Delayed Onset of Symptoms After a Car Accident

You’ve been in a car accident and you feel fine at the moment. You might be able to see a few scratches and some signs that a bruise is about to develop. But does that really mean you do not have a serious injury? There are some injuries, including very serious ones, that can take hours, days, or even weeks to make themselves known.

Delayed Onset of Symptoms

Neck pain

The term “delayed onset of symptoms” refers to injury symptoms that do not immediately manifest. For example, you may have been struck by another vehicle from the rear and have a serious case of whiplash, but due to the initial shock of the accident, you may not feel the pain involved for a few days. Or perhaps you were hit from the side but did not feel the pain of a herniated disc for a few days because of the adrenaline rush from the accident. On a more serious note, the impact may have resulted in internal bleeding, but it takes a few days for your abdomen to swell and start to hurt. All of these are examples of the delayed onset of symptoms.

Common Accident Injuries with Delayed Onset of Symptoms

There are certain injuries associated with car accidents that tend to exhibit a delayed onset of symptoms, including blood clots, internal bleeding, concussion, traumatic brain injuries, back injuries, and whiplash.

Blood Clots

Blood clots may result from other injuries you’ve sustained in an accident. While the body can often take care of blood clots by itself, they can be serious and even fatal if they manage to reach the brain or the heart. Symptoms of a blood clot can take a couple of days to develop, and if a clot is near the brain it may manifest as a headache.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding, which is a life-threatening injury, can easily remain undiscovered for a few days after you’ve been in an accident. The most common sign is abdominal pain, but you may also experience swelling of the abdominal area, dizziness, fainting, and the presence of large, dark bruises.


Concussions are very common in relation to car accidents and are the result of your brain striking the inside of your skull — and a concussion can happen even if your head does not physically strike anything. Just a powerful change in motion can lead to a concussion. Symptoms of a concussion can vary widely and can include dizziness, disorientation, light or sound sensitivity, headaches, changes in sleep habits, mood swings, and changes in appetite. These symptoms may not appear immediately after the accident, which makes concussions very dangerous because they can be fatal if not treated correctly.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The signs of a potentially fatal traumatic brain injury (often abbreviated TBI) may also take a while to appear. The symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, lack of concentration, sleep problems, and changes in personality. These symptoms may take hours, weeks, or even months to appear. And the results of a TBI can include permanent damage to the brain.

Back Injuries

Delayed onset injuries

It makes sense that, with the intense jarring that accompanies most car accidents, back injuries are extremely common. What might not be as well known is how back injuries such as sprains, strains, whiplash, herniated discs, and even spinal injuries can have delayed onset symptoms. The symptoms that can appear include sciatica, tingling, numbness, neck and shoulder pain, loss of balance, loss of bowel or bladder control, headaches, weakness, and even difficulty breathing. Many of these symptoms can take days to appear.


Whiplash is one of the most common types of back injuries to occur in a car accident and is caused by a sudden jolt that stretches/strains the tendons in your neck and shoulder beyond what they can handle. When these tendons are stretched beyond capacity, the result is damage that may be felt immediately or take a few days for you to recognize. The symptoms of whiplash include headaches, ringing ears, blurred vision, and trouble sleeping. If severe pain is involved, that might point to additional spinal injuries.

Importance of Immediate Medical Attention

Medical treatment after a car accident

Even if you feel fine after a car accident, you may be suffering from one or more of these conditions that can become worse if left untreated. Just because the symptoms are not immediately apparent does not mean you are physically alright. But, there is another reason to seek medical attention soon after an accident: Your injury claim. If it turns out that you are indeed injured, you will want documentation of those injuries as soon as possible to make your claim easier. If you wait for weeks to seek medical attention only after your symptoms begin appearing, the insurance company will cast doubt on whether those symptoms are the result of the accident. Establishing your injuries and their connection to the accident is easiest when done as soon as possible.


If you have been in a car accident (even if it seems to be a minor one), you should seek medical evaluation right away. This allows a doctor to find out if you have sustained any injuries, document the existence of those injuries, and begin treatment right away. If you wait, then you may experience delayed onset of symptoms that could lead to greater injury or death. And without clear documentation linking your injuries to the accident that caused them, you will have a harder time when it comes to seeking compensation.

Donaghue & Labrum

At Donaghue & Labrum, you can count on us to help you get the compensation that the law says you deserve, even when your injuries take weeks to appear. We are personal injury lawyers with 25 years of experience to leverage on your behalf as we aggressively represent you and your interests both in and out of the courtroom. Contact us today for a consultation!