How to Properly Document Delayed Injuries After a Car Accident
Some injuries from a car accident may not be fully known right after the accident occurs. Internal parts of the body can be damaged by the impact but the damage can go undetected until severe symptoms are experienced. When injuries are not reported promptly after an accident, it raises suspicion as to whether the accident was the cause of the injuries. Having significant documentation connecting the accident with the injuries is important evidence when making a claim for delayed injuries.
Why Injuries from a Car Accident Might not be Known Right Away
After a car accident, the body is in shock. It has just experienced a traumatic event and has gone into survival mode. The body has released chemicals into the bloodstream intended to help it deal with the threat it has encountered. Due to the chemically altered state, a person may not recognize the signs of injury and may indicate no injuries have occurred. It may be hours, days, or even weeks before symptoms of injury begin to appear.
When this happens, it raises the issue of whether the car accident was actually the cause of the injuries being claimed. This means proof that the injuries occurred because of the accident is needed. Medical records and information from the injured party are usually the sources of the evidence. The more documentation there is relating the injuries to the accident, the better the chances of obtaining compensation.
Types of Injuries that can Develop Over a Period of Time
The jarring nature of an automobile crash can cause internal damage to the body and not be immediately noticeable. Tears, bruising, swelling, and bleeding can occur to the soft tissues under the skin. These injuries may become worse over time and can develop into more serious and debilitating conditions.
Common kinds of injuries from car accidents that may not be immediately known include:
- Brain injuries – The brain is quite soft and can be injured severely without any outward injuries to the head. The force from an accident can cause the brain to bang into the skull, damaging tissues that can lead to further injury.
- Back and spine injuries – The spinal column is a flexible stack of bony pieces held together by bands of fibrous tissue and separated by little fluid-filled sacks. The spinal column encloses and protects the spinal cord. Force against the body causing the spine to flex too quickly or in an unnatural way can cause initial damage to the spine and develop into significant impairment.
- Internal organ damage – Bodies are not designed to absorb the kind of force that can result from a car accident. The transfer of force can pressure internal organs causing them to rupture and creating a potentially life-threatening situation.
3 Tips to Help Properly Document Delayed Injuries from a Car Accident
It has been said the best offense is a good defense. Having documentation that proves the existence of the injuries and connects the injuries to the accident is what is necessary to establish the entitlement to compensation from the responsible party. Taking the following steps will help to properly document delayed injuries.
- Get a medical examination and let the examiner know about the accident.
- Pay attention to any changes in behavior, signs of discomfort, or other unusual differences, and keep a detailed log of the experiences.
- Don’t let an insurance company or other representative of the responsible party push a settlement before sufficient time is allowed to assess the full extent of the injuries.
What Happens When the Police Report Says No Injuries?
It is typical for the police to respond to a motor vehicle accident in Massachusetts. The police will get the names of everyone involved in the accident and will likely also note in their report whether or not a particular person was injured. If injuries are not readily apparent at the accident scene, a person might mistakenly tell the officer there are no injuries. Does the earlier statement to the police prevail over a later claim for injuries from the accident?
Not necessarily. If the injuries claimed are of a type that could reasonably have occurred as the result of the accident but not be known immediately, then a statement to the police right after the accident might not be considered reliable. However, the evidence in support of the delayed development of injuries must be persuasive.
Why Delayed Injuries Need Immediate Medical Treatment
The best way to prove delayed injuries are connected to a car accident is to have medical evidence substantiating the claims made by the person injured. The sooner that medical attention is sought after the crash, the closer will be the legal connection between the crash and the injuries.
Because injuries may not be visible, it is always a good idea to get a medical checkup after a car accident. A doctor may suspect the development of delayed injuries and advise what signs and symptoms to be aware of. Keeping a record of what symptoms are felt, when, and how often can show the progression of a delayed injury from the time of the accident.
Be Careful When Communicating with Insurance Companies about Delayed Injuries
The insurance company that is looking at paying a claim will not be happy when what was thought to be a claim without injury turns into an injury claim. Insurance claims adjusters may be suspicious about a delayed injury claim and try to suggest the claimed injuries are not related to the accident in order to avoid liability. An insurance company may also try to push for a quick settlement to limit exposure for developing injuries before the full extent of the damage is known.
The issue of causation is more complex when the development of personal injuries is delayed until sometime after a car accident. Consistent and detailed documentation of the onset and progression of symptoms is crucial for establishing the necessary connection between the accident and the injuries so that compensation can be recovered.
If you have been injured in a car accident, please Call Riccio Law at 508-226-4500 to schedule a free consultation.