Having a car accident is quite a bit like a rollercoaster that went off the tracks. There is the rush of adrenaline and other “feel good” hormones after the initial shock of the crash. Often the hormones that help you cope with an accident also cover the pain of injuries. You may not feel the stiffness of whiplash or recognize symptoms of an internal bleed that same day. A headache may not develop until days later. In some cases, you may not recognize physical symptoms related to the accident until weeks or months later. In these cases, you may wonder how long after a car accident can you claim an injury?
Why Wait to File a Personal Injury Claim?
Life Gets Busy
When unexpected life events happen and leave you struggling just to get through each day, it can feel like too much to file a personal injury claim. Life gets busy, and you get the things done each day that you must do. A minor injury doesn’t seem like it’s worth the trouble of filing a claim unless the pain gets worse or just won’t go away completely.
Perhaps you wake up one morning and realize that your neck pain from the accident makes the rest of your life more difficult. You decide to make time for that physical therapy appointment to find out what is going on.
I Can Handle It
You may be the type of person who just wants to weather the pain and not see a doctor. After all, most injuries heal with time, right? But then, after a year of pain, you realize that this injury is not healing. Perhaps it’s time to see the doctor after all.
Perhaps you went to your doctor following the accident, and the doc said you looked just fine and had no issues. However, your neck was sore and then started to feel stiff. You struggled just to turn your head to one side or another. You even had a few dizzy spells. But since the doc said you were just fine, you wrote off your pain and aches.
After a few months went by, you realized that the neck pain might be an injury needing more help, so you sought an orthopedist. At that point, you found out that you had real injuries to your neck that needed extensive treatment. Your medical bills started to add up, and you wondered about filing a lawsuit.
How Do “Statutes of Limitation” Protect Me?
Statutes of limitation encourage diligent and timely resolution of claims while supporting evidence is still available. (2)
When you file a personal injury claim after time passes, you still have rights. Your rights when injured in a car accident give you time to file a lawsuit and get compensation for your medical bills, wages lost, and pain and suffering.
In the state of Texas, you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a legal suit. At the end of the 2 years, the court will likely dismiss any suit filed for personal injury unless you have extenuating circumstances. According to Texas legal statutes, “You must bring suit… for injury to the property of another [or] personal injury not later than two years after the day the cause of action…”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “Statutes of limitation… are designed to promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost, memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared. The theory is that even if one has a just claim it is unjust not to put the adversary on notice to defend within the period of limitation and that the right to be free of stale claims in time comes to prevail over the right to prosecute them.” (3)
It is sometimes possible to file a personal injury suit after the 2-year statute of limitations has passed. Texas Law recognizes these extenuating circumstances as reasons why you may file a lawsuit later than the statute of limitations.
- If you are legally disabled, the 2-year countdown for the statute of limitations won’t start until you are mentally capable of making the decision to file a lawsuit. For example, let’s say your car accident put you in a medical coma for 3 months. During those 3 months, the 2-year statute of limitations has not started yet. It starts when you wake up and are mentally and physically capable of filing a lawsuit.
- Another extenuating circumstance is a child who is in a car accident and injured. If the child is too young to understand and get help for the injury, the 2-year countdown clock does not start until they turn 18 years of age. At that point, they have 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit.
- Another way the statute of limitations clock stops is when the negligent driver goes out of state. The time that they are gone from the state stops the countdown clock. The 2-year statute of limitations begins again when they return.
We Can Help
If you’ve suffered an injury in a car accident, we can help you file a lawsuit to receive the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering. You may deal with lost wages, property damage, mental and emotional anguish, and medical bills incurred because of someone else’s negligence.
If you did not receive a fair settlement with an insurance company or if you need legal advice about your rights at this point in time, contact us for a free consultation. Our personal injury legal team works with you to investigate the crash and give you an idea of what you can expect in terms of compensation. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.