Old injuries can cause a lot of complications in your life—including complications you may not have even realized you would face until you had the chance to fully recover from the initial accident. You may find that you have ongoing pain or that your injuries prevent you from doing all the things you want to do in a day.
As you begin to realize what those limitations will look like going forward, you may want to sue the party that caused your accident and your injuries to help you acquire some compensation for your losses.
Have you waited too long? Can you sue for an old injury?
The Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Claims
In most states, you have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim following severe injuries. New York, for example, sets the statute of limitations at three years, while New Jersey sets it at two. However, some exceptions may exist to the statute of limitations that provide you with more time to file a personal injury claim.
You sustained injuries as a minor.
If you sustained injuries in an accident when you were under the age of 18, you did not have the legal power to file a personal injury claim for yourself at that time. In New York, you have until three years after your eighteenth birthday to file a personal injury claim. New Jersey allows two years after your eighteenth birthday for you to file a personal injury claim for an injury that occurred before you turned 18.
Children often heal very differently than adults, especially when it comes to severe injuries. As a child, you may heal faster after suffering broken bones or other comparatively minor injuries. An injury that would leave an adult hobbling around for months might resolve itself within a few weeks if you suffered injuries as a minor.
On the other hand, some types of injuries may impact a child more than they impact an adult. For example, if you suffer a traumatic brain injury as a child, it could lead to long-term mental or emotional challenges, including learning disabilities that you did not have before the incident.
Predicting a child’s recovery from severe injuries can also prove trickier than predicting the same recovery in an adult. Sometimes, injuries near a growth plate can cause chronic issues for the child. Other times, children may show no ill effects from the accident once fully recovered.
As a result of the difficulty in predicting healing, as well as the fact that as a minor, you would rely on your parents to file a personal injury claim for you, you have time following your eighteenth birthday to determine whether you want to move forward with a personal injury claim after suffering injuries as a minor.
You suffered injuries in an accident caused by a government entity.
Dealing with injuries caused by a government entity can prove much more complicated than dealing with injuries caused by a private individual or corporation. If you need to sue a government entity for your injuries, you have just 90 days following the accident to initiate a personal injury claim in New York. If you fail to act quickly enough, you may forego your right to compensation.
You did not discover your injuries, or the full extent of your injuries, immediately after the accident.
Sometimes, you may discover that you sustained serious injuries well after the initial accident or incident. In cases of medical malpractice, for example, the truth might not come to light for years. You might have chronic problems related to the incident, such as ongoing pain, or you might not notice the problem until years later, when scar tissue builds up or you start to have ongoing symptoms related to the initial problem.
If you did not discover your injuries immediately after the accident, you may have the right to file a personal injury claim once you do realize the extent of your injuries. In most cases, once you accept a settlement for a personal injury, you will not have the right to go back and file for further compensation, even if you later discover that your injuries cause more disability than you initially thought; however, if you discover injuries you did not recognize at the time of the accident, you may have the right to move forward with a personal injury claim. Talk to an attorney about whether you might have the right to file a personal injury claim for old injuries that you did not recognize at the time of the accident, but which have the potential to cause immense disability in the future.
New evidence comes to light regarding your injuries.
In some cases, you might have originally believed, for whatever reason, that you did not have the right to file a personal injury claim. Based on available evidence, you might have assumed that you could not move forward with your claim.
You might also have found that a single entity bore liability for your injuries at the time of the accident, but later found out that someone mishandled the investigation or that another party may have contributed to your injuries. If you discover new evidence regarding those old injuries, you may have the right to sue the party or parties that caused your accident, even if you felt that you might not have that right at the time of the initial incident.
You suffered injuries due to a sexual assault.
