Being in a car accident is often a scary and stressful experience. You may not immediately notice some injuries in the chaos after a crash. You can still claim injuries even if they don’t show up for days or weeks after the accident.

Every state has different time limits, called statutes of limitations, for how long you have to file a claim or lawsuit for injuries from a car accident. In this blog post, a car accident lawyer will explain how long you typically have and what to do if you notice injuries later.


Injuries with Delayed Injury Symptoms

It’s very common for some car accident injuries to have delayed symptoms that don’t show up right away. You may have suffered an injury in the crash but feel fine initially due to shock or adrenaline masking the pain.

Some examples of injuries that may not cause symptoms immediately include:

In these cases, symptoms may start hours, days, or weeks later as swelling, pain, and other issues develop over time.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

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Every state has enacted its statute of limitations. It sets a strict time limit for how long you have to file either an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit after being injured in a car accident. These statutory time limits can vary significantly from one state to the next.

In some states, the statute of limitations may only give you one year after the date of the accident to get your lawsuit filed in court. Other states are more generous, allowing two, three, or even up to six years to initiate your injury claim or suit. A handful of states have different statutory time limits depending on whether you’re filing an insurance claim versus a court lawsuit.

While a one or two-year statute may seem like plenty of time, it’s unwise to delay consulting an attorney or taking action. The time can pass surprisingly quickly, especially if you are recovering from serious injuries. Important evidence can become lost or degraded. Witness memories fade. If you wait too long, you can easily miss deadlines.

If you fail to properly file your injury claim before that deadline passes, the court will almost certainly dismiss your case. Your claim will be barred, no matter how injured or how much you may be entitled to recover.

An experienced car accident lawyer will know your state’s statute of limitations and other relevant laws. A lawyer can ensure you meet all requirements and file your injury claim before any deadlines expire.

But even attorneys can make mistakes if they don’t have complete and accurate information about your accident circumstances upfront. It’s wise to consult a lawyer as soon as possible after your crash, provide them with all relevant details, and let them protect your legal rights from day one. The sooner you take action, the better your chances of a successful recovery.

What if Injuries Show Up Later?

What if you get into a car accident today and feel fine at the time but then start experiencing back pain, headaches, or other symptoms weeks down the road?

The good news is that the statute of limitations in most states starts from the date of the accident itself – not from the date your injuries first appeared. So, if you were rear-ended today but didn’t develop neck pain from whiplash until a month later, you’d still have the full statute of limitations period to file a claim.

However, you must prove that the specific car accident caused your injuries. This can be trickier if some time has passed. It’s wise to get medical treatment as soon as you notice any symptoms and to let your doctor know about the accident, even if it happened a while ago.

Having documented evidence of the direct connection between the accident and your injuries will help your case. Photos, witness statements, a police report, and your medical records will all provide proof. Your car accident lawyer can hire medical professionals to establish the accident causation.

How Long Do You Have to Report Injuries?

Most insurance companies require you to report any accident and injuries within a certain timeframe, even if you’re not filing an official claim yet. Policy rules vary, but many insurers state you must report injuries within 30 days.

While you don’t have to file the full claim immediately if your injuries show up later, that initial report gives the insurance company advance notice that you may seek coverage. Don’t wait too long, though. If you miss their initial reporting window, the insurer can deny your claim entirely.

The takeaway is that even if your car accident injuries don’t appear for weeks or even months later, you likely still have a window of time to pursue compensation — as long as you can prove the accident directly caused those delayed injuries.

FAQs: Time Limits for Claiming Car Accident Injuries

How soon should I report my injuries to the insurance company after an accident?

Most insurance policies require you to report any accident and potential injuries within a certain timeframe, typically 30 days or less. Even if your injuries don’t seem serious initially, it’s best to give the insurer prompt notice that you may file a claim. Otherwise, they can entirely deny your claim for late reporting.

What if my injuries get worse over time after the accident?

Some injuries, like whiplash or head trauma, may not cause obvious symptoms right away. The statute of limitations often depends on the accident date, not when your symptoms first appeared. So, if complications or pain develop weeks or months later, you still have time to file a claim, as long as you can prove the crash directly caused those injuries.

How long is the typical statute of limitations for car accident claims?

The statute of limitations sets a strict deadline for how long you have to get your injury claim or lawsuit officially filed and underway. This time limit varies from state to state, but most fall 1-6 years from the accident date. An experienced lawyer will know the exact statute in your location.

