Motor Vehicle Accidents

How Long After a Car Accident Can Injuries Appear?

October 27, 2023
Senior man leaving blue car young male driver exiting black car after rear end collision accident daytime

Car crash injuries don’t always appear right away. In fact, depending on the damage, it could take days – or even longer – for injuries to appear. But what’s behind delayed pain after injury? And how long does it take before you know the full extent of the damage?

Our personal injury attorneys answer such questions and more below.

Car Accidents

Car crashes happen all too frequently. The most common causes of car accidents include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Texting and driving
  • Speeding
  • Failure to signal
  • Tailgating

However, sometimes crashes happen because of faulty vehicles e.g. airbag malfunction. Our auto accident attorneys can help determine what caused your crash.

Common Car Accident Injuries

Injuries range in severity, from minor cuts and bruises to paralysis and limb loss. Common injuries include:

  • Back injuries
  • Bruising
  • Head trauma
  • Lacerations
  • Neck injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Soft tissue damage

The worst crashes cause fatal injuries. And worryingly, NY saw over 1000 fatal crashes in 2021 alone. If you lose a loved one to an auto accident, we can explain your legal options.

Can Car Accident Injuries Show Up Later?

Injuries may not appear right away. They can sometimes take days, weeks, or months to develop. Here are some common car accident injuries with delayed symptoms

Head Injuries

Head injuries are hard to spot because they can take a few hours or days to appear. Common head injuries include concussions, skull fractures, and brain bruises.

Get medical help if you develop increasing tenderness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, or confusion.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding and organ damage can be insidious. It can go undetected for hours or even days. If you’re in a crash and later develop the following symptoms, seek advice immediately:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Increasing abdominal pain
  • Leg swelling or tightness
  • Severe bruising and pain

Spinal Cord Damage

Spinal cord damage includes damage to spinal discs, bones, and nerves. These injuries can be severe and may cause paralysis, especially if they go untreated.

The full extent of spinal cord damage can take months to reveal itself. But in the meantime, seek urgent medical help if you experience:

  • Increasing pain
  • Numbness and/or tingling
  • Inability to walk
  • Loss of function or weakness
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control

If you have any nerve symptoms, or neck or back pain following trauma, get medical advice.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue damage includes pulled muscles and torn ligaments. It often takes a few days, at least, for symptoms such as tenderness, stiffness, and bruising to appear.

Mental Distress

Car accidents are distressing. They can cause anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. These symptoms often won’t appear immediately. They can take months to develop.


Whiplash occurs when there’s a violent neck movement. It’s a common side effect of rear-end collisions when you’re jolted forward and back.

It can take over 24 hours for neck pain, headaches, and stiffness to develop. In some cases, it may take a few days longer.


Woman standing rubbing neck and grimacing after car crash black car in background rear end collision with silver car


How Do I Check for Car Accident Injuries?

The first step is performing a visual “body check” or inspection.

However, you can’t see every injury. And if you have head trauma, your judgment could be impaired. Visit your doctor, or the ER department, for an accurate diagnosis. Medical evidence helps to strengthen your claim.

What if I Didn’t Know I Was Injured?

This is a common problem. What if you don’t realize you’re hurt at first? Or what if it takes a few weeks (or months) to discover the severity of your injuries?

It’s often difficult for doctors to determine the extent of your injuries right away. That’s why the law (the “statute of limitations”) gives you time to file a personal injury claim.

  • New York: Three years from the accident (injury) date.
  • New Jersey: Two years from the accident (injury) date.

Typically, this should be enough time to determine the extent of any injuries after a car crash.

The time limit varies for minors and wrongful death claims. Your attorney can explain what deadline applies to your case.

What to Expect After a Car Accident

When you’re recovering from a car crash, it helps to know what to expect. Here are some tips for navigating the immediate aftermath of an auto accident.

  • If you have a head injury, watch out for “red flag” signs such as dizziness and worsening headaches.
  • It can take a few days for swelling, bruising, and soft tissue damage to appear. So, don’t be alarmed if bruising appears even a week or two later. Always check with your doctor if you have concerns, though.
  • You might feel anxious, depressed, or stressed after a car accident. Reach out for support if these symptoms do not improve.
  • Improve your recovery time by resting, following your doctor’s advice, and eating a healthy diet.
  • Consult a personal injury attorney. They can handle the legal side of things and negotiate a settlement so you can focus on recovery.

How Long Should You Rest After a Car Accident?

It all depends on your injuries and how you’re feeling. Some people may only need to rest for a day or two, whereas others may need weeks or even months off.

As a general guide, consider resting for at least 24 to 48 hours. Move as normally as you can, but don’t do anything which causes pain. And always follow your doctor’s advice. If they recommend a longer recovery time, take it!

Even if you only have minor injuries, take it easy for a few days. Remember, car crashes are traumatic events. Give your mind and body the time they need to reset.

How Long Do I Have to Make a Claim?

As noted, you only have two or three years to file a personal injury claim. However, you should also notify your insurance company about the crash.

As with personal injury claims, there are deadlines for filing insurance claims. For example, in NY, you must notify your insurer within 30 days of the crash. Otherwise, they may not cover your losses.

Always check your policy if you’re unsure how (and when) to file a claim. Or ask your personal injury attorney for help – we’re happy to assist.

Retain Our Auto Accident Lawyers Today

Are you worried about your health after a car crash? Our team is here to help. After you seek medical attention, call our lawyers to discuss your claim. We will determine if you have a case and, if so, help you get the damages you deserve.

We’ve successfully represented many car accident victims and we understand what you’re going through. Our team will do everything possible to protect your legal rights. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with our car accident attorneys today.

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