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Hidden Injuries

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Hidden Injuries

When someone is involved in a serious accident, the injuries they sustain are often self evident.

A wound to the skin will be immediately apparent; bruising usually becomes visible within a short time and fractures are sometimes obvious to the trained observer.

Some injuries are less obvious however.

When someone has received a blow to the face, for example, there may be an obvious wound such as a nasty cut or a black eye. Treatment for these things may be straightforward.

It may however be that beneath the skin a more serious injury has occurred, such as an orbital blow-out fracture, which is a type of fracture to the eye socket.

This type of injury can be extremely unpleasant and can have potentially serious implications for the injured person’s vision and in terms of cosmetic deformity.

This type of fracture, as an example, is not always easily detected on a traditional X-ray and may require a more detailed CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.

It has been known for such fractures to be missed, perhaps because the pain from the fracture may be masked by pain from the other injuries.

Sometimes the first indication that something more serious is going on is the patient experiencing headaches and vision problems, such as blurring or double vision. This may be some time after the accident.

Where someone has had a blow to the head, there can be a range of possible consequences from a mild concussion which passes very quickly to a serious and obvious head injury.

Between these extremes there lie injuries which may not be obvious to the naked eye but which may have a significant effect on the injured person’s life. These are known as Subtle Brain Injuries; 'subtle' because they are not easily detectable using the common scanning methods.

Because of their very subtlety, subtle brain injuries can go undetected.

The warning signs can include difficulty in concentrating, memory problems, headaches, changes in mood and even personality changes.

Sometimes the most hidden of all injuries are those that are psychological rather than physical. People involved in a traumatic event may suffer from a range of psychological reactions, from a mild and short lived travel anxiety (such as where they were involved in a road traffic accident) to something more long term and debilitating.

Probably the most well known diagnosis is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which started to be recognised as a definite psychiatric injury at the time of the Vietnam war.

This condition (which is precisely diagnosed according to quite strict criteria), although invisible, can have a devastating impact on someone's wellbeing, relationships and ability to lead a normal, healthy life.

It can be something that goes unacknowledged because the trauma that gave rise to it need not necessarily have caused a physical injury as well.

People who have witnessed a traumatic event to a loved one; rescuers and survivors of abuse can all suffer from PTSD or some other psychological condition or reaction without having themselves been physically hurt.

If you think you may have been affected by any of the conditions mentioned in this article, go to your doctor and explain your symptoms. Effective treatments are often available, but the key thing initially is to obtain the correct diagnosis - it may be a question of "better late than never".

If you think we could be of assistance to you, contact us on 01227 813400. We offer a free, no obligation initial interview in cases of personal injury and clinical negligence.

Richard Giles

Richard is a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel and of Headway East Kent, a charity that exists to promote wider understanding of all aspects of head injury, providing information, support and services to people with head injuries and their families and carers.

This literature is intended purely as an overview of this topic and does not constitute legal advice.

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