Delayed Car Accident Injuries: What You Need To Know
We discuss how delayed car accident injuries and symptoms that go undetected by doctors can be disabling and the importance of reporting all personal injuries within a year
Delayed car accident injuries pose a serious challenge for crash victims in Michigan as they can worsen and become disabling over time. Failing to properly document all of your injuries means some crash victims could lose their right to recover No-Fault benefits.
What are delayed car accident injuries?
Delayed car accident injuries are injuries with symptoms that are not initially diagnosed or treated in an emergency room. Days and even weeks can pass before they are diagnosed and documented in medical records.
When delayed injury symptoms remain untreated by doctors and hospitals, it creates a “gap in time” that can puts Michigan accident victims at a distinct disadvantage for getting the medical care they need, a fair and full settlement, and – depending on how long the injuries go without documentation – obtaining auto No-Fault PIP insurance benefits from your own insurance company.
Michigan’s auto law requires that auto accident injury victims report all personal injuries from a car crash within the first 12 months following a car crash by filing a “written notice of injury” with their own No-Fault auto insurance company.
This is why it’s important for all Michigan crash victims to properly document all injuries to ensure they don’t lose their right to recover No-Fault benefits.
Our attorneys have seen insurance companies attempt to improperly deny coverage for personal injuries were not specifically reported to the No-Fault insurance company within the first year of a crash. If you need help now or have questions about any delayed car accident injuries that were not medically documented immediately after a crash, call one of our attorneys at (248) 353-7575.
What if I experience pain after an accident that appears late?
First, delayed car accident injuries happen all the time. Take one of the most common injuries: a herniated spinal disc. A trauma, such as from a car crash, can cause a small tear in the disc annulus. However, this initial tear may not result in pain (or enough pain for people to go to the emergency room). Many people will try to treat this with over the counter pain medication. Over the course of several days or weeks, disc material can begin to jut through the tear and cause a significant increase in pain. The takeaway is that in real life, not all injuries are immediately fully apparent.
The takeaway lesson is if you are injured in a car accident in Michigan, you should report all areas of your body that have been injured as soon as possible to your doctor and to your auto insurance company, as pain after an accident can be late appearing. If the pain you are experiencing to certain parts of your body were not specified in your application for No-Fault benefits to your insurance company, you should supplement this immediately.
The Michigan Supreme Court has acknowledged that in real life, many injuries experienced after an accident may have late appearing or delayed injury symptoms, but nevertheless “traceable” to an injury or trauma that occurred earlier. The key is to provide notice as quickly as possible.
The danger of masking injuries
Medical professionals experienced with trauma commonly use the term “masking” to describe delayed car accident injuries. Masking describes how the intense pain from one injury can “mask” other, lesser pains or symptoms of many serious personal injuries.
For example, broken bones, surgeries and months of recovery with powerful pain medication often will mask the effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Many people are completely unaware of the traumatic brain injury until they return to work. The executive and cognitive impairments were always there, but they remained masked and were not fully apparent until the person returned to work and began to face higher cognitive challenges that they did not face when they were recuperating at home and taking pain medication. Many injuries often can go undetected for weeks or even months. Masking helps explains why this happens.
Serious symptoms and injuries that initially appear nagging or minor often worsen over time. Turning your neck the wrong way or bending over suddenly can turn what was previously nagging neck or back discomfort from an accident into intense shooting pain that even requires surgery.
Delayed car accident injuries and symptoms that frequently go undetected
These are some of the most common delayed car accident injuries and symptoms that we as attorneys see most often with crash victims:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Neck injuries
- Back pain
- Emotional injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Blood clots
What causes late appearing injuries?
The cause is simple enough; it’s the trauma caused by the accident. It’s the documentation and medical diagnosis that gets complicated. Too often, doctors focus only on the obvious physical injuries and do not ask important follow-up questions as late appearing injury symptoms occur. Emergency rooms as acute care centers are especially notorious for missing injuries. Indeed, it is estimated that approximately 50% of all traumatic brain injuries are missed in hospital emergency rooms.
When dealing with any possible or suspected traumatic brain injury or closed-head injury after a crash, it’s essential that treating doctors ask if their patients are having problems with concentration, short-term memory, headaches, dizziness, sleep, and with any emotional changes.
Thousands of Michigan accident victims are also stuck in unresponsive managed care health insurance plans, where primary doctors can postpone treatment for months before writing referrals for (more expensive) visits for diagnostic testing or to medical specialists.
Finally, many injuries are just plain missed by well intentioned family practice doctors who are far more familiar with treating people with colds than they are with trauma, injury, and pain.
How to handle delayed car accident injuries?
The best way to handle – i.e., detect, document, and get medical treatment for – late appearing, delayed car accident injuries is to inform your doctor and auto insurance company of all of your injuries as soon as possible – even if you believe at the time they are minor and they will likely go away in time.
Report everything, no matter how “minor” the injury may seem, on your auto No-Fault application for benefits.
This is not the time to be stoic. Not properly documenting the areas of your body where you feel any pain after an accident, even if late appearing symptoms occur, can result in your own insurance company denying your claims and refusing to pay for it later on. This can prevent you from getting vital medical care if your injuries become worse.
Lags in diagnosis and treatment can also shortchange your car accident settlement by thousands or tens of thousands of dollars as the defense attorneys and claims adjusters argue about “gap of time” and causal relationship to an accident in regards to delayed car accident injuries.
If you have questions about your injuries, call Michigan Auto Law at (248) 353-7575 as soon as possible. You can also use fill out our auto accident lawyer free consultation form. With early intervention, our personal injury lawyers can help accident victims with masked injuries receive medical treatment and fair compensation.