How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
Every year, the U.S. sees about 6.75 million car accidents, or approximately 18,510 crashes daily. Injuries from car accidents are the most common types of personal injury claims, and it’s easy to see why. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that 4.8 million injuries sustained in 3.4 million motor vehicle accidents involving over six million vehicles required medical care in one recent year alone.
The price tag for these injuries was estimated at over $473.2 billion and included:
Property damage to vehicles
Wage and productivity losses
These are generally the hard costs of a motor vehicle accident, but they don’t include other costs such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. Car accident victims have many damages that they deserve to receive full and fair compensation for.
However, they only have a limited amount of time to make an injury claim. If they fail to make their claim on time or don’t file a lawsuit within their state’s deadline, they cannot receive compensation.
If you or someone you love was involved in an injury accident, you might wonder how long you have after a car accident to claim an injury. Since this answer can vary, the best thing to do is consult with a skilled car accident attorney in your area. They will review all the facts of your case and be well-versed in your state’s laws so that they can guide you on the right path to receiving compensation.
Seek Medical Care ASAP
It’s imperative to seek medical care after being involved in a car accident of any type or severity. If you suffer severe injuries, take the ambulance to the hospital. Now isn’t the time to worry about the expense; your well-being is more important than anything else. If you don’t take the ambulance to the hospital, seek medical care from an urgent care center or your own doctor as soon as possible—ideally within the next several hours.
You can still have serious injuries even if you aren’t experiencing any pain or other symptoms. After a car accident, you may experience an adrenaline rush that masks the pain and other symptoms of injuries—even potentially serious ones. You can still have life-threatening injuries such as internal bleeding. If you don’t seek medical care as soon as possible, you can risk your health and well-being as well as your injury claim.
It’s difficult to claim an injury if you didn’t prioritize seeking medical care after your car accident. Suppose you start to experience back pain a week or two after your accident. Upon seeing your doctor, they diagnose you with a slipped disc. You know it’s from the car accident. However, since you didn’t see a doctor right away, the insurance company for the other party will likely try to say that you did something after the accident to cause your slipped disc. In that case, you may not get the compensation you deserve.
Injuries that Can Appear Later
For various reasons, some injuries don’t initially have symptoms. However, this isn’t a measure of their severity or the importance of medical attention. If you were recently in a motor vehicle accident, you should see a doctor even if you feel fine. You might have one or more of the following common late-appearing motor vehicle accident injuries.
Internal Organ Injuries
External forces can push against internal organs in an accident, including the pressure of a seat belt, airbag, or dashboard. The kidneys, liver, spleen, intestines, lungs, and heart can also suffer injuries even without much visible external damage to the body or significant symptoms. In fact, quite some time might pass before internal injuries show any signs or symptoms, such as the loss of a bodily function caused by organ damage or slow internal bleeding.
Symptoms of internal injuries:
Cold and sweaty skin (early signs of shock)
Tenderness over the injured area
Right-sided abdominal pain and right shoulder pain (liver)
Left arm and shoulder pain (spleen)
Bloody urine (kidney)
Whiplash occurs due to the abrupt and unexpected force placed on the neck, shoulders, and back in a motor vehicle accident.
Whiplash symptoms can include:
Tingling or numbness in the arms
Stiffness in the neck, shoulders, or back
Increased pain with neck movement
Headaches, usually starting at the base of the skull
Tenderness or pain in the upper back, shoulder, or arms
Loss of range of motion in the neck
Concussions are common car accident injuries as they can happen from the head hitting something or even from the sheer force of the accident itself. For example, the brain hitting the inside of the hard skull can cause severe and irreversible damage in some instances.
Concussion symptoms often include:
Blurred vision or other visual disturbances
Trouble remembering new information
Altered sleeping patterns
Back injuries, including ruptured or herniated discs, often don’t have symptoms immediately.
Even a minor accident or one at low speeds and little force involved can cause a back injury and damage the back:
Back injury symptoms include:
Numbness and tingling to the back, neck, shoulders, or arms
Troubles walking, standing, or sitting
Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
In addition to seeking medical care, you can further substantiate your injury claim by following the advice of your medical team. If your doctor tells you not to lift more than 10 pounds, not to go back to work yet, or not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle do what they tell you.
