How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

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If another driver hits you in a car accident, you might or might not be injured. You can feel fine. Then, after a few days or weeks, you may notice something isn’t right. Maybe your neck and back hurt a lot. Perhaps you have persistent headaches. Or your foot and knee are aching. Whatever the injury, it’s understandable to wonder how long after a car accident you can claim injury.

Find out more about how long you can claim an injury after a car accident below. A dedicated car accident attorney can provide detailed information if you have more questions or need representation for your claim.

You Need To Report The Car Accident Quickly

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First, understand that every state has requirements for reporting car accidents. Many states say you must report a car accident to the police if there is $500 or $1,000 in damages or a severe injury. Ensure that you know your state’s car accident reporting requirements. Also, make sure to report the incident to the authorities before leaving the accident scene.

Car insurance companies also require you to report any accident promptly to your insurer. The policy’s time limit is usually within 30 days, but it varies. Depending on the state where the crash happened, your or the other driver’s auto insurance may end up paying for your injuries and damages. Make sure you report the car accident quickly to your insurance company for coverage. You can also have your car accident lawyer handle this notification.

However, a separate issue is how long you have to file a claim against another party when you suffered an injury in a car accident. Assuming you have reported the accident to your insurance company appropriately, how long can you file a claim or sue the other driver?

Filing A Claim And The Statute Of Limitations

The time limit for filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party after an accident comes down to the statute of limitations for your state. Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Once you pass the statute of limitations, filing a claim or lawsuit for car accident injuries is at least difficult and often impossible.

For example, California has a two-year statute of limitations for car accident personal injury claims. The two-year clock usually starts on the day of the accident. If another driver rear-ended you on July 1, 2023, in California, you would typically have until July 1, 2025, to file a claim for your injuries and other damages.

However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations rules. In California, if you were under 18 when the at-fault driver hit you, the two-year clock starts on the day you turn 18. There also is an exception if you are deemed mentally incapable of filing a claim. The two-year clock would begin if and when you are declared mentally competent.

Statute Of Limitations For Various States

Each state’s statute of limitations dictates the time limit for filing a personal injury claim for accidents occurring within the state. Below are examples of statutes of limitations for various states. Ensure that you know the applicable statute of limitations in your state, or you can limit your ability to file a personal injury claim:

  • California: Two years
  • Florida: Four years
  • Illinois: Two years
  • New York: Three years
  • Ohio: Two years
  • Texas: Two years
  • North Carolina: Three years

Don’t Delay Filing Your Personal Injury Claim

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You are entitled to compensation if the other driver was at fault, but you have limited time from the date of injury to file a car accident claim. Further, waiting until the last month or week before the statute of limitations is never smart. You should speak to an attorney promptly after a car accident with injury to understand your legal options. Reasons you should act quickly are:

Lost Evidence

It may be obvious that the other driver hit and injured you in a car crash. Maybe they ran the red light and slammed into you while driving through it. Even the most convincing evidence has an expiration date, however. For instance, eyewitnesses usually begin to forget details after a few weeks. Photos and videos of the car crash could also be lost or deleted. The carrier may destroy the black box data if a truck hits you.

The longer your car accident claim sits, the more difficult it will be for a car accident lawyer to build a strong case. Compensation for your injuries can be difficult or impossible without proving fault by a preponderance of the evidence.

Time To Evaluate Your Losses

A car crash attorney will consider how the accident affects your life. They will review your past and future medical bills, lost current and future income, pain and suffering, and ability to earn a living.

A severe car accident injury can be worth a large sum. A car accident attorney needs time to evaluate your losses to understand the case value fully. You can lose compensation when the attorney doesn’t have sufficient time to assess the claim.

Longer Wait For Compensation

Even a “minor” car accident with soft tissue injuries can only take six months to be resolved. A major car accident with severe injuries can take years to settle. Delaying the hiring of a car accident attorney may delay your compensation.

For example, if you wait months to file a claim and hire a lawyer, you may not get the timely compensation you need for your essential medical treatments.

Top-Notch Car Accident Lawyers May Turn You Down

Experienced car crash lawyers know they need plenty of time to build a strong case. If they are rushed to get a case rolling two weeks before the statute of limitations expires, they may decline your case. Skilled, experienced lawyers are busy, and you risk a good attorney not taking your case.

