How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim an Injury?By Stewart J. Guss on January 10th, 2020
Filing an accident claim after an accident in Texas or Louisiana involves understanding statutes of limitations. These are the laws that govern how long you have to file a claim under a state’s personal injury laws. These laws are designed to ensure victims file lawsuits in a TIMELY manner. In Texas, the time limit is generally two years, while in Louisiana, the time limit is generally one year. However, exceptions may apply, and thus you should ALWAYS consult an experienced car accident attorney regarding how long you have to file a claim following an accident. to learn more about your specific case the injury attorneys at the Stewart J. Guss firm are ready to answer any of your questions.
Accident Claims and Police Reports
Each state has rules regarding when a police report must be filed after an accident. In Texas, crash reports, known as Form CR-2, must be filed within 10 days of an accident occurring on a Texas roadway if a police officer was not notified at the time of the accident. Accidents that involve bodily injury, damages of $1,000 or more, or death of anyone involved must be reported.
Louisiana has more stringent rules that require immediate notice to the police in the event of any injury, death, or damage to property that is expected to be valued at $500 or more. The report must be filed with the Department of Public Safety and Corrections within 24 hours.
Filing an accident report will PROTECT you, create a PERMANENT RECORD of the incident, and allow you to NOTIFY your insurance company. Be certain when you file the report, whether you are speaking with a law enforcement officer or not, to avoid making it sound like you had any responsibility for the accident, even ACCIDENTALLY!
Texas and Louisiana Accident Statistics
Across Texas, more than 14,000 serious injuries resulted from car accidents during one recent year. The highest number of incidents occurred as a result of impaired driving, inattentive driving, and speeding. These numbers are CLEARLY UNACCEPTABLE, and victims frequently suffer serious injuries that may result in significant economic losses due to hospitalization costs, time lost from work, and other costs associated with recovery from injuries.
Louisiana accident statistics show that for every 100,000 licensed drivers, there were 2,528 injuries sustained in a car accident in one year! This is a STAGGERING number of incidents, and everyone traveling on Louisiana highways should be concerned about this number.
Seeking Medical Treatment for Injuries After an Accident
When operating a motor vehicle, we are generally concentrating on where we are going. This usually means that we are paying attention to traffic flow, concentrating on our own driving, and being aware of vehicles to our left and right. We seldom think about what happens if we are struck from behind by another vehicle, and it is common to be unaware of a car swaying out of their lane.
THIS IS A MISTAKE: Our roads are LITTERED with reckless drivers, and an accident can happen INSTANTLY. This means that while we are paying attention to the road, the sudden jolt from being hit results in our body’s panic system kicking into high gear. This panic floods our systems with adrenaline, which means we may be unaware that we are injured, even if the injury is SEVERE!
This is one of the reasons why it is so important for any car accident victim to be checked for injuries after an accident. You may feel perfectly fine, but the adrenaline rush can mask symptoms of an injury, even a DEBILITATING one.
Some of the injuries that may be masked from an adrenaline rush include soft tissue injuries and concussions. In fact, soft tissue injuries can take days and even weeks after an accident to appear. There are numerous reasons for this, but because these types of injuries are not evident upon receiving an X-ray, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of these types of injuries.
If you have been in a car accident, any unusual swelling, pain, blurry vision, confusion, lack of ability to focus or concentrate, or memory issues should be IMMEDIATELY reported to your doctor, and you should seek an evaluation. This is important because it could be (and likely is!) related to the car accident. Any of these symptoms could be related to a concussion or soft tissue injury, as well.
Report Changes to Medical Evaluation
Victims of a car accident who do have medical issues days or weeks after an accident should notify their insurance company. Chances are the adjuster for your accident case will request a copy of your medical report. If you have not already sought the assistance of a car accident attorney, you should contact an experienced lawyer immediately upon learning of an associated medical problem! This is important because your insurance company, as well as the at-fault driver’s insurance company, will attempt to disassociate the medical condition with the car accident. Remember, insurers operate under one major goal: PROFIT.
In some cases, it is easy to associate a problem with an accident that occurred weeks ago. For example, if you suffered serious gashes to your trunk or extremities and later developed an infection that caused additional problems, it is easy to associate this with an accident. Soft tissue injuries and concussions ARE NOT as simple, because they do not always show up on initial medical tests, and the insurance company may fight back and claim that these were the result of some other action you took after the accident, or even BEFORE the accident!
Settlement Rules Pertaining to Car Accidents
Insurance companies have a vested interest in assigning fault in a car accident. Keep in mind, both Texas and Louisiana are “at fault” states, which means drivers are required to carry certain insurance before they can legally travel on the highways. This also means all drivers should be paying premiums to their insurance company to protect them from financial harm in the event of an accident.
Unfortunately, the road is ALSO LITTERED WITH UNINSURED MOTORISTS.
