When you are hurt in an accident that is attributable to someone else, you will need to seek medical attention as soon as possible to generate evidence of your injuries. You will also need to avoid settling your claim with the insurance company, and you will need to seek experienced legal counsel to help you prove that your injuries were actually caused by the accident.
Damages Available in a Personal Injury Claim
The four main types of damages that are available in a personal injury claim are:
- Medical expenses, including anticipated future medical expenses;
- Lost earnings, including estimated future, lost earnings;
- Incidental expenses, such as child care expenses while you are incapacitated; and
- Intangible damages, such as pain and suffering.
You may be suffering pain that is largely untreatable by your doctors, such as neck pain from a soft tissue injury. Do not underestimate the amount of compensation that may become available to you based on your pain and suffering – it might be worth several times the amount of your medical expenses.
The Four Elements You Need to Prove to Win a Personal Injury Claim
To win a personal injury claim, you must prove four elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. In a car accident, for example, the defendant owed you a duty to drive safely.
- The defendant breached his duty to you – by running a stop sign, for example.
- You suffered injuries that are worth the amount of damages you are claiming; and
- Your injuries were actually caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
It is this fourth element, causation, that the insurance company is likely to focus on – at least if your claim is based in full or in part on the pain that did not arise until after the accident occurred. What is likely to happen is that the insurance company will attempt to refuse your claim by asserting that your pain was not caused by the accident, but by something that happened after the accident. It will be up to you and your lawyer to prove the insurance company wrong.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately
If your pain did not surface until after the accident, you might not have sought medical treatment. Even if you did, whatever it is that now ails you might not have surfaced during your medical examination. In either case, you need to seek medical attention immediately for medical as well as legal reasons. The main legal reason is to have your pain, and potentially its causes, documented by a trained medical professional for use as evidence of your claim.
Have Your Injuries Carefully Diagnosed – Some Injuries Are More Likely to Cause Delayed Pain Than Others
A broken leg that you notice a week after an auto accident will be difficult if not impossible to trace to the accident. A series of migraine headaches, on the other hand, might indeed indicate a concussion caused by an accident. Since concussions often occur in auto accidents, and since they commonly result in delayed symptoms, it is likely to be easier for you to prove causation with migraine headaches than with a broken leg.
The following is a list of types of pain that you might be experiencing along with possible medical causes that might have been caused by an accident:
Neck pain: Neck pain often indicates a soft tissue injury such as whiplash. It is not at all uncommon for the pain from such an injury to surface as long as several days after an accident. Another possible explanation for neck pain, especially if it is combined with shoulder pain, is a spinal injury such as a herniated disc.
Headaches: Pay attention to frequent or severe headaches, especially if headaches were uncommon for you until after an accident. Headaches could be symptoms of concussion, brain injury, whiplash, neck injury, a blood clot, or PTSD. In all cases, it would not be surprising for the pain to be delayed until some time after an accident.
Back pain: Lower back pain can be a symptom of soft tissue injury. Back pain, in general, could indicate a back sprain, a herniated disc, or muscle damage. If you also experience tingling or numbness, a pinched nerve might be involved.
Abdominal pain: Abdominal pain, even appearing days after an accident, can indicate serious internal injuries. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience this symptom. You might also experience headaches and dizziness in conjunction with your abdominal pain, which is further evidence that your pain is the result of some sort of impact.
Numbness and tingling in the extremities (“pins and needles”): Numbness and tingling in the extremities (particularly the fingers and toes) can indicate nerve damage and soft tissue injury.
Psychological symptoms: Unfortunately, in the absence of some sort of physical injury, you cannot recover damages for purely psychological symptoms. If you suffered physical injury, however, you can recover for accompanying psychological trauma as well. Accident-related mental health issues might include anxiety, memory problems, depression, or other changes in your psychology or personality. Psychological issues might also be caused by brain injury.
Chest pain and faintness: Symptoms like chest pain combined with faintness call for immediate medical attention, because they could be a sign of a blood clot. Internal bleeding can lead to blood clots, which can, in turn, lead to brain damage or even death.
How Long Are Symptoms Delayed?
Symptoms of an accident can first appear at any time from several hours to over a week after an accident. The following are some examples:
- Internal bleeding, especially internal bleeding in the abdomen caused by a seat belt (ironically) can show up as long as three days after an accident.
- Symptoms of injuries to the brain and neck can be delayed for a week or more after an accident. Delayed symptoms of a brain injury can lead to death.
- Symptoms of a concussion can be delayed for several days after an accident, and they do not necessarily include unconsciousness. It is critically important that you get treated for a concussion as soon as you suspect that you may have sustained one.
If you experience late-breaking pain in a manner that is consistent with the well-known delayed effects of an injury, it will be easier to prove that your pain was caused by the accident and that compensation for your pain should be included in your claim. Expert witness testimony from a medical expert can help you establish your claim.
Do Not Settle with the Insurance Company Until You Reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
The insurance company is likely to seek a quick settlement with you. You can be fairly sure, however, that if the insurance company is seeking a quick settlement, then the amount they are offering is far less than even they believe your claim is actually worth. Don’t do it.
Instead, contact a seasoned injury lawyer, and wait to settle until you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI is the point, determined by your healthcare provider, where you are not likely to improve much more than you already have. This may mean a full recovery, or it may mean lifelong disability. Either way, only after you reach MMI can the true value of your personal injury claim be calculated.
How an Experienced Injury Lawyer Can Help
People who retain experienced injury lawyers win their claims more often, and receive more money on average, than people who don’t. In fact, the difference in the success rate is often so extreme that it greatly outweighs any extra amount that you might spend on legal fees. The following are some of the ways that a lawyer can help you with your claim:
- Your lawyer can uncover evidence that will help you determine the value of your claim and collect evidence that you can use to help you win. In particular, if you suffered long-term injuries, your lawyer can help you determine the value of damages such as future medical expenses and future lost earnings. This can get tricky, and failing to calculate them correctly can devastate you financially years down the road.
- After a short investigation, your lawyer is likely to know how much your claim is worth. Insurance companies, by contrast, rely on injured people not knowing the true value of their claim. Once you know your claim’s true value, you become much more difficult to manipulate.
- Your lawyer can locate and secure the cooperation of expert witnesses who may be able to prove that your injuries were most likely caused by the accident. In a civil lawsuit, unlike a criminal prosecution, “most likely” is all you need to win.
- Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators, and they are full of tricks. Don’t worry, because we know all their tricks, and we won’t fall for a single one of them. And remember: Only you have the authority to accept a settlement offer unless you specifically grant your lawyer permission to accept a settlement offer on your behalf.
All things considered, your choice of which lawyer you select to represent you is likely to be the most important decision you make in your entire case.
We’re Ready for Action
If you are experiencing late-breaking pain after an accident, or if the insurance company is trying to deny or reduce your coverage due to late-breaking pain, don’t just sit there and take it. Contact Berkowitz Hanna for free case consultation, so that we can evaluate your claim and answer your questions.
It wouldn’t surprise us if you believe that you can’t afford a top-tier personal injury law firm like Berkowitz and Hanna. In fact, it is the insurance company that must be able to afford us, not you, because we won’t bill you a dime until you win your claim and the opposing party has already paid. Call us at (203) 487-5728 or contact us online to get the claim process started today!