Suppose the insurance company finds out that you weren’t listening to your doctor and doing what is medically best for you. In that case, it will weaken your injury claim, and you won’t be able to maximize your compensation. It gives the impression that you either aren’t injured or don’t care much about your injury if you don’t care about your injury, the insurance company certainly won’t.
Why File an Injury Claim
If you don’t file an injury claim, you are the one who will have to pay your medical bills, determine how you will get by if you have lost wages, and deal with your pain and suffering. Filing an injury claim is the right of all injury accident victims who don’t deserve to have to absorb the costs and other damages associated with a car accident that wasn’t their fault.
The value of your accident claim primarily depends on your damages, which vary from case to case. Damages are the losses, inconveniences, and expenses you suffer from the accident. There are generally two types of damages; economic and non-economic.
Economic damages account for all your financial losses or expenses associated with your accident. They have inherent value.
Past and future medical bills
Past and future lost wages and income
Necessary household or childcare services that you are unable to perform
Non-economic damages are more difficult to value. They don’t have a predetermined worth, like medical bills or lost wages.
Non-economic damages are subjective and can include:
A car accident lawyer can estimate what your claim might be worth by reviewing the types of damages you incurred. They can help ensure that your account for each of your damages in your case, consider them during settlement negotiations, and, if necessary, explain them to a jury.
Insurance Company Requirements
Depending on the party liable for your injuries and their insurance policy and company, you might be under a deadline to report your injury to them. Many insurance companies require claimants to report an injury accident right away or within 30 days. It’s best not to waste any time in doing so though you should not necessarily make the report yourself.
Preferably, hire a car accident attorney right away who can identify who is at fault for your accident and ensure they file the claim with the correct insurance company. This helps prevent you from saying something that you assume is harmless but that the insurance adjuster records and uses against you to minimize your settlement or even deny your claim.
The Statute of Limitations
State laws only give personal injury victims a set amount of time to file a lawsuit if one becomes necessary meaning your claim doesn’t settle outside of court. When you pursue a personal injury claim, you don’t know how long your claim will take or if it will settle outside of court.
Therefore, you must begin your claim with the state’s legal deadline in the back of your mind and remember that the clock is ticking. Each state can set its own statute of limitations. However, most are between one and four years after the date of the injury. If your claim is against a government employee or entity, you may have an even shorter deadline for initiating a claim or lawsuit.
Having a knowledgeable car accident lawyer by your side will ensure that your claim is filed on time, no matter what type it is. While your attorney will work towards settling your claim, so you don’t have to take your case to trial unless you want to, they will work against this deadline.
If you miss this crucial deadline, it’s highly unlikely that you can receive compensation for your injuries as you won’t have the backing of the law. There’s no motivation for the liable party or their insurance company to provide you with compensation anymore, and you have no recourse.
What Happens After You Report the Accident to the Insurance Company?
The insurance company will begin its own investigation into your accident to determine how it happened and who is liable. Depending on the severity of your injuries and the accident, you might receive a phone call from the other party’s insurance company requesting that you provide a recorded statement.
Suppose you have already hired a car accident lawyer. In that case, you can simply inform them that you have retained an attorney and refer them to speak with them. If you haven’t yet secured legal counsel, it’s best to politely decline to give a recorded statement and keep in mind that anything you say can potentially be used against you.
The adjuster might offer you an extremely low settlement around this time. Even if you really need the money now, it’s best to speak to a well-versed car accident lawyer first, as it’s unlikely that you are being offered a fair settlement for your damages.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
You should take steps to begin an injury claim as soon as you realize you suffered an injury; don’t wait. No matter how big or small your accident or how severe or minor your injuries are, it’s always best to discuss the details of your car accident and injuries with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. You may think that your losses are minor or that you don’t have a valid personal injury claim, only to find out when it’s too late that you did have a valid claim or had severe injuries that deserve compensation.
The sooner you contact an attorney, the better your chances of receiving full and fair compensation for your injuries. If you have legal representation, you are less likely to be taken advantage of by the other side’s insurance company. However, with the help of an attorney, you can ensure that your claim gets filed within your state’s personal injury statute of limitations and that you don’t miss any insurance company deadlines.
Most car accident attorneys offer free legal consultations to review your claim. Anyone involved in a car accident can benefit from an attorney reviewing their case.