In Texas, you generally have two years to take legal action seeking compensation for your injuries. But never wait any longer than necessary to seek appropriate medical care, report the accident to your insurance company, and protect your legal rights to seek compensation from the other driver or another at-fault party. Here’s why.
Delay Can Make Your Injuries Worse
You cannot always trust your body to tell you when you’ve sustained an injury in an accident. Some injuries do not exhibit symptoms until hours, days, or even weeks later. Mild symptoms can signal major problems. For example, if you feel tired after an accident, it might signal a brain injury. Numbness in your fingers could suggest spinal cord damage. If you’re excited or stressed over a crash, you easily miss these signs of serious injuries.
Physicians who diagnose and treat post-accident trauma understand that symptoms don’t always show up immediately.
- Internal injuries often occur due to blunt external trauma. As internal cavities begin filling with blood, the injured person sometimes feels only minor discomfort. Experienced physicians, however, can evaluate whether these symptoms reflect more serious trauma.
- Whiplash is a serious injury, even though victims often show no immediate symptoms, and don’t always feel pain right away. Whiplash injuries traumatize multiple body parts, and the symptoms often become more intense over time.
- Traumatic brain injury frequently goes unnoticed, initially. Injured people often miss or overlook brain injury symptoms, because they often have no external wounds or bleeding. If left untreated, however, TBIs (Traumatic brain injury) can worsen and cause lasting impairments.
Regardless of your injury, insurance company claim handlers, defense lawyers, judges, and jurors may question your motives if you delay filing a claim for your injury. The sooner you get medical care and speak up about the harm you suffered, the better your chances of your claim being taken seriously by the parties who will ultimately decide how much money you should receive as compensation.
Delay Alters Insurance Company Practices
Insurance plays a role in most car accidents. Generally, you must report any accident to your auto insurer, and so does the other driver, to get the benefit of the coverage you have paid for. Reporting the accident prompts the insurance company to open a claim file.
Insurance companies handle injury and non-injury claims differently. If the initial claim you make to your insurer (and, hopefully, that the other driver makes to theirs) does not mention injuries, the insurer generally takes a low-key approach. Claim supervisors usually give non-injury claims to low-level claim handlers. They concentrate on vehicle repairs, rental cars, and property damage. More often than not, they pay the claims and close the file.
When insurers receive injury claims, however, supervisors assign the files to experienced investigators. They usually make immediate contact with the policyholder, investigate liability issues, and try to get a handle on injuries and claim values.
If you delay reporting an injury claim to your insurer, or the other driver does the same with his, for even just a few weeks or months, the claim handling dynamic changes drastically. Delaying an insurance company’s investigation means the company’s claim department can’t evaluate claims on fresh information. It also means they can’t accurately set aside funds (called a “reserve”) in expectation of paying your claim.
This doesn’t change an insurer’s legal responsibility to pay your injury claim, but it does heighten the risk that you will get pushback from both your insurer and the other driver’s liability carrier.
- Liability insurers may suspect you of fraud if initial accident reports say you had no injury.
- Liability insurers may deny liability for previously unreported injuries.
- Insurers may issue a reservation of rights letter to affirm policy rights and emphasize the company’s right to decline coverage later.
An experienced accident attorney can help you contend with resistance from an insurance company about your claim. The sooner you connect with an attorney and begin pursuing an injury claim, however, the less resistance you can expect to encounter.
Delay Makes Evidence Harder to Come-by
To get you maximum compensation for your accident-related injuries, your attorney will usually need to collect evidence that shows what happened, who bears the blame, and the nature, extent, and impact of the injuries you suffered. Generally speaking, that evidence is easiest to come by soon after the accident takes place and a doctor diagnoses your injuries.
As time passes, important evidence becomes more and more difficult to obtain. For example, a security camera at a building near the crash site may have captured footage of the accident. An attorney’s quick action can secure that footage so that you can use it as valuable evidence of the other driver’s fault. If you delay pursuing a claim, however, chances are that footage will get erased, and you’ll lose an important means of proving your entitlement to compensation.
Similarly, your attorney may need to rely on witness recollections to establish what led to the crash and your injuries. As anyone knows, the passage of time has a way of distorting and fading our memories, which erodes their reliability as evidence.
Delay Can Cause You to Lose Your Rights
Under Texas law, you generally have two years from the date of an accident to take legal action in court seeking compensation for your injuries from the at-fault parties (and, by extension, from their liability insurance carriers). Missing that deadline will usually result in you losing your rights to compensation altogether. Insurance companies, in particular, will almost always refuse to pay an injury claim if this statute of limitations has expired.
Hire an Accident Attorney to Handle Your Injury Claim
To avoid the potentially costly consequences of delaying your injury claim, contact an experienced accident injury attorney as soon as possible for a free, no-obligation case consultation.