It’s also important to remember that you can still recover compensation even if you think you could have contributed to your accident. YOU DON’T KNOW THE FACTS! Even if you made a mistake, a drunk driver, an uninsured driver, or a reckless driver likely made one MUCH WORSE. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to help you determine WHO IS ACTUALLY AT FAULT and understand your eligibility to recover compensation.
Working with a Car Accident Attorney
Anyone who is involved in a car crash on Louisiana or Texas highways should seek guidance from an experienced car accident lawyer. This is important to help protect your rights, even if you do not believe you have suffered a serious injury. Additionally, should the insurance company make a settlement offer, an attorney can provide information on whether the offer accurately reflects your total expenses related to your accident (Spoiler: IT PROBABLY WON’T!).
Keep in mind, an insurance adjuster is going to attempt to get you to settle your claim fast and for as low an amount as possible. The reasons for this are numerous and include the fact that usually, a fast settlement means a smaller settlement, which is good for the insurance company. This does not mean it is the best option for you. It RARELY is! Generally, these lowball initial settlements ALSO include a provision that involves you waiving your ability to seek any future compensation!
Addressing Settlement Potentials
Most people worry primarily about medical bills and lost time from work after a car accident. Other financial issues will affect your final settlement, including physical therapy, prescription painkillers or antibiotics necessary to treat your injuries from the accident, damage to your vehicle, and any cost of ongoing nursing care. These expenses can add up QUICKLY and can BURY YOU IN UNSEEN EXPENSES; and if you are not immediately aware of your injuries, they can sneak up and wreak financial havoc on your family months or years down the line!
This is one of the reasons why it pays to be leery about an insurer who comes back with a quick settlement offer. Too often, there is an assumption that just because nothing showed up on an immediate exam after an accident, that your injuries were minor or non-existent. This is a BAD assumption, for all the reasons previously discussed.
Insurance companies do not always consider non-economic factors when offering a settlement. These factors may include pain and suffering as well as mental anguish. Victims of car accidents may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which may require additional treatment, as injured individuals may suddenly develop a fear of traveling on the road or of getting into a car. THESE INJURIES ARE REAL, NO MATTER WHAT THE INSURER SAYS. You should discuss any settlement offer at length with a skilled attorney before accepting it: only THEY know the true value of your claim.
Accepting a Settlement Offer or Going to Court
Victims of car accidents who hire an attorney who has experience dealing with insurance companies nearly always fare better than those who try to negotiate with the company on their own. The primary reason for this is someone who has experience understands the tactics employed by insurance companies to minimize their exposure.
Remember, the insurance company KNOWS you do not have experience negotiating a settlement, and it will take full advantage of that knowledge when working with you. Generally, a first offer is a lowball offer that the insurance company hopes you will accept. This is because when you reach a settlement in this manner, you will waive your right to file a claim in the future, meaning the insurance company is off the hook for any future claims, including any follow up care, lost time from work that could occur in the future, and any additional medical problems that can be tied back to the accident; even if the eventual amount is STAGGERING and the accepted settlement is a TINY FRACTION!
You should be aware that most insurance companies will offer to settle your claim without going to court. Should your car accident lawyer believe that the settlement offer is fair, chances are that they will recommend you accept it. However, if your attorney feels that the insurer is not acting in good faith, your attorney should be fully prepared to take your case to trial and represent you in court. Remember, jurors are generally more sympathetic to an accident victim than they are to an insurance company. This often means the insurer will return with a more substantial settlement offer rather than go to court. INSURERS ARE TERRIFIED OF LITIGATION. Use this to your advantage!
Wrongful Death After a Car Accident
Unfortunately, not all car accidents result in just injuries. In some cases, a family may lose a loved one because of a negligent driver. There is no amount of compensation that can make up for the loss of a loved one, but your family should NOT have to bear the unexpected financial consequences of losing a loved one in a car accident. A wrongful death lawyer can help you recover the cost of hospitalization before death, the cost of funeral and burial services, as well as wages that your family will lose access to because of your loved one’s death.
Non-Monetary Damages Are Also Available
Not all types of damages have a specific price tag. For example, pain and suffering and mental anguish are types of damages that you may be able to claim but probably require an attorney to negotiate. For egregious forms of negligence, such as drunk driving, reckless driving, or driving while texting or on the phone, you may also seek PUNITIVE damages. These damages are generally assessed to punish a bad actor for particularly reckless behavior.
After a car accident, it is important to understand and preserve your rights. Therefore, it is imperative to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case. Most laypeople are not aware of the details of the laws that are in place to protect victims. Car accident victims in Texas and Louisiana should consult with an experienced lawyer who can answer their questions, make sure they are treated fairly by the insurance company, and most importantly, be prepared to MOUNT AN AGGRESSIVE CASE IN COURT if they are unable to reach a reasonable settlement agreement.
If you were injured in a car accident, or you lost a loved one in a car accident, you should contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation. You can preserve your rights, make sure you are not accepting a settlement that should be greater than what is being offered, and focus on healing from your injuries instead of worrying about dealing with insurance companies who are certainly NOT working in your best interests.