Petrarca and Petrarca Law Offices

man with hidden injuries after a RI car accident

Understanding Hidden Injuries In Personal Injury Cases

After a car crash, you may walk away from the scene feeling fine. But in reality, the true extent of your injuries only comes to light months or years later. They are called “hidden injuries“, and they can impact your life even after you think the worst is behind you. 

If you’re dealing with a hidden injury after a car accident, you may be able to get compensation through an insurance claim or a personal injury suit. Below, discover 5 common examples of hidden injuries, and learn how delayed symptoms might affect your personal injury claim. Plus, get information about a Rhode Island personal injury lawyer ready to help. 

What are hidden injuries in a car accident? 

A “hidden injury” occurs when the symptoms of an injury are delayed, likely due to your body’s endorphin response. 

During traumatic or stressful events, your body releases endorphins, like adrenaline, as a part of the “fight or flight” response. These natural chemicals can mask your pain, allowing you to act fast and get to safety. 

However, there’s a flip side to the pain-disguising effects of endorphins: you may not notice your injuries at the scene. Instead, you may only discover them hours, days, or even weeks after the original incident occurs. This could lead to delayed treatment which could make symptoms worse.

5 Common hidden injuries: What are the long-term effects of a car crash on the human body? 

Some of the most common hidden injuries and their symptoms include the following. 

  • Head injuries. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are caused by a sudden jolt or blow to the head. For instance, slamming your head against the dashboard. Moderate to severe TBIs can lead to life-altering symptoms like limb weakness, coordination issues, personality changes, and more.
  • Whiplash. Whiplash occurs when you suddenly jerk your head forward or backward. In car crashes, whiplash symptoms can be delayed and commonly include neck pain and stiffness, sleep issues, numbness, concentration problems, and other concerning issues.
  • Spinal cord injuries. Serious spinal injuries aren’t always readily apparent. But they can cause changes in body strength and impact your ability to feel below the injury area. These effects can sometimes be permanent. 
  • Mental effects. Don’t underestimate the potential psychological effects of car accidents, either. You may struggle with flashbacks and nightmares, or feel intense anxiety any time you sit behind the wheel. 

hidden injuries are a byproduct of rhode island car accidents

What should I do to help my personal injury claim after a car accident?

Many hidden injury victims make the mistake of refusing treatment at the scene of the crash. But, your insurance company can later use this against you when you file a claim. So, if the first responders want to take you to the hospital, go with them. They might discover evidence of a hidden injury before it gets worse. 

Additionally, don’t sign a liability waiver right away. While your insurance company may press you to settle, signing the waiver can revoke your rights to file future personal injury claims. So, wait to sign until after you’ve seen a healthcare professional and consulted with an experienced RI personal injury lawyer. 

How does the statute of limitations affect cases with hidden injuries?

In Rhode Island, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years This means that you’ll have three years after the date of the incident to file a personal injury claim before the deadline expires. If you try to file a claim outside the window, the court will generally dismiss it. 

That can prove tricky for hidden injury victims. After all, what if you don’t make the connection between your back pain and your car accident until years after the fact? In cases like these, there are some exceptions to the statute of limitations, which might prove useful for some cases.

What is the discovery of harm rule?

Most states generally operate under a principle called the “discovery rule.” This means that the statute of limitations doesn’t take effect until you discover your injury, or should have reasonably discovered it. 

For instance, maybe you only learned about your whiplash at a doctor’s appointment months after the date of the accident. In cases like these, the “clock” for the statute of limitations would start ticking on the day you discovered the injury, not the date of the incident itself. 

However, the more time that elapses from the date of your original accident, crucial evidence and details can be lost to time. The insurance company may attempt to blame your injuries on something other than your car accident. So, if you want the best possible chance of success, it’s crucial to consult with a Rhode Island car accident lawyer right away. 

A Rhode Island personal injury lawyer you can trust

If you’re dealing with a hidden injury that impacts your quality of life, you don’t need to suffer alone. As dedicated Providence personal injury lawyers, Petrarca Law is here to help. 

We’ll fight for your rights with your insurance company and strive to get the full benefits of your policy. We can handle all the hard parts for you, like sourcing your medical records, gathering evidence, and building your case from the ground up. So, you can focus on living your life again. 

Contact us today for a free consultation.