Delayed Onset Accident Injuries

An accident often leads to serious injuries.  Sometimes, because of the adrenaline pumping and focus on the incident, you may not feel any injuries until hours after you left the accident scene or even days later. Even when you feel pain your injuries may not be diagnosed until weeks later.

“Delayed onset” injuries can be just as painful and dangerous as those felt on the scene of the accident.

Here are a few of the most common examples of injuries you may not know about at the time of the accident:

Broken Bones

Frequently, fractures or broken bones are not seen on x-ray at the emergency room after an accident. This usually happens with a broken bone that is called a nondisplaced fracture. The reason it doesn’t show on x-ray immediately after the accident is because of the inflammation and swelling.

When a fracture exists but is not seen on x-ray at the hospital, you will feel pain the next day and will need to see a doctor. It is at this time, that your broken bone will be seen on an x-ray. Occasionally, when a fracture is too small to be seen on x-ray, a CT scan or MRI will be needed to view the fracture.


Whiplash, the jarring motion of an impact and the resulting “whip” of momentum, can result in a variety of injuries.  A common one is headaches. The headaches can be the result of a concussion – the result of your brain being pushed around inside your skull – or something much more severe.

A blood clot or pressure inside the skull can cause significant long term damage or death.  It is extremely important to let your medical provider know you have headaches so they can properly diagnose the cause of your headaches.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Right after the accident you may not feel it, but waking up the neck morning, the neck and shoulder pain from whiplash can be extremely debilitating. This is because inflammation will occur during the night while you are sleeping and cause your entries to get worse.

Your pain can be as small as a sharp pain when you turn a certain way, to having your neck locked painfully in a specific position.  Let your medical provider know right away so that you can begin treatment to relieve the pain and begin the healing process immediately.

Lower Back Pain

The impact, especially if the seatbelt is worn properly, may cause a shift in the vertebrae in your back.  This may not even be noticed after the accident, but in the days after the accident it can become extremely painful. It may simply be a misalignment, or something more severe like torn muscle or ligaments.

As with neck and shoulder pain, let your medical provider know right away so that you can begin treatment to relieve pain and but begin the healing process as soon as possible.

Swollen or Painful Stomach

Your stomach may be painful to the touch the next day.  This may be just bruising, or something more severe like internal bleeding.  It is very important to get a proper medical diagnosis right after your accident.

Painful Chest

If your chest is painful the day after your accident, you may have a fractured rib. You should see a doctor immediately to get an extra day.

Personality or Attitude Shift

This is more likely noticed by your friends and family, so please ask them.  A dramatic shift may be a sign of brain trauma, whether it is a concussion, a blood clot, or worse.  Early diagnosis is key, so let your medical provider know as soon as possible.

See a list of symptoms of concussion and brain injury at and additional information about concussion and brain injury at


With all of these types of delayed symptoms, it is important to see a medical provider who is familiar with accident injuries, so they can’t make the proper diagnosis, provide the proper treatment, and know how to preserve your rights. There are a variety of injury specialists available – for example, in Georgia there is Georgia Injury Centhimers – who specifically treat accident injuries.  Call us at 1-800-HURT911 and we will help you find one near you!