Can I still file a claim if it’s been several years since my accident?

Possibly, yes – but your window may be closing soon if the statute of limitations in your state is shorter. Even if the accident was 3-4 years ago, you may still have time on the statutory clock to file a valid claim for injuries and damages. But you’ll need to consult a lawyer immediately to understand your rights and get the legal process started.

What happens if I don’t file my claim before the statute of limitations?

If you fail to file your injury claim before your state’s statute of limitations expires, the court will almost certainly dismiss your case. Your claim will be barred, and you’ll lose any chance to recover compensation, no matter how injured you were or what damages you incurred. That’s why it’s best to hire a lawyer that will comply with this strict legal deadline.

Should I file a claim if my injuries seem relatively minor?

Yes. It’s wise to consult a lawyer and consider filing an official claim, even if your injuries from the accident initially seem minor or haven’t fully manifested yet. What may seem like a few aches and pains can develop into more serious medical issues? An attorney can evaluate your situation, protect your rights, and ensure you receive fair compensation.

Can I negotiate my settlement amount directly with the insurance company?

While you technically can attempt to resolve your injury claim independently with the insurer, it’s very unwise to try this. Insurance companies are professionals at minimizing settlement payouts and will take advantage of you if legal counsel doesn’t represent you. A skilled car accident lawyer knows how to negotiate effectively to maximize the value of your claim.

How long does it typically take to settle a car accident claim?

Every case is different, but most insurance claims for car accident injuries can be investigated and settled within several months if there aren’t any unusual complicating factors. But more complicated claims involving severe injuries, long-term medical treatment, or difficult circumstances may take much longer to fully resolve and compensate you. Always be patient.

How much will hiring a lawyer for my car accident claim cost?

Many car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means you pay nothing upfront. Their legal fees are taken as a percentage of your final settlement or court award amount only after they’ve won your case. So, there are no hourly charges or upfront retainers to worry about. You only pay if your lawyer secures compensation for you.

Can I file a claim if the other driver didn’t have insurance?

You can still recover compensation even if the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured. Your options include filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim with your insurance policy or pursuing legal action directly against the other driver personally. A lawyer can evaluate the best path for you based on your specific circumstances and advise you accordingly.

What if the car accident happened out of state?

If you suffered an injury in a car crash while traveling outside your home state, you’ll likely need to follow the statute of limitations and injury claim procedures for the state where the accident occurred. An attorney licensed in that state can ensure you meet all requirements and regulations.

What types of damages can I claim for car accident injuries?

Potentially recoverable damages include:

– Medical expenses
– Lost income
– Property damage
Pain and suffering
– Emotional distress
– Future medical needs
– Lost earning potential
– Permanent disability or disfigurement

A full accounting of all your economic and non-economic damages is key to maximizing your claim value.

How soon should I see a doctor after the accident?

It’s advisable to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible after any car accident, even if you feel OK initially. Prompt medical care creates documented evidence of the date of injury onset and a direct link to the accident causation. This can become important if injuries worsen over time.

Can I get compensation for car accident injuries if I didn’t wear a seatbelt?

In some states, failure to wear a seatbelt can potentially reduce the compensation amount you receive, but it likely won’t bar your entire claim. Not wearing seatbelts can be regarded as negligence. However, in other states, seatbelt non-compliance may not impact your financial recovery.

What if the other driver claims I caused the accident?

Having an attorney on your side is crucial when fault and liability are in question. They will present evidence that shows you didn’t cause the accident and injuries. Don’t simply take the other driver’s accusations at face value.

Will my car accident injury claim require going to court?

Most insurance companies can settle claims and personal injury lawsuits for car accidents out of court. Going to trial and having a judge or jury decide the case is relatively rare. It typically only happens if the parties cannot settle.

What if the insurance company denies my injury claim?

If the insurer attempts to deny or lowball your legitimate injury claim after an accident, your lawyer can intervene and dispute the denial through an appeals process.

Get Help from a Car Accident Lawyer

Steven A. Bagen
Steven A. Bagen, Esq., Car Accident Attorney

Dealing with a car accident and emerging injuries is extremely stressful, especially if you need to fight with insurance companies. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.

An attorney can ensure you meet all requirements and deadlines, gather evidence to prove causation for delayed injuries, calculate your claim worth, and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

Don’t wait to take legal action. Contact a qualified car accident lawyer today if you’ve suffered an injury in a crash.