If you’re injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver (or any at-fault driver), you may not be aware of all of your injuries immediately. This might be especially true if you were a bit under the influence yourself and riding with someone you thought was sober enough to drive.
Even if you were completely sober when the crash occurred, you may not notice some injury symptoms until days or even longer after the crash. Maybe you were overwhelmed by the shock of the accident for a time and didn’t feel the full physical impact. Perhaps the pain of one or more injuries was so bad that you didn’t notice others until that pain began to subside.
Whatever the situation, it’s important to watch for delayed symptoms that could be a sign of a potentially serious injury that needs treatment. These include:
Headaches: These might indicate a concussion or even a blood clot.
Back pain: This could indicate vertebrae damage or injury to nerves, muscles and/or ligaments.
Shoulder or neck pain: These are common symptoms of whiplash. While whiplash has been joked about over the years, it can be a potentially serious injury after a crash, and symptoms of it are often delayed. It’s particularly common after rear-end crashes.
Numbness: This symptom should never be ignored. It could also be a symptom of whiplash. It typically results from damage to the spine or neck.
Abdominal pain/swelling: This could be a symptom of internal bleeding. If you’re experiencing this after a crash, see a doctor immediately.
Other delayed symptoms that you should watch for include dizziness, movement changes, personality changes, memory loss, depression and loss of hearing or vision. These can be signs of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Some impacts of a car crash aren’t physical but are debilitating nonetheless. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not uncommon after a crash — especially for children. The impact on your life of having PTSD after a crash shouldn’t be underestimated.
It’s wise to see a doctor if you’ve been involved in a crash, even if you don’t think you were seriously injured enough to warrant it — and to be aware that some injuries may not be apparent right away. Don’t settle with an insurance company and/or the at-fault driver until you know what kind of medical, physical therapy and mental health care you’re going to need.