When determining how long you have to file a personal injury claim, always take into account the statute of limitations laws of the area in which you live. Statutes of limitations set a deadline for filing legal claims in court. If the injured person does not file a claim before this deadline, he or she loses the right to file a claim. The law may require a plaintiff making claims against a government entity to present a claim much earlier than if the responsible party is a private person or company. Consult a personal injury lawyer to check all legal deadlines that apply to your claim.

Though the statute of limitations could range from one to four years, it is not always in your best interest to wait until just before the expiration of the deadline to file your claim. It is also important to seek medical treatment right away because failure to do so can create problems for your case.

Delaying treatment for too long can cause an insurance company to argue that something else caused your injuries, or that you are making up or exaggerating your claims. They will likely deny your claim altogether, and if you take your case to trial, you may find it difficult to convince a jury that your injuries took such a long time to manifest. You should also never delay seeking medical treatment, as untreated injuries tend to worsen.

Take the following five steps to protect your health and legal rights.

1. Have a medical professional evaluate your injuries at the scene of the accident.

You should always call 911 after any car accident to request that an ambulance and police officers report to the scene. Even if you do not need the ambulance, you will need a police report to document your personal injury claim.

Emergency medical personnel can evaluate your injuries and determine whether or