A minor fender-bender may not damage your car, but the impact may lead to delayed and serious injuries. If another vehicle hits you from behind, it could cause a whiplash injury when your head jolts back and forth. Symptoms of a whiplash-related soft tissue or traumatic brain injury, however, may not appear immediately. In many cases, it could take 24 hours or several days for symptoms to appear. You may then need to seek damages to aid in your recovery.
Why Whiplash Symptoms Should Not Remain Ignored
When your body experiences a forceful and unexpected movement, your neck, back and shoulders may involuntarily stiffen as they react to the unusual range of motion. Immediately after a minor collision, you may assume that the fender-bender spared you from serious physical harm; you might also ignore the apparently mild bodily shock you absorbed. You and the driver who hit you may have quickly exchanged insurance information, and then you drove off feeling relieved that the only harm done was some dents in your rear fender. After getting home and resuming your normal routines, however, you may have begun noticing some issues that could affect your ability to engage in your regular day-to-day activities.
A whiplash injury carries the potential to cause severe damage by tearing or stretching the ligaments and tendons in your neck. You may first notice the onset of symptoms by feeling soreness in your shoulders and upper back. Headaches or pain around the base of the skull may begin keeping you awake when you try to fall asleep. Some other common signs of whiplash injuries include dizziness, fatigue or blurred vision. If you begin feeling irritable or find it difficult to concentrate, the fender-bender you had may have caused some serious medical problems to develop. Although the symptoms related to your injuries may not appear until a few days after the impact, you may find them lasting for several weeks or longer.
If you do not see a doctor immediately following your fender-bender, you may assume that the pain you began feeling has some relationship to your daily routines, such as exercising or carrying out your tasks at work. Determining the root cause of your discomfort, however, may require a medical exam, diagnostic imaging or X-rays. Seeing a doctor often reflects the only way to learn whether an issue stems from a car accident or something else. If you leave your symptoms untreated, you could develop severe and long-term complications. Some of the medical conditions that could develop over time after a whiplash include permanent damage to neck joints, ligaments, and spinal discs.
Whiplash-Related Medical Issues May Include Tinnitus, Traumatic Brain Injuries or Nerve Damage
In some cases, whiplash injuries may cause chronic conditions such as tinnitus, which refers to a “ringing” in your ears and does not typically cause any physical pain. If you begin hearing a constant hissing, buzzing or clicking sound that nobody else seems to hear, your fender-bender whiplash may have caused an inner ear injury. The Mayo Clinic notes that neck or head trauma could lead to tinnitus that requires medication, a hearing aid or a surgical procedure. Specialized therapy or audio devices that add “white noise” to mask the sound may also help reduce the symptoms.
Experiencing a head jolt during a fender-bender could lead to mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions. The symptoms, however, may take several months to appear. If you “felt fine” right after your car accident, you may still need to see a doctor who can perform tests to look for signs of a traumatic brain injury. Symptoms of a TBI could include trouble falling asleep or experiencing unusually intense emotional states. Periods of mental “fogginess,” anxiety or anger that you did not typically experience before your fender-bender may indicate a need for medical treatment. Recurring headaches and bouts of nausea, weakness or numbness may point to a more serious trauma related to the brain or nervous system.
Nerve damage and other complications related to back or spinal issues may develop into lifelong problems. Even in cases involving dull rather than sharp pain, ignoring a seemingly minor back injury could lead to long-term mobility issues. If left untreated, you may have trouble standing, walking or sitting for extended periods. Signs that a back injury may have developed after a seemingly innocuous fender-bender could include numbness, tingling or stiffness. If you notice that cuts take longer to heal, the accident may have affected your nervous system. Feeling a “pinch” sensation or pressure along your spine may be signs of a herniated disc that needs medical treatment.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder May Develop Even if You Were Not Physically Harmed
Although you may not have experienced any physical injuries from a fender-bender, the circumstances associated with the event may have disturbed you enough to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. A mental health issue once referred to as “shell shock” in combat veterans, PTSD may last years after witnessing a traumatic or disturbing event. In accidents involving multiple vehicles, the scene may have included several medical emergencies. Drivers or passengers in other vehicles may have suffered serious or mortal injuries. The involvement of children in a multi-vehicle accident scene could reflect a particularly disturbing experience even if you were not physically harmed.
PTSD could develop from the mental anguish that occurs after witnessing harm caused to others. Signs of PTSD include mood swings, invasive memories or “reliving” the events surrounding the disturbing event. Repeated nightmares or feelings of anxiety could indicate that an event caused lasting trauma. Some individuals will avoid places or activities that remind them of a traumatic event. If issues related to PTSD prevent you from working or running a business, you may require treatment. An experienced mental health care provider may refer you to specialized recovery groups or prescribe medication.
Taking Steps To Recover Through a Personal Injury Lawsuit
New York State’s laws allow you to file a lawsuit to help recover from your injuries when the underlying cause relates to another individual’s actions. The suit’s filing must take place within three years after the initiating event, but In some cases, the law may allow you to file within three years of the date you first became aware of your delayed injury symptoms.
If you did not begin experiencing pain or other problems until several months after a fender-bender, a personal injury attorney could help determine how to proceed with a legal action. You may need to present evidence to prove the other driver’s carelessness caused your medical issues to develop. Preparing for your filing could involve visiting the scene of the accident and taking photographs that help explain the chain of events that led up to your current condition.
Your legal complaint may include copies of your medical documents, diagnostic tests, X-rays or exams. Documentation of a required back surgery procedure, for example, could help prove that another driver hit you from behind, even though it did not cause any significant damage to your car. If your doctor suggested rehabilitation or physical therapy, you may include these medical records in your complaint. Copies of your chiropractic, mental health, or acupuncture appointments could help strengthen your request for financial relief.
The dedicated attorney team at Cellino Law will work to move your claim forward with the seasoned knowledge and proven experience that you deserve. Contact a Cellino Law personal injury attorney today to discuss your case.
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