You must consider several factors following a car accident. One of the first concerns is what the victim’s insurance company requires to file a report. Secondarily, a statute of limitations provides a time frame for an accident victim to file a claim.
Should you sustain injuries in a car accident, knowing the statute of limitations in your state will help you answer the question, “How long after a car accident can you claim damages for an injury?”, A car accident attorney can guide you in this situation.
Hidden Injuries and Filing Damage Claims
In the aftermath of a car accident, victims may not be aware they suffered an injury. Even when a victim seeks immediate medical care, there may be injuries that medical practitioners do not identify.
Some of the hidden injuries which may become obvious in the days and weeks following a car accident include:
- Soft tissue injuries. Muscle strains, tendon injuries, and sprains are often not immediately noticed or diagnosed. In the days following a car accident, a victim may experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, or stiffness, which could be signs of an undiagnosed injury.
- Whiplash injuries. In the days following a car accident, a victim may experience stiffness or pain in the neck, tingling or numbness, or sudden unexplained headaches. These could be signs of a whiplash injury because of the car accident.
- Brain injuries. A bump, blow, or jolt to the head may be felt during an accident but could also result in a slow brain bleed or swelling, which may not appear for several days after an accident. Unfortunately, brain injury symptoms may only occur after significant damage to the victim.
- Spinal injuries. Often, we think that if someone suffered a spinal injury in an automobile accident, the signs would be immediate. However, this is not always the case. Nerve damage, spinal concussions, and even fractures may not be noticeable until hours or days later when a victim starts noticing pain, loss of function, or other issues.
- Injury to internal organs. A victim’s heart, lungs, intestines, kidneys, or liver may have become damaged in a car accident, and there may be no initial indication of the injury. Slow internal bleeding can mean an organ is damaged and cause irreparable harm to a victim.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). mental or emotional damage is not consistently recognized immediately after an accident. Victims may experience anxiety, flashbacks, or nightmares in the days and weeks following a car accident. PTSD can disable some car accident victims.
These are some potential injuries that may not be readily apparent following a car accident. Any of these injuries can be serious and may impact the victim’s right to submit an injury claim later than they might otherwise be entitled to file.
Protecting Victim’s Rights Following a Car Accident
Anyone involved in a car accident should seek immediate medical attention every time. Refusing medical attention in the aftermath of a car accident jeopardizes a victim’s right to file a claim against the responsible party. If there is no proof of injury, there is no claim.
To protect their rights, a victim may:
- Reporting the accident to insurance. An accident victim should review their insurance policy to see if there are requirements for reporting an accident. Failure to report the accident to their insurance company could jeopardize the rights to seek compensation for an injury.
- Keep medical appointments. A victim should follow all orders from medical professionals, including attending all follow-up appointments. In addition to protecting their physical health after an accident, this will bolster their claim.
- Maintain accurate records. A car accident victim should maintain copies of all medical bills, including prescription bills, gas and toll receipts for doctor visits, and any information pertinent to the accident which can help their claim.
- Contact a car accident lawyer. One of the best ways to ensure a victim gets their rights protected after a car accident is to seek guidance from an experienced car accident lawyer.
Insurance companies are not obligated to guide accident victims. Victims should know this and work with an accident injury lawyer with experience handling auto accident injury claims.
Statute of Limitations and Accident Injury Claims
While an insurance company may have a policy regarding when a policyholder must report an accident, these time frames do not apply to victims who wish to file a lawsuit to get compensated for their injuries and losses.
In some cases, the statute of limitations may start on the day of the accident. However, in cases where the victim may not have known about their injury, the statute of limitations may start after the victim discovers the injury.
An accident victim can forfeit their right to file a claim if they fail to file an accident claim before the statute of limitations has expired. While there may be exceptions to these limits, victims should not risk losing their ability to file a claim. An attorney can advise a client on what steps to take to ensure they do not lose their right to seek compensation for their injuries and damages.
Understanding How Evidence Sought by an Insurer Affects a Victim’s Claim
I may take some time for a victim to establish a correlation between their injury and the accident.
The victim may do this by:
- Sharing medical records. Chances are the at-fault party’s insurance company will seek medical confirmation of an injury. It is critical that a victim not sign any medical release forms without first having a lawyer review them. Insurers will often ask for a release of all medical records, not just those of the accident.
