About 6.75 million motor vehicle collisions occur in the United States annually. On average, this equates to about 18,510 auto accidents every day. It’s no wonder that personal injuries from car accidents account for the most personal injury claims annually. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), medical professionals attended to 4.8 million injuries arising from 3.4 million motor-vehicle collisions involving 6.1 million vehicles in a recent year.
The total costs for these motor-vehicle accident injuries were estimated at $473.2 billion, accounting for:
Sustaining an injury in a car accident can change your life for a long time or even permanently. Those who suffer injuries in car accidents will benefit from consulting with a well-versed car accident attorney to learn more about their rights to compensation. However, they only have a limited amount of time to claim injury.
State laws provide deadlines, known as the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits. You must claim your injury within this timeframe. The statute of limitations for personal injuries, such as those resulting from car accidents, differs from one state to the next. However, they typically average around two years, with some being only as long as one year and others being up to four years or more.
The statute always runs from the date of the injury, or in cases where the victim didn’t learn about their injury until later, from the date they learned about it or should have reasonably known about it.
You or your attorney can still file a car accident injury lawsuit after the deadline has expired. However, the chances of the court seeing your case are slim. The opposing party and their attorney will know that the statute of limitations has expired and file a request that the judge dismiss the case on those grounds. Since they are correct about the expired statute of limitations, the judge will have to grant their request and dismiss your lawsuit. At that point, you have no further recourse under the law to seek compensation for your injuries.
However, the clock for the statute of limitations can pause under some circumstances. This is legally known as tolling the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations can potentially toll if:
Another essential point to note is that the statute of limitations for claims against government agencies is usually less. For example, if a city worker caused your accident, you may only have six months or one year to file a lawsuit against them for your injuries.
With so many variables in the statute of limitations, it’s in the best interest of car accident victims to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible to help ensure that you miss no deadlines.
The statute of limitations is just one factor regarding how long you can claim an injury after a car accident. While that is a legal answer, there’s also a practical answer. Suppose you want your case to be successful and to maximize your compensation. In that case, you want to ensure that your injuries are documented in your medical record as soon as possible.
You can’t avoid seeking medical care for weeks or months and then, one day, show up at the doctor’s office claiming you have an injury from a car accident. Even if this is true, the insurance company will vehemently fight against paying for it. They don’t know that your injuries didn’t arise from something you did or that happened to you after the car accident.
It’s your (and your attorney’s) job to prove that your injuries are the direct result of this car accident. But how do you do that? By seeking medical care as soon as possible, typically no later than 72 hours after the accident. This way, you have established an official record of the car accident and any injuries you might have.
If your injuries are severe, go to the emergency room right away. If paramedics at the scene recommend it, go via ambulance. Otherwise, go to an urgent care facility or make an appointment to see your own physician within 72 hours, although the sooner, the better.
Even if you don’t feel like you suffered an injury, you should still seek a professional medical opinion on your condition. Not all serious injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision are obvious immediately. For example, you can be injured but not yet experience any pain or other symptoms. Some accident-related injuries can appear late, with little or no symptoms until days or weeks after the accident.
The bottom line is that while you have up to the statute of limitations to file your injury lawsuit, you must be ready to prove that you saw a licensed medical provider and had a diagnosed injury within a relatively short time after the accident. While you can claim an injury several months later, you’re unlikely to be compensated fairly, if at all, because it won’t seem believable or like you were really injured.
You can protect your case and maximize your compensation by seeking medical care as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel like you suffered an injury immediately, and by filing your lawsuit within the applicable state’s statute of limitations.
In addition, you should follow your doctor’s and other medical providers’ orders. For example, heed their advice if they tell you not to lift anything over ten pounds or to not return to the gym for six weeks. They know what is best for your body and aim to protect your health and well-being. If the insurance company learns that you haven’t been obeying the doctor’s orders, it will weaken your injury claim and can make it appear as if you aren’t really that hurt.
Two frequent types of late-appearing car accident injuries are concussions and soft-tissue injuries, such as whiplash. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by trauma sustained to the head.
During a car crash, a concussion can happen even when the head hasn’t been directly hit by or on anything, but from the head jerking forward very suddenly without any warning. The brain hitting the inside of the hard skull can cause severe damage in some cases.
Concussion symptoms can vary but often include:
Whiplash can also happen due to the sudden movement and force placed on the neck, back, and shoulders in a car accident.
Symptoms of whiplash include:
Another common type of car accident injury that may not have symptoms right away is a back injury, such as a ruptured or herniated disc. The back is an intricate system of bones, muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues, as well as home to the spinal cord.
Even a minor collision or one at low speeds can easily result in a back injury, causing damage to the:
Signs of a back injury include:
Internal organs can sustain injuries if external forces push against them. For example, the pressure of a seat belt, airbag, or dashboard can cause internal organ injuries. Internal organs that might suffer injuries in a motor vehicle accident include the kidneys, liver, spleen, intestines, lungs, and heart. Unfortunately, it can take some time for these injuries to show any signs or symptoms, such as the loss of bodily function due to organ damage or slow internal bleeding.
Symptoms of internal injuries:
The amount of compensation you can receive for your car accident injuries depends on the type and extent of your injuries, as well as how they have impacted your life. Damages are the financial representation of the financial losses, inconveniences, and other ways your life has been negatively affected due to the accident. Damages determine how much your case is worth. Most car accident cases have economic (special) and non-economic (general) damages. See the current motor vehicle accident statistics to get a better idea of the risk of a car accident in your area.
Special damages are the out-of-pocket expenses and costs associated with the same event. They are objective, and their value is not debated since they have inherent value.
Special damages can include:
On the other hand, general damages are subjective, as they don’t have a predetermined value.
General damages include:
Your attorney can calculate the value of special damages by adding medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage values. If catastrophic injuries are involved, your car accident attorney may use an actuarial accountant to help determine what your future medical bills and lost wages might be.
Your lawyer can calculate the value of your general damages in a few different ways. However, the most common one is to use a multiplier with the value of the injured party’s special damages.
For more minor injuries that the victim will recover relatively quickly from, a victims may recover less. However, insurance companies might use a larger multiplier for catastrophic, life-changing injuries such as a TBI or paralyzing SCI. A multiplier of between two and four can apply to cases that fall somewhere between those two extremes.
There is another type of damage, known as punitive damages. While special and general damages compensate accident victims for their losses and inconveniences, punitive damages are different. Their purpose is to punish the person who caused the injuries and deter them and others from behaving similarly.
For example, if the driver who hit you was intoxicated or they were drag racing, punitive damages might be applicable in your case. However, only a civil court judge can award punitive damages, and they only award them in cases where the at-fault party behaved especially carelessly. If you settle your claim out of court, punitive damages won’t apply.
Life is busy even when you haven’t been involved in a recent car accident. Being involved in one will certainly add to your to-do list. However, you must have any potential injuries checked by a doctor and contact a seasoned personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. These are the two best ways to preserve your rights and maximize your claim. If you or someone you love was recently involved in a car crash, don’t waste any more time; reach out for help today. Contact us today to receive a consultation.
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