What to Do If Injuries Appear Long After a Car Accident

car accident lawyer los angeles

Car crashes often result in injuries. There are instances, however, when symptoms for physical and psychological injuries appear months or years after a car accident. If you or someone you know is experiencing “delayed” injuries or symptoms caused by a car crash, this article will be helpful.

Watch Out for Delayed-Onset Injuries from Car Accidents

One of the things you must do when you get into a car accident is to let a doctor or medical first responder assess you for injuries. If you’re feeling any pain or have bruises and cuts, allow them to tend to you. It will also be wise to take photos and videos of any visible injuries. These will serve as evidence for claims and will help a car accident injury attorney create a strong case for you.

However, injuries and symptoms may appear long after an accident. Passengers and drivers can feel perfectly fine immediately after a crash but experience chronic pain weeks later. These injuries are referred to as delayed-onset car accident injuries.

If you walked away from a car accident unharmed, observe your health and watch out for symptoms that might hint at a delayed-onset injury. Below are some examples:

  • Chronic headaches – This can be a red flag for a severe injury if the victim only started getting frequent and painful headaches after the accident. It’s crucial to see a doctor as soon as this happens (and document the tests and results, too). You could be looking at soft tissue injury, swelling, blood clots, and other types of traumatic brain injury.
  • Shoulder, neck, and back pain – If you were wearing your seatbelt when the crash happened, you might have experienced whiplash from the opposing torques of your car and the other vehicle. Whiplash can be treated at home, but you must still consult a doctor if only to rule out serious injuries, like a lumbar strain or disc fractures.
  • Psychological symptoms – Car accidents may cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Victims who experience mental and emotional trauma sometimes don’t recognize that they are suffering from it. Listen to your companions at home if they observe something different in your behavior or reaction to certain things or events.

File Your Claims Immediately

California has a two-year statute of limitations for claims and lawsuits related to car accident injuries (California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1). Car accident victims typically have two years from the date of the accident to file insurance claims against the negligent driver.

There are exceptions for delayed-onset injuries. Under the delayed discovery rule, the injured victim can have one more year from the date he or she discovered the injury to file a claim.

Prove that Your Injury is Related to Your Car Accident

Although it is widely acknowledged that car accident injuries can appear belatedly, victims still have to prove that the symptoms they’re experiencing are because of the car accident.

When you file your claims, expect the defendant or the negligent driver responsible for the accident to cast doubt on the nature of your symptoms. They may argue that your symptoms are due to a pre-existing medical condition, or a health problem that developed after the accident but is entirely unrelated.

The defendant’s insurance company will also scrutinize your claim. You must follow the claims process carefully and present all the necessary documents so that you can negotiate for the maximum settlement possible.

To raise your chances of getting full compensation, get the help of an experienced car accident injury lawyer. They will file your claims and fiercely negotiate on your behalf. Doing so will make the process smoother because your attorney already knows what documents to gather and how to beat the deadline for your insurance claim.

More importantly, you can have peace of mind knowing that your case is in capable hands — a comfort, considering the physical pain or emotional distress you’re already going through due to your delayed-onset injury.

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Finding Fault: Who Is Liable if Your Car is Hit by a Delivery Truck?

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If your car was accidentally hit by a delivery truck, big rig, or similar commercial vehicle in Los Angeles, the driver isn’t automatically liable. This is true, even if the driver was clearly at fault and caused the accident.

In determining who is financially liable for any damage to your car or for injuries you sustained, certain requirements must be met.  Let’s discuss these prerequisites.

The Company that Owns the Truck

In many cases, the company can be held responsible for a vehicular accident. The legal term for holding the company responsible is “Respondeat Superior”— Latin for “let the superior answer”. The company that owns the truck can be held liable as long as the accident occurred during the scope of the employment of the driver and the act was not intentional.

The Employee or the Contractor

Another legal requisite you should know as the injured party is whether the driver that caused the accident was an employee or independent contractor of the company. This is important because erring independent contractors can extinguish much of the company’s liability.

State laws may differ in classifying the nature of employment, but generally, it is determined by how much control the employer has in how the driver’s work must be done. If the employer has control over the result of the work, but not how the driver arrives at the result, then the driver is likely an independent contractor.

Other important factors are if the truck driver used his own truck, paid for his own gas, assumed the cost of repairs and liability insurance coverage. If the company doesn’t pay his employee benefits or deduct taxes from his paycheck or have no say in how he must drive the truck or make deliveries, the driver is liable as an independent contractor. If the opposite were true and these expenses were shouldered by the company and taxes were withheld from his paycheck, then the company would be liable.

Acting Within the Scope of Employment

Establishing that the act that caused the accident was done within the scope of employment can be complicated. For an act to be considered as such, these facts and circumstances will be scrutinized:

  • Nature, time, and place of the driver’s behavior
  • Driver’s intent at the time of the accident
  • Type of work the driver was hired or paid to do
  • Incidental tasks expected of the driver to do within reason
  • Amount of freedom afforded the driver in doing their work
  • Amount of time consumed in the personal activity

The time, manner, and nature of the work performed by the driver will be deciding factors in the liability.  For instance, if the truck driver backed into your car while making a delivery, the employer would be liable for damages as the driver was acting “within the scope of employment.”

Let’s assume that in another case, the driver is off-duty but hits another car. This time, the company is exempted from liability because the driver was not acting “within the scope of employment.”

A good truck accident lawyer should be well-versed in ascertaining if the accident occurred within the scope of the driver’s employment.

Other Defendants and Conditions

In some cases, the employer and the truck driver won’t be the only ones that can be held liable for damages to your property or injuries to you. If in the course of the investigation, any parts of the truck, such as the brakes or tires, were found to be of poor quality (not just by wear and tear), then the parts manufacturers can be held liable as well. Other conditions, such as overloading the truck or forcing the driver to work beyond the legal working hours for truck drivers in LA, will mean more liabilities and imply a greater chance of you reaching a settlement.

To conclude, should your car be accidentally hit by a truck, the principle of Respondeat Superior usually applies. The company that owns the truck, and not its driver, will have to answer for any damage to your car and injuries you sustain. However, if the driver was an independent contractor and not an employee, the driver is at fault.

If you figure in such an accident, establishing liability and getting a settlement shouldn’t be done only by you, your insurance company, and the insurer of the other party. You deserve full compensation for any damage, injuries, and loss of income. Getting the expert help of a law firm is your best course of action.

Contact Haffner Law at 1-844-HAFFNER today for a free consultation.

(This is an attorney advertisement by Joshua Haffner)