What you need to know about delayed injuries after a Florida car crash
When you’re in a car accident, some damage is immediately clear: your bumper is wrecked, your airbag is deployed, your leg is broken, your face is gashed. But some injuries after a Florida car crash may not be felt immediately, either because the adrenaline from the accident is blocking out the pain, or because the injury has happened but will only worsen over time.
It may take days or weeks to know the full extent of your injuries (and even longer to complete your treatment), but if you accept an early settlement from the insurance company, your window to recovery has closed. Let’s look at common types of delayed injuries, what you can do to document them, and how you can be compensated for them.
Common Types of Delayed Injuries
Most of the time, delayed injuries after a Florida car crash are caused by inflammation. Inflammation takes time to build, so the sore muscles or pinched nerves that it causes can take time to develop. Common inflammatory injures include whiplash, which occurs when your head and neck are suddenly thrown forward and forced back. Common symptoms of whiplash are headache, pain in the neck and shoulders, back pain, and numbness or tingling from a pinched nerve.
Many of these symptoms can also signal bigger problems. A persistent headache that develops hours to days after the accident could be a symptom of a concussion, stress, or even a blood clot. Back pain or numbness can also be caused by a herniated disc, pressing against one of the nerves in the spine. Abdominal pain can be a sign of injuries to your internal organs and can be very serious, or even fatal if ignored. If you experience abdominal pain in the days following an accident, seek medical attention right away.
You may suffer mentally or emotionally in the days or weeks following an accident. Stress can take time set in following an accident, and you may suffer from depression, anxiety, fear of driving or being in vehicles, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions are as serious as the physical ailments that you may have suffered, and you should seek treatment for these as well.
Finally, if you experienced a traumatic injury to a joint (your hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc.), you may later suffer from post-traumatic arthritis in that joint. You may require treatment, including surgery, to repair the damage done by your accident years after the fact. You may need a joint replacement years earlier than you would have otherwise.
Documenting Your Injuries
As in every area of the law, the evidence is crucial if you want to win your case and be compensated for your injuries. As soon as you feel pain after an accident, get checked out by a doctor. This way, a contemporaneous record is created and kept by the hospital that includes your injuries, treatment, and prognosis (which may include the need for follow-up visits, ongoing physical therapy, or future surgery). This is the best way for your injuries after a Florida car crash to be documented. If you wait too long to get treatment, in addition to risking your health, you run the risk that the insurance company may think that your injuries came from a different incident, instead of the accident.
If you are suffering from mental or emotional symptoms, keep a journal of your symptoms in addition to seeking professional help. While a therapist may take notes of your sessions, those sessions may not be very frequent, so your journal can capture the symptoms that you are feeling in the meantime. Your journal serves both as evidence of your symptoms and can serve to refresh your memory if you are asked about them at deposition or trial, both of which may come years after the accident.
Getting Compensated: Don’t Settle Too Quickly
Soon after an accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may pressure you to settle. They may dangle some money in front of you, hoping that you will take it so they can close their file. But the insurance company will not take into account your injuries that haven’t even revealed themselves yet, so the amount of money they offer might not even cover all of your bills.
Don’t fall for this. As soon as you take any amount of money from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, your case is over. In exchange for the money, the insurance company will make you sign a general release, releasing them from any liability stemming from the accident, even injuries that have not yet occurred. Note, however, that you are free to have your own health insurance company, for example, cover their portion of your medical bills—that is not a release of liability. Still, it’s wise to contact a Florida car crash attorney early after your crash to make sure that you avoid any landmines that would cut off your potential compensation.
In Florida, you have four years after the date of your accident to file a lawsuit, unless it is a wrongful death or medical malpractice case, which would be two years after the injury or death. This means that generally, you do not need to be in a hurry to settle; you can instead wait for your injuries to reach “maximum medical improvement”—which is just a fancy way of saying that you’ve gotten as good as you’re going to get. This way, you know the full extent of your pain (including chronic pain), treatment, and bills and can be compensated accordingly.
This does not mean, however, that you should wait four years to call a Florida car crash attorney. On the contrary, the earlier you get an attorney involved, the better. Your attorney can make sure that your rights are protected at every step of the way. They can best frame your case to the insurance company to get a settlement without filing a lawsuit, or they can sue if necessary. They
can also have you examined by medical experts who can opine on any future treatment that you may need so that you can be compensated for that as well.
You only get one shot at compensation following an accident. Make sure that when you do accept a settlement, you are being compensated for all your known injuries—past, present, and future. If you have been in an accident, call a good personal injury attorney today.