In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, there’s so much going on, you may not immediately notice your own injuries. If a child or loved one was in the car, your first instinct may have been to tend to their needs and ensure their physical safety. In other cases, the shock and trauma of the accident may cause feelings of numbness that mask injury symptoms. Or, some injuries may not even appear for days or weeks after the accident.
Insurance companies expect that you will immediately report the accident, including any injuries, and file a claim. Their investigation process begins and the case moves into the settlement process. However, it’s not always so clear. You may need to seek medical treatment several days or weeks after the accident. Even if you delay reporting your injuries, you still have a right to make a claim. Keep in mind, though, that insurance companies may object to your claims and you may need the help of an experienced car accident lawyer to ensure you get a fair settlement.
Common Delayed Symptoms from Car Accident Injuries
Delayed symptoms are common after a car crash. Even minor injuries like bruising and sore muscles take a while to appear. The most important thing to do once you notice your injuries is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Some common injuries from auto accidents that could involve delayed symptoms include:
- Whiplash: Whiplash is one of the most common injuries reported after a car accident, especially in rear-end collisions. Whiplash occurs when the head and neck are jerked forward and suddenly brought to a stop, like a whip. While some patients immediately feel the effects of the injury, according to the National Institute for Health, whiplash symptoms “may be delayed for several days.” Some victims are able to physically recover from it within a few months, others suffer from chronic neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and other complications.
- Traumatic brain injury: A concussion is considered a mild brain injury or TBI. However, there is nothing mild about a brain injury. According to the CDC, concussion symptoms may not be evident to the injured person for “days or months“ after the injury.
- Mental trauma: A high percentage of car accident survivors develop mental trauma, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a car accident. Even if you suffered physical injuries and received medical treatment, it’s just as important to seek treatment for mental trauma after a car accident.
Evidence Challenges in Waiting to File a Claim
Car insurance companies investigate claims after an accident as a matter of practice. In a car crash involving injury, one of the key sources of evidence to prove your injuries and required treatment are medical records. When you don’t receive immediate care, it leaves open the question of if another incident or something else actually caused your injury. What you did between the accident and seeking medical care becomes an important part of your case. The longer the time frame between those two events, the less credible the injury claim becomes.
In the aftermath of the accident, if you told the other driver, a police officer, first responders, or an insurance adjuster that you were fine, they likely added your statement to their record or report. You will need to explain why your initial reaction and assessment of your injuries was not accurate. Keep in mind, while a reporting delay can complicate your claim, it doesn’t take away your right to make a claim.
Time Limits for Filing a Car Insurance Claim in New Jersey
New Jersey law stipulates that if you are involved in an auto accident, and the crash resulted in injury or death, and/or vehicle damage or damage to any other property in an apparent amount of at least $500, you must report the accident to the police (local, county or state) by the "quickest means of communication." Generally this is understood to mean a phone call. If the accident was not reported to the police, drivers must fill out form SR-1, New Jersey Self-Reporting Crash form.
The time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit for a car crash in New Jersey is 2 years from the date of the crash. After this time frame, it’s extraordinarily difficult to file a claim and your case will likely be dismissed. It’s extremely important to start the process as soon as possible after an injury, since filing after the time limit may forever bar your claim.
What to Do If You Waited to File a Car Insurance Claim
In theory, you can delay making an injury claim as long as you settle or sue before the statute of limitations runs out. However, when you delay reporting a claim, you may face some challenges ahead of you in proving your injuries and forcing the insurance company to pay your claims. Insurance companies often will seek any option to deny or undervalue a claim. Consulting with a personal injury attorney who specializes in car accident claims will help you understand your case and your options to move forward.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been the victim of a motor vehicle accident, you deserve to fully recover for any physical, emotional, and mental injuries you suffered. Even if you waited to file a claim or seek medical attention, you still have a right to compensation for your injuries. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, with our proven track record of success and our commitment to client care, we can get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.