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March 25, 2023

What to Do If You Don’t Notice Your Injuries Until Long After a Car Accident In Louisiana?

by Evan Breaux | Car Accident Settlements | 0 comments

In this article, we cover Louisiana’s one-year statute of limitations and its exceptions; the injuries that can arise days, weeks, months, or even years after a car accident; and why working with expert personal injury attorneys ensures you’re compensated for future pain and suffering.

Being in a car crash is a traumatic experience, and as is often the case when it comes to trauma, your body may be running on adrenaline in the immediate aftermath. This adrenaline can mask injuries in the hours, days, and even weeks after an accident.

This is why, after a car accident, it’s important to talk to a personal injury lawyer. One of the things an attorney will encourage you to do is to seek medical help if you haven’t already. This can be one good way of discovering any injuries that you haven’t noticed yet.

But what happens if your injuries appear months later? Or even years later?

In general, Louisiana residents have up to one year from the date of the accident to file a claim and receive compensation for the injuries they sustained in a car crash. This is called the “Statute of Limitations” for personal injury claims and it is based on La. Civ. Code Art. 3492. You can think of it as a deadline. The reason for this law is:

  • To ensure that the evidence for the case is not lost
  • To prevent a guilty party from being sued or blackmailed by the threat of a suit many years after the accident

In other words, the Louisiana law wants to help wrap up the case quickly and efficiently, within one year of the accident. This statute of limitations applies to most civil cases in Louisiana, but does not apply to cases involving crimes like rape and murder.

The one-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims is very strict. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • If the accident involves a minor, the one-year clock begins ticking once the child reaches the age of 18
  • If the accident is due to a defective product and requires more research into the cause, the case may be filed more than a year after the accident
  • If the accident is a multiple-car pile-up where more than one party is at fault, a claim must be made against at least one at-fault party within the one-year time limit; however, after that one-year time limit, a second party may still be found liable and a claim filed against them (this is called a “solidary obligation”)

What Happens When You Still Have Injuries After You File Your Case?

In some situations, an additional exception is made for injuries that are discovered long after the car accident. The “discovery rule” can be applied by an experienced personal injury lawyer in an attempt to file an extension and pursue a claim. Some injuries may appear weeks, months, or years after an accident, like Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), spinal cord injuries, and mental disorders. In these cases, if there was no way the injured party could have known about the full extent of their injury until the date of the statute of limitations passed, working with a personal injury attorney is crucial.

Please note that this is truly an exception. In most cases, trying to file a personal injury claim more than one year after the date of the accident will result in your claim being dismissed.

What Types of Injuries Can Go Unnoticed After a Car Accident?

  • Whiplash: This is a common car accident injury that can take days, weeks, or even years to be diagnosed. Initial symptoms may include stiffness in the neck, dizziness, headaches, and blurred vision. Long-term symptoms, which might arise in the months or years after the accident, can include fatigue, memory loss, concentration problems, tinnitus, and sleep problems. 
  • Concussions: As with whiplash, in the initial days after the car accident, this injury may cause symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, slurred speech, blurred vision, and fatigue. Long-term symptoms of concussions and other closed head injuries can include problems with concentration or sleep, the loss of memory, the loss of one’s ability to smell or taste, increased irritability, sensitivity to light and noise, depression, and erratic behavior. The symptoms can be mysterious at first, until a doctor is able to diagnose your head injury and connect it to the date of the car accident. (This is one reason why we suggest keeping close track of your symptoms in a journal after a car accident — especially those that seem strange.)
  • Shoulder Injuries: Tendinitis or stiffness in the shoulder can begin to show up weeks or months after an auto accident.
  • Knee Injuries: With a torn ACL or MCL, the knee may begin to swell in the weeks after the injury occurred. 
  • Spinal Cord Injuries: A ruptured or herniated disk is a common car accident injury. The pain is severe, and is likely to appear in the hours or days after a car crash.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries: Headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, speech problems, loss of coordination, and erratic or unusual behavior are symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. If these symptoms develop in the days or weeks after a car accident, you should see a doctor immediately.
  • Emotional Trauma: Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries can result in chronic and lingering symptoms, causing significant hardships and emotional pain. An automobile accident can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that makes everyday tasks feel impossible. The physical, emotional, and economic impacts of these types of injuries are huge. An injured person may lose their job, require long-term medical care, or be forced to hire caregivers. Unfortunately, motor vehicle collisions are one of the main causes of these types of chronic, long-term injuries. Victims may not notice this pain until they speak with a doctor, therapist, or personal injury attorney who is able to help them realize the extent of their suffering. 

What Will My Lawyer Do if I Tell Them About Newly Discovered Injuries Post Auto Accident?

If you and your lawyer are working on your claim and it is still within the one-year period after the date of the accident, then discovering additional injuries will help your lawyer make a stronger case for more compensation. Your newly discovered injuries will likely require doctor’s appointments or physical therapy. Keep track of those costs, because you deserve to be reimbursed for them.

If you discover new injuries after the claim has been settled, it is unlikely that you will be able to receive additional compensation. Settling a claim usually involves a written contract (called a Release of Liability Form) stating that the at-fault party is not responsible for any additional claims related to the accident. Your lawyer may tell you that there’s nothing they can do for you. It is rare that a settled case is reopened. There are some exceptions to this, such as:

  • Cases where the at-fault party has been fraudulent or deceptive
  • Newly discovered evidence 
  • A clerical error

When you work with an experienced, expert personal injury lawyer like the team at Breaux Law Firm, part of your lawyer’s job is to understand not only the extent of your injuries, but the possible future costs of your injuries. “Future pain and suffering” is one of the elements of damage that can be claimed after an accident. A good personal injury attorney is able to see into the future and account for these unexpected additional damages and costs. And a fair settlement compensates you enough to cover any medical or mental complications that might arise in the future.

At Breaux Law Firm, we understand what to do long after a car accident and what happens after a car accident and how you might be feeling. We’re certainly not psychics, but we’ve been New Orleans personal injury attorneys for so long that we’re skilled at knowing what long-term or hidden injuries might show up after you’ve been in a car accident. We put this skill to good use, ensuring that our clients receive the medical care, personalized attention, and full compensation that they deserve.

If you’ve been in an accident and are looking for an attorney who will fight for you, reach out to us today at (504) 882 0545 or for your free consultation.