Car accidents are very, very common. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 20,000 crashes happen every single day in the United States – resulting in around three million car accident injuries each year.
Car accident injuries vary from case to case. In many scenarios, the victim may not believe they have suffered a serious injury until it’s too late. Some injuries can take hours, days, or even weeks to show noticeable symptoms.
This begs the question: how long after a car accident can I claim injury?
The answer to this question can often be straightforward. However, car accident injury claims are not. In this article, we discuss the time limit to begin filing a car accident injury claim – and why you shouldn’t waste any time in getting started. Let’s dive into it.
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Injury Claim?
First things first. How long after a car accident can you claim injury in Illinois?
The state of Illinois generally has a two-year statute of limitations to file car accident injury claims per the 735 Illinois Compiled Statuses section 5/13-202. This states “actions for damages for an injury to a person shall be commenced within two years after the cause of action accrued.” This means you have typically – but not always – two years after the accident to seek compensation from the liable party for physical, mental, and financial damages suffered.
However, there are exceptions to this rule that may impact the timeline. These could commonly include:
- If the defendant cannot be located or leaves the state.
- The victim suffers a disability that impedes the car accident injury claim process.
- The victim is under 18 at the time of the accident.
- If the liable party is subject to government tort rules in your state.
If you are unsure about the time limitations, get in touch with a car accident injury lawyer in your state for answers.
Your attorney may find it important to file a personal injury lawsuit immediately after the accident. Every day you wait to file a claim can potentially cause issues in the legal proceedings, so contact a car accident injury lawyer in your state as soon as possible.
Why Would Anyone Wait to File a Personal Injury Claim
It might seem like a no-brainer to file a personal injury claim immediately after the accident. But it’s always a bit different in the heat of a crash. Moreover, most people are facing the situation for the first time – and may not know what to do after a car accident.
The most common reason people do not file personal injury cases is that they don’t believe they are injured. Some may be in shock after the collision and not experience any pain. The reality of car accident injuries is that many take time to appear. If the victim doesn’t feel any symptoms after the collision, they may choose to forgo a medical examination – a move that can significantly impact a personal injury claim.
Car Accident Injuries that Take Time to Appear
There are many reasons why some injuries do not show initial symptoms. However, initial symptoms are NOT an indicator of the severity. Even if you feel perfectly fine after a collision, you need to get checked by the medical staff at the scene. These professionals are trained to detect the early signs of a serious accident – and their assessment will be crucial in the car accident injury claim process.
Here are some of the most common car accident injuries with delayed effects.
Injuries to internal organs are very common in car accidents. The external forces from the collision – like the seatbelt, airbag, and dashboard – are swiftly pushed against the body and cause serious damage. Some common organs affected in car accidents are the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and heart.
It may take days – or weeks – for these injuries to show any symptoms. Some of the early signs of injuries to internal organs include:
- Cold and clammy skin
- Abdominal pain
- Rigidity in the abdomen
- Blood in urine – kidneys
- Abdominal and/or shoulder pain on the right side – liver
- Arm and shoulder pain on the left side – spleen
If you are feeling any of these symptoms – or something feels abnormal after a collision, don’t just wait for the pain to subside, get in touch with a medical professional immediately. Internal injuries can be extremely dangerous if left unattended.
Whiplash is a sudden, unexpected jolting motion that occurs at the moment of impact – common in rear-ending accidents. The neck, back, and shoulders bear the brunt of whiplash injuries and symptoms usually take a day or two to appear. These include (but are not limited to):
- Numbness/tingling in the arms
- Neck pain
- General fatigue
- Headaches at the base of the skull
- Impeded neck movement
- Muscle spasms
- Issues with sleep patterns
- Problems with concentration
Brain injuries (like concussions) are very common car accident injuries. Concussions occur when the brain knocks against the inside of the skull. These happen due to whiplash, blunt force, or the head hitting against the interior of the vehicle upon collision. Like the other injuries, symptoms can take time to become apparent. These include:
- Headaches that won’t go away
- Blurred vision
- Trouble concentrating
- Strange thinking patterns
- Loss of energy
- Trouble balancing
- Problems with sleep patterns
Back injuries can be devastating – and most do not show immediate symptoms. Even car accidents are low speeds can lead to serious damage, including:
- Broken bones
- Strained/torn muscles
- Ruptured tendons
- Herniated discs
- Damaged ligaments
- Nerve injuries
Spotting a back injury is not always crystal clear. Some of the most common symptoms to look for in the days after the accident include (but are not limited to):
- Back pain
- Headaches that won’t go away
- Mobility issues
- Numbness in extremities
- Issues walking
- Muscle spasms
Back injuries rarely go away on their own. Victims need to get examined by a professional and speak to an attorney about car accident injury claims.
Get a Medical Assessment Immediately
No matter how trivial a car accident injury may seem, you need to get examined by a medical staff immediately after the accident – which will be there with the authorities. From here, you’ll need to get in touch with your doctor for further assessment.
The doctor will perform an initial examination and likely direct you to a specialist based on your injury. The documentation of this exam is crucial in car accident injury claims. It will outline the following items:
- A detailed summary of the injury
- The symptoms
- The recommended treatment
- Therapy (physical or mental) needed
- Medications recommended
- Treatment timeline
- Costs involved (estimates)
This is a basic summary of what the medical records should include. Each case will be different. You’ll need to provide your car accident injury lawyer with this documentation to factor into the claim.
If you wait weeks – or months – to speak to a doctor, the liable party may argue the injury was not severe enough to justify the compensation request. This is why you need to get in touch with a medical professional AND a car accident injury lawyer soon after the incident.
When Can You File a Personal Injury Claim?
You may file a personal injury claim after a car accident if you can prove the collision was caused by the other party. Moreover, you have suffered physical, mental, and/or financial damages and would like to recoup the losses.
That said, you will need evidence that confirms the other party was liable for the accident. This can include (but is not limited to):
- The police report
- Pictures of the accident
- Driver accounts
- Witness accounts
- An investigation from a car accident investigator
This information will be analyzed by both parties’ car insurance providers to attribute fault. Once liability is appropriately attributed, the car accident injury claim process will begin. You and your attorney will calculate all the damages, which include:
- Medical bills
- Future medical treatment
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
Your attorney will negotiate a car accident settlement with the insurance companies – a process that can take months – or years.
Have Questions? Speak to an Expert Car Accident Injury Attorney
Car accident injury claims are rarely straightforward. Insurance companies have legal teams on staff to minimize personal injury settlements. You need a skilled car accident attorney to fight for maximum compensation.
Keep in mind, those who do not file car accident injury claims will likely be liable for their own damages – which can be thousands of dollars (or more).
Fortunately, car accident injury lawyers work on a contingency fee agreement – meaning they make their fees in the form of a percentage AFTER they win the case. In other words, you pay nothing out of pocket to hire them.
For any questions about car accident injury claims in Illinois and Indiana, the team at Midwest Injury Lawyers is here to help. We understand you’ve probably never been injured in a car accident before, and we’re happy to point you in the right direction.