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Hidden Car Accident Injuries: All You Need to Know

— August 10, 2021

Some injuries don’t display symptoms for days or even weeks which can delay much-needed medical intervention and cause serious issues further down the road with insurance companies.

Most of us breathe a sigh of relief if we don’t have to rush to the hospital after a traffic collision, but we could still be severely injured and not even know it. Some car accident injury symptoms don’t fully develop for hours, days, and even weeks, which can postpone life-saving treatment in some cases.

Why Do Some Car Accident Injuries Remain Hidden? 

Some car accident injuries remain hidden immediately after a car accident due to the sudden surge of adrenaline in the body designed to protect you from trauma and help you survive a life-threatening situation.

Also, this extreme self-preservation response is often accompanied by a release of the “feel-good hormones,” aka endorphins, which paired with the adrenaline rush will mask any pain and other injury symptoms shortly after the crash. Hiding your injury symptoms is your body’s way of ensuring your survival in those critical moments.

Types of Hidden Injuries after a Car Crash 

Here are the most common types of injuries with delayed-onset symptoms that you may experience after a car crash.

Soft Tissue Injuries 

Soft tissue injuries are the most common type of hidden injuries after a car crash. These injuries, which include strains, sprains, bruising, and damage to muscles and ligaments, usually take hours or days for symptoms to fully manifest. This is why soreness after an accident may appear a few days after the incident.


According to Mayo Clinic researchers, most spinal cord injuries are caused by car accidents, which is why medics will often want to know if you were involved in one if you develop persistent back or neck pain. The chief cause of neck and back pain after a traffic collision is whiplash, or the abrupt and violent back-and-forth motion of the body when your car gets rear-ended or makes an abrupt stop.

Whiplash symptoms often take days if not weeks to show up, but neck injuries need immediate medical attention because, just like brain trauma, they might prove fatal. Other injuries associated with whiplash that require immediate medical attention are cervical dislocations and serious disk injuries.


Concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) can easily fly under the radar. Some concussion symptoms take days to weeks to show up. Moderate to severe TBIs rarely go unnoticed but they kill around 50,000 and disable over 80,000 people every year.

An FMRI brain scan. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:DrOONeil. (CCA-BY-3.0).

The most common symptoms of a concussion include loss of consciousness, delayed-onset headaches, personality changes, unexplained tiredness, memory and focus issues, changed sense of smell or taste, eyesight and hearing problems, etc.

A TBI may be associated with persistent exhaustion after the accident. So, if you sleep too much the days following the accident, go get yourself checked by a doctor. If left untreated, some concussions may lead to internal bleeding and brain swelling, which can prove fatal.

Internal bleeding 

Internal bleeding is another car accident injury that can go unnoticed up to three days after the crash. Internal bleeding requires emergency care as it can often lead to death. The main reason internal bleeding can remain hidden for several days is that there are no visible symptoms. Subtle symptoms like pain, nausea, fatigue, and unexplained bruises may be signs of internal bleeding.

Internal bleeding is often associated with blood clot formation. Blood clots may travel to the lungs, heart, or brain causing life-threatening obstructions, permanent organ damage, or death. If they reach the legs, blood clots may spur a serious medical condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can lead to a pulmonary embolism without early intervention.

Abdominal pain is also a telltale sign of internal bleeding, which can be caused by the seatbelt (check out the so-called seatbelt syndrome.) However, not all abdominal pain is linked to internal bleeding – this type of pain may be linked only to soft tissue damage, but regardless of the cause, get emergency treatment.

Broken Bones 

Fractures after car accidents often go unnoticed because many accident survivors believe that there’s nothing wrong as long as they can use the broken limb. If the fracture is minor, you might not even notice the pain, but all fractures need immediate medical attention as they may result in infections or permanent deformities.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a broken bone include:

· Cracking sound when the bone breaks.

· Pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising around the affected area

· The affected area may look deformed

· In extreme cases, the broken bone may stick out through the skin

Spinal injuries 

Spinal cord injuries can go unnoticed up to eight days after the car crash but if left untreated, they may lead to long-term disability, such as partial or total paralysis. A serious spinal injury may also lead to death, so immediate medical attention is required. Look for subtle symptoms such as tingling and numbness, loss of sensitivity, coordination and movement issues, and general weakness.

To Wrap It Up 

There are no two identical car accidents or two identical bodily reactions to the shock and trauma of a car crash. Some injuries don’t display symptoms for days or even weeks which can delay much-needed medical intervention and cause serious issues further down the road with insurance companies.

Unless you have a skilled personal injury attorney, like John Foy & Associates, who has dedicated his or her career to helping car accident victims get back on their feet, it would be incredibly hard to prove to an insurer that the new symptoms and injuries are tied to the same accident.

That is why even if you don’t feel any pain or other injury symptoms after a crash, seek immediate medical attention to get all potential injuries assessed.

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