35 million injured or disabled in the United States alone.

Therefore, walking away from an accident without an injury is uncommon. Sadly, most victims do walk away from crashes assuming they are fine. Then, a few days later their symptoms begin to manifest, pain sets in, and they find themselves dealing with endless doctor’s appointments, treatments, and sometimes emergency surgeries.

Some injuries are apparent immediately after an accident, while others are delayed. The delay can be due to an injury that has not yet had time to fully develop, while other times it is because a victim has so much adrenaline that their body’s natural survival response is covering the signs of a severe injury.

Some Injuries Take Hours or Days to Appear

Even after the adrenaline wears off, some injuries take hours or days to manifest. A victim could walk away from an accident assuming they are fine, but one day wake up feeling worse. Then, they continue to feel worse and worse, and finally, they will realize something is wrong.

When this happens, it complicates personal injury lawsuits tremendously. If a victim files a lawsuit, he or she submits medical records and bills. Sadly, these documents will show any delays in treatment – sometimes days after the accident.

The goal for the insurance company is to save money. They are not motivated to pay top dollar for any claim, and will do what they can to reduce pay-outs. Therefore, when they see a delay in treatment they typically question those procedures, arguing that they are unrelated to the accident – and sometimes accuse the victim of faking their injuries altogether.

Therefore, the team at Malman Law recommends seeing a doctor immediately after an accident – regardless of whether or not you feel fine.

The sooner you receive medical treatment, the faster you will feel better, and the easier it will be to file a claim later.

What Symptoms and Conditions are Commonly Delayed?

Specific symptoms are more likely manifest hours or days after a crash. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away. The sooner you see a doctor and start a record of treatment from your accident, the easier the settlement process will be.


Whiplash is an injury to the neck and soft tissues that is common after a rear-end collision. The injury occurs because the victim’s body experiences a violent whipping back and forth motion. Sometimes whiplash occurs with a concussion, while other times it stands alone.

Symptoms of whiplash do not typically exhibit until a few hours or days after the incident. It is also one of the most common symptoms that delay.

Symptoms of Whiplash

  • Pain in the neck
  • Pain that may extend to the back of the shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep issues
  • Ringing in the ears

Typically, whiplash appears the day of the accident – but a few hours after impact – and always within a few days at a maximum. A minor whiplash injury does not take long to recover from, but a severe whiplash injury could take months to fully heal.

How Is Whiplash Treated?

Whiplash, depending on the severity, will require a variety of treatments. Minor incidents are typically treated at home using over-the-counter pain relief medications. Moderate to severe cases may require a neck collar to stabilize the neck, but some doctors today are veering away from collar use entirely.

Physical therapy is often prescribed so that the victim can resume normal range of motion and relieve pain. Also, the victim is more likely to need muscle relaxers or stronger pain relief medications – including narcotics. Some patients may require specialized therapies to relax the ligaments and muscles so that they can alleviate pain and participate more easily in physical therapy.


A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A concussion happens when the brain moves violently inside the skull, and in mild cases a person can recover in a few days. However, an untreated TBI can also lead to long-term complications; therefore, any type of head trauma should not go ignored.

Symptoms of a Concussion

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Mood changes, including irritability
  • Appetite loss
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of memory
  • Sensitivity to bright lights

A concussion may not exhibit symptoms immediately after an accident. Sometimes they take several hours, days, or weeks depending on the severity. Typically, a concussion will start to show symptoms three days past the injury, and the symptoms then resolve themselves after a few more weeks. When the symptoms remain or worsen, it is a sign of a more serious TBI.

How Are Concussions Treated?

Concussions require that the patient rest. This may include avoiding any physical activity that can further harm the brain. Low-key activities are also avoided, including watching television, because these can be too much for the brain after such an injury.

Psychological Trauma

Accidents, even minor ones, can be emotionally traumatic. After a motor vehicle accident, a victim could suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD does not manifest right away, and sometimes the symptoms do not show for several days to weeks.

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Inability to return to the scene or get into a motor vehicle
  • Avoiding places that remind them of the accident – including the hospital

PTSD can severely impact a person’s quality of life. They may be afraid of driving, getting into a vehicle, or even being near a roadway.

How an Attorney Can Help

Personal injury attorneys, like the team at Malman Law, know that not all the injuries or symptoms appear right away. That is why we work with our clients and make sure that they receive compensation for all their injuries, but also that insurance companies do not try to deny claims for delayed symptoms.

If you or a loved one was injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact Malman Law at 888-625-6265, or request a consultation online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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