Why You Should See A Doctor Immediately

After your car accident, you might be unsure if you’re hurt. It is understandable; not every injury is apparent immediately. Adrenaline will pump through your body, and you may not feel pain immediately. However, not seeing a doctor immediately can be a huge mistake. Filing a personal injury claim can be much more difficult if you wait for medical attention. Even if you can wait almost two years to obtain compensation, doing so could be impossible if you didn’t seek medical attention.

There are several excellent reasons to get medical care after a car accident:

Address The Injuries Before They Worsen

You may not notice a severe injury immediately. But even if the pain isn’t immediate, something can still be seriously wrong. When a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds hits yours, your body can suffer many injuries that aren’t apparent at first.

Going to the doctor the same day will ensure you receive the medical care needed to prevent injuries from worsening. For example, you may not initially notice a severe back injury because there was no pain after the crash. However, after a whole night’s rest the next day, you may have trouble getting out of bed because of a severely pulled back.

Faster Insurance Claim

Going to the doctor on the same day as the accident may expedite your claim. Many car insurance companies say 72 hours is plenty of time to get medical care after a crash. Getting to the doctor or ER in this timeframe can make the claim faster. The adjuster may ask questions if you don’t see a doctor for weeks after the crash.

Enhance The Legal Claim

Assuming another driver hits you, there is a good chance that you will get compensation for your losses. But your claim may be weaker if you don’t go to the doctor and report the injury for a month or two.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company will seek reasons to minimize or deny your claim. Not reporting the injuries promptly may allow the insurance company to claim you weren’t seriously injured. Or, you had a preexisting condition, so you suffered an injury. Having a timely medical record of your accident injuries is always better. Going to the doctor within hours or a day, at most, means the doctor will connect your car accident injuries to the crash.

Give The Car Accident Attorney Stronger Evidence

Seeing a doctor immediately after your car accident gives the car accident lawyer stronger evidence of your injuries. Showing strong evidence of fault and injuries is crucial in settling or winning a car accident claim or lawsuit. Going to a doctor promptly will help your attorney argue that the defendant seriously hurt you.

What Is A Car Accident Claim Worth?

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The value of a car crash claim or lawsuit comes down to several factors listed below. Bear in mind that reporting the accident and seeing a doctor fast after the claim will make it easier to obtain maximum compensation:

  • Medical costs: You may be entitled to past, present, and future medical expenses. You should receive fair compensation for doctor appointments, prescription drugs, hospital stays, surgeries, physical therapy, and other necessary treatments. If you don’t take prompt action on your case, expect the insurance company to argue and potentially pay you less.
  • Lost earnings: You may receive compensation for your lost work time. In a severe car accident, lost earnings can last months, even years. A car accident attorney will usually consult with an employment and financial expert to understand how much you should receive.
  • Loss of ability to earn a living: A severe car accident can leave you out of work for a long time, even permanently. If the injury is so severe that it affects your ability to work, you can receive money for being unable to work. You may also be entitled to money for being unable to work in your previous job.
  • Property damage: If your car was damaged or totaled, you should receive just compensation to repair or replace it.
  • Pain and suffering: This is non-economic compensation for your physical pain and suffering. Pain and suffering compensation can be high with serious injuries. Plus, you may be eligible for more compensation for mental and emotional trauma from serious injuries. Pain and suffering compensation can be from the injuries themselves, as well as your treatments.

What If The At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured?

All states require drivers to have minimal car insurance. But many people avoid the expense and don’t carry coverage. That is why always having uninsured and underinsured protection on your insurance is recommended. If the other driver takes off or doesn’t have insurance, you can still get coverage on your policy. Your car crash lawyer can also file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and their personal assets. But you won’t know if you don’t act on your personal injury case as soon as possible.

It is always best to file a car accident claim as soon as possible. Get immediate medical attention, and speak to a car accident attorney promptly. Even if you aren’t seriously hurt and do not need compensation, it is better to be safe than sorry. The doctor will tell you if you aren’t seriously hurt from the crash. And if you don’t have a solid legal case, a car accident attorney won’t take the case. Car accident attorneys are paid a contingency fee, so there is no compensation for anyone if the case isn’t successful.

Speak To An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Now

Suffering an injury in a car accident is always stressful and upsetting. You may be tempted to delay filing a personal injury claim because you are busy or unsure of your legal options. However, you should always take action quickly after an accident. Have a doctor check your injuries immediately, and have a personal injury attorney in your area review the case.

In many states, you only have two years to obtain damages from another party in a claim or a lawsuit. So, it’s critical to have an attorney review your case promptly to preserve your legal options.

Car Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on