New York’s statute of limitations on its most serious sex crimes comes into play 21 years or more after the initial incident, as does New Jersey’s. In the case of sex crimes and sexual assault, you may have a longer time to seek compensation or pursue justice for your injuries. Some states have eliminated the statute of limitations on sexual crimes entirely to convince more victims to come forward and seek both justice and compensation for the injuries they sustained. If your injuries occurred due to a sexual assault, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the impact of those injuries and whether you may have grounds to move forward with a personal injury claim, regardless of how much time has passed since your injuries. Sexual assault can lead to a wide range of both physical and emotional symptoms long after the original attack, and you may qualify to pursue compensation for those symptoms.
If you have questions about your right to file for compensation after the statute of limitations has passed, a lawyer can help go over your legal options and give you a better idea of when you can move forward with a personal injury claim. Often, an experienced personal injury attorney can find exceptions to the statute of limitations that will help you seek compensation for the serious difficulties those old injuries continue to cause in your life.
When Should I Sue for an Injury?
While you may find exceptions that will allow you to file a claim for an injury that occurred long ago, when possible, you should move forward with your personal injury claim soon after your accident. Ideally, you should get in touch with an attorney as soon after the accident as possible. In the early days after the accident, an attorney may have an easier time gathering evidence. Witness memories may prove difficult to access long after the accident, when many witnesses will forget the event entirely or block out key details. Witnesses often struggle, in particular, after observing a traumatic event. While some people find those events imprinted on their minds, others may block them out, which could later make it difficult for the witness to testify on your behalf.
Much of the evidence related to your injuries may also prove easier to access in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Your attorney may have an easier time collecting records, taking a look at video footage, or simply looking at the scene of the accident if you reach out soon after the accident occurred. The longer you wait, the more difficult it can prove to collect vital evidence about exactly when your accident occurred.
However, while you should contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible, you may need to wait until you recover from your injuries and have a better idea of your future prognosis before you continue with the claim.
What if I Did Not Visit the Hospital or Seek Medical Attention Immediately?
You had an accident due to another party’s negligence, but you did not pursue immediate medical attention. At the time, you might have had other priorities on your mind: your errands, your vacation, or work, perhaps. You might have noticed some nagging pain, but chose to write it off so that you could do the other things that held your attention.
Later, that pain became a more serious problem. Maybe you noticed worsening symptoms years after the accident. Perhaps you realized that the pain, which you expected to resolve within a relatively short time, had become chronic. Eventually, you chose to go to the doctor about your injuries, only to discover that you had sustained more serious injuries than you thought in that original accident.
Now, you have two key challenges. First, you will need to determine how your decision not to seek medical care impacted your injuries and whether that decision caused permanent damage. Next, you will need to establish exactly when those injuries occurred. Sometimes, you may have a clear record of the incident: an auto accident report, for example.
In other cases, however, you might not have a record of the event. As a result, you may need to talk to an attorney about how you might establish when the accident took place. Sometimes, collecting evidence regarding a very old injury can prove difficult. Records likely no longer exist of an accident that took place many years ago, and you may have a hard time proving exactly who contributed to your injuries without those records.
If you didn’t seek medical attention immediately after your accident, but you later discovered that you sustained severe injuries that you can trace back to that time, contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and whether you can move forward with a personal injury claim. An attorney can give you a better idea of what you should expect from that process.
Do You Need to Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney About Your Old Injury?
If you sustained serious injuries in an accident due to another party’s negligence but did not discover those injuries until considerably after the initial incident, get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon after your accident as possible. An attorney can handle any type of personal injury claim, including one that you may need to manage well after the initial incident.
An attorney can help collect evidence regarding your accident.
While evidence may prove harder to collect if years have passed since your accident, an attorney may have the ability to access information that you cannot. Attorneys have experience dealing with complex investigations and may guide you to better understand how to collect that information and put it together into a comprehensive personal injury claim.
An attorney can help you understand what to expect from the process.
How much compensation can you really recover, especially if years have passed since the accident? What should you expect as you move forward with your claim? An attorney can help guide you through that process and give you a better idea of what to expect at each stage of your claim.
Do you need a personal injury attorney? Get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss whether you may have the right to file a claim even after the statute of limitations has passed.