- Law enforcement investigation. In most states, those in an accident must file a report so law enforcement can launch an investigation. An accident injury attorney can obtain copies of the investigation when filing a settlement demand.
- Collection of witness statements. While an accident is fresh in their minds, a lawyer can obtain witness statements that they can use to show who was at fault for the accident in which an injury occurred. These sworn statements can be invaluable in proving fault.
- Traffic camera footage. Another potential source of evidence is traffic camera footage. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows where traffic cams exist in each state. This footage can be helpful if this is where an accident occurred. An attorney can reach out immediately upon being notified of the accident and request the preservation of the footage of the cameras as evidence.
Victims need someone who will advocate on their behalf to ensure they can receive compensation for their injuries and the losses they have suffered due to those injuries.
Negotiating With Insurance Company Adjusters
Car accident victims have certain rights under the law. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) serves as a public interest group and offers guidelines for insurers to provide fairness to consumers. These guidelines establish how to handle insurance claims.
Most insurers will offer lower initial settlements than you deserve.
Victims may collect compensation for:
- Medical bills incurred as a result of the accident. Victims may also be entitled to future medical costs if they require ongoing care because of a car accident.
- Income lost during recovery, and future earnings if they suffer a permanent disability that prevents them from working.
- Unexpected expenses including hiring household help to do chores the victim would have done if not for their injury.
- The victim may also include pain and suffering in a demand for settlement.
Before filing a claim with an insurance company, a victim should seek legal counsel to establish the amount of damages to seek. Remember that it is difficult to ask for additional compensation once the victim files a claim. Worse yet, if a victim accepts a settlement offer that is less than their losses, they will not be able to demand other monies from the insurer. Once a victim takes a settlement, the insurance company has no further obligation to the victim, which means the victim must absorb any additional losses.
Why Hiring a Lawyer Makes Sense After a Car Accident
After a car accident hiring a lawyer makes sense for several reasons. A lawyer will help protect a victim’s rights, and a lawyer may also help ensure a fair outcome.
Some other reasons why legal help makes sense for a victim include:
- Navigating the claims process. A personal injury attorney can file an insurance claim on their client’s behalf. This allows the victim to seek the best compensation for their losses.
- Provide proof of liability. In addition to collecting evidence, an attorney can investigate to prove the other driver is at fault.
- Experience and knowledge. A personal injury attorney has the experience and expertise to support and guide victims through their injury claims.
- Preparation for court. If the insurance company offers no fair settlement, an attorney is ready to take the victim’s claim to court.
Hiring an attorney has many benefits and ensures the victim has someone who will aggressively pursue a fair settlement on their behalf.
Personal Injury Lawyers Offer a Free Case Evaluation
All accident victims can ask for a free consultation to determine the strength of their claim. These evaluations can help victims understand their legal rights and options.
Most Accident Injury Attorneys Accept Cases on a Contingency Fee Basis
Rather than charge hourly, lawyers who handle personal injury cases work on a contingency fee basis. For clients, this means they typically do not have to pay a fee upfront for the services. If an attorney is not successful in obtaining a settlement for a client, the client pays only the costs associated with the claim. They do not get charged legal fees.
Understanding the Role of an Attorney in Car Accident Cases
An attorney’s role is to represent their client’s best interest. Victims of car accidents may think hiring an attorney will slow their case down. Others may also tell them that hiring a lawyer means the attorney will decide for them. This is not what happens.
Here is what an accident victim should know about hiring a lawyer:
- They will negotiate for a victim’s. Personal injury lawyers represent their clients. Therefore, while they will handle the negotiations, their client must approve or reject any settlement offers. A lawyer cannot accept or reject any offer without the victim’s approval.
- Lawyers want cases to settle quickly. While a car accident injury lawyer wants the best possible outcome for their client, they also want to be able to provide each client with personal service. An attorney is interested in ensuring their client benefits from their efforts as soon as possible to prevent further financial hardship.
Fortunately, most car accident cases settle before going to court. While every case is different, the more complicated a case, the more a victim will benefit from competent legal guidance. A lawyer will help make sure that victims do not lose the right to file an injury claim after a car accident.
Consult a Car Accident Lawyer
Regardless of how minor a car accident may appear, there is a possibility all the time that an injury may be initially undiagnosed. This could be problematic if a victim has not filed a claim immediately after an accident. The best option for all car accident victims is to contact a personal injury lawyer immediately following a car accident and receive the legal protection they need.