It wasn't that bad of an accident, at least it didn't seem so at the time. You were slogging through another morning commute to the city, switching between news and your favorite jams, when suddenly you heard a loud crunch as your head jerked back and forth. The low-speed collision still packed a powerful punch, enough to smash your taillights and push your car into the one in front of you, but you felt okay. You took notes, exchanged information with the other motorists, and took care of it. Fortunately you didn't sign a release form for settlement with the at-fault driver's insurance company (more on that later), because you discovered the signs of whiplash just a few weeks later.
So what now? It's not unusual for injury-related pain after a car accident to be delayed, and in many cases you may not even know you have a serious injury until later. Below are some guidelines to help ensure that you get the compensation you need if car accident-related pain doesn't show up until days or even weeks after the incident.
Types of Pain After a Car Accident That are Often Delayed
Sometimes a headache is just a headache. But if you were recently involved in a car accident, neck or head pain could indicate a more serious injury that wasn't discovered at the time of the accident. If you have suffered any of the following types of pain after an accident, even if it's delayed, get immediate medical attention.
Wait Before You Sign a Release of Liability for Settlement
It is customary for the injured party to sign a release of liability form after settling a car accident claim. It ends the lawsuit (if applicable) and all future claims related to the incident. But if you sign this form too soon -- before having an opportunity to ascertain all of the injuries you may have sustained in a car accident -- you may lose out on compensation for injuries you didn't know you had. That is why it is so crucial to get a complete medical evaluation following a car accident before you sign any such release.
My Pain After a Car Accident was Delayed: What Now?
As long as you haven't settled your claim and signed a release of liability with the at-fault driver's insurance company, it's not too late to get compensation for delayed injuries. In addition to getting a complete evaluation of your injuries, make sure you get an accurate estimate of any future medical costs you might incur.
A rule of thumb is to wait until you have achieved "maximum medical improvement (MMI)." This term refers to the point at which your condition has stabilized and you have reached as full of a recovery as can be expected. At this point, chances are pretty slim that additional, as-of-yet undiscovered injuries will surface.
Get a Legal Evaluation of Your Car Accident Injury Claim
If you've been in a car accident, you may have sustained injuries that won't manifest as symptoms until several days later. And while you may be anxious to settle your claim right away, remember that time is on your side (to a limited extent). Make sure you're making the right decisions by having a local motor vehicle accident injury attorney evaluate your claim.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.