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How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

Attorney John Gomez

Car Accident Attorney, John Gomez

A car accident is a sudden event that leaves you feeling stunned and overwhelmed. The first action you may take is to check yourself over for signs of an obvious injury. The relief of no bleeding or other symptoms can leave you with a false impression that you are fine. The true danger is that some injuries do not display visible signs to alert you that you are, in fact, seriously injured. Pursuing a car accident claim for your injuries remains an option once you discover your injuries. However, discussing how to proceed with a car accident lawyer is the best way to ensure your claim meets state law requirements.

Ways Your Body Can Hide Serious Injuries

A reckless driver can appear from nowhere, crashing into your vehicle with a traumatic force. Once the impact is over, you take a quick stock of your body, checking for injuries. Your period of calm—from singing with the radio or chatting with passengers—turned into complete shock and panic. The body can disguise pain by releasing hormones, decreasing blood flow, and increasing heart rate. Always seek immediate medical attention following a car accident, even if you feel fine.

The adrenaline rush that immediately follows a car accident is understandable and potentially dangerous. The body releases the hormone adrenaline in response to a stressful situation. It is the body’s natural attempt to find a way to escape the scary and uncomfortable event that just occurred.

An adrenaline rush has the following effects on the body:

  • It decreases the body’s ability to feel pain.
  • It temporarily increases strength.
  • It sharpens the ability to focus.

The rush of adrenaline you experience tricks you into believing you are fine by masking painful symptoms of serious injuries. Symptoms of an adrenaline rush include:

  • An increased heart rate.
  • The redirection of blood toward muscles, resulting in a surge of energy of shaking limbs.
  • Shallow breathing due to the relaxation of the airways.
  • Increased brain speed.
  • Light entering the eyes, affecting the pupils.

An adrenaline rush is more than just an uncomfortable feeling—it is your body trying to alert you to danger. While it can delay symptoms of your injuries, an adrenaline rush doesn’t last for long. The next serious type of medical condition to watch for is shock.

Shock is often associated with trauma and results in a sharp drop in blood flow through the body. Common signs that a person is in shock from a car accident include:

  • A bluish tinge to the lips or fingernails.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Changes in mental state or behavior.

The Mayo Clinic states that shock is a critical condition due to the organs not receiving enough oxygen. Shock can become serious and even deadly if left untreated. The results are often organ damage or failure.

Types of Serious Injuries With No Visible Symptoms

Once the adrenaline rush passes and first responders treat you for shock, certain injuries may remain hidden. Examples of injuries with delayed symptoms are:

Whiplash – This type of injury is most closely associated with a rear-end car accident, however, it can happen at any angle. The rapid motion of the head moving forward and back can cause damage to the neck. Whiplash often results in stretched or torn muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments in the neck.

Signs of possible whiplash, such as bruising or swelling, may not appear until 12-24 hours beyond the accident. While neck soreness is often felt soon after the accident, it can develop into a serious stiffness over time. Severe cases of whiplash may include:

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • Muscle spasms and numbness in arms.
  • Vision problems such as blurred vision.

Seeking medical attention for possible whiplash is important for detecting any spinal cord injury. Doctors may order an X-ray, a CT scan, or an MRI scan to determine the extent of your whiplash injury.

Concussion – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a concussion as a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function. A person with a concussion may exhibit mild symptoms that are easy to overlook. These symptoms include:

  • The patient is slow to respond to questions.
  • The patient appears dazed and confused.
  • The patient loses consciousness, even for a brief amount of time.

Some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. A car accident victim who complains of a headache may, in fact, have a concussion. A possible concussion is another example of why seeking immediate medical attention is so important following a car accident.

Internal bleeding – Perhaps one of the most dangerous types of silent injuries is internal bleeding. A patient may experience abdominal pain, however, in most cases, there is nothing to alert someone that they are bleeding internally.

Symptoms of possible internal bleeding that one can watch for include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Severe weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Only a trained medical professional can properly diagnose and treat internal bleeding. A doctor may order imaging tests, like that of an X-ray or CT scan. Internal bleeding can quickly develop into a very serious health problem if not treated right away.

These are just a few examples of the serious types of injuries that can show few or no symptoms. Accepting medical help from first responders and allowing them to transport you to a hospital is a smart idea. Not only does your life depend upon it but your medical records are valuable evidence should you decide to pursue litigation.

If your injuries are due to the negligence of another driver, you may be entitled to compensation. While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To determine if your case qualifies, it is a smart idea to contact a car accident lawyer.

The Statute of Limitations

California law allows two years for filing a car accident claim. This means that if you are immediately treated for serious injuries, you have 24 months to file a civil action against the responsible party. This may seem like a long time, however, when you are dealing with medical treatments and procedures, it can pass very quickly.

For injuries with delayed symptoms, the statute of limitations is one year. The time starts the moment the injury was discovered. Therefore, cases involving delayed symptoms have half the time to file than those diagnosed immediately following the accident.

If you experienced serious injuries due to the negligence of another driver, do not delay either of the following actions:

  • Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Ask a car accident lawyer to review your case.

Your injuries were not your fault. No one should have to pay out-of-pocket for costly medical bills that resulted due to no fault of their own. If this happened to you, explore your options for pursuing justice.

Insurance Companies 101

An insurance company may offer you a settlement to close your claim quickly—and for the least amount possible. The amount they offer you may seem like a large sum when chances are, it isn’t enough to cover your future medical care.

There is no quick fix to your physical or financial situation following a car accident. Accepting their settlement offer can prevent you from pursuing civil action later if your condition worsens.

No matter how friendly they appear, insurance company representatives want to protect the company’s best interests and not yours. Your time in the hospital is no time to deal with pressure from insurance companies.

By securing legal representation, you can let a car accident lawyer deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. Knowing someone is protecting your best interests can afford you the peace-of-mind you need to focus on your recovery.

Trying to negotiate a settlement on your own is a bad idea for several reasons. The primary reason is that insurance companies are simply too good at what they do. You are unlikely to beat them at their own game. Don’t risk your financial future by taking on an insurance company alone.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

Most car accident lawyers are well-aware of the tactics insurance companies use to assign blame or to deny or delay a claim. The right car accident lawyer will work hard to secure a fair settlement out-of-court. If they are unwilling to achieve the outcome they feel you deserve, they are prepared to go to trial.

Car accident lawyers can aggressively represent you and treat you with the respect you deserve. Whether it is taking time to explain the process or keeping you informed about the status of your case, they represent you. No one car accident case is alike and some cases may take longer to resolve than others. By practicing patience, you stand a better chance at a more successful outcome.

While you drove responsibly, another driver chose not to, resulting in your serious injuries. This isn’t fair, and you deserve justice. Your life may never return to how it was before the accident. The reckless actions of another driver demand accountability.

If the other driver faces criminal charges for the accident, you still need to take civil action to recover compensation. California law allows you to pursue civil litigation against those liable for your damages. With the help of a car accident lawyer, you can fight for the compensation you deserve.

Fight for the Compensation You Deserve

California has more than 27 million licensed drivers. We expect other drivers to share the road in a responsible manner. Sadly, many drivers engage in dangerous behaviors and actions, both before getting in their vehicle and while driving it. Examples of common causes of accidents include:

It only takes a second for a driver’s eyes to leave the road, or for an impaired driver to crash into your car. In one recent year, more than 3,500 people were killed in traffic accidents in California.

Pursuing civil litigation against the driver responsible for your injuries may just prevent another tragic accident. A California driver’s license is a privilege, not a right. Multiple public safety campaigns warn drivers of the dangers of drunk driving. Public safety campaigns are now appearing that warn of the dangers of distracted driving.

Too many drivers have the mentality that “it won’t happen to them.” Substances such as alcohol can trick the brain into feeling invincible, and the driver into feeling capable of driving when they are in fact not. When another driver takes a foolish risk behind the wheel and it results in serious injuries for you, consider legal action.

Time is of the essence, so don’t delay in asking a lawyer about your options for civil litigation. It is easy to put off matters regarding your accident. Perhaps the memories are too fresh or too painful to relive. Delaying contact with a car accident lawyer may result in a missed opportunity for possible compensation.

Your medical bills won’t wait and neither should you. If you experienced delayed injuries from a serious car accident, you may still have time to file a car accident claim. The clock is ticking, so no matter what your medical condition, protect your best interests.

Car accident lawyers study this type of specific law to protect the rights of the injured. Many car accident lawyers offer free case evaluations, meaning you have nothing to lose by discussing your case with one today.

As medical costs continue to rise, your medical bills can far exceed your personal budget. No one should suffer physical, financial, and emotional stress due to the negligent actions of another driver. If this has happened to you, give careful thought to contacting a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490
Posted in: Auto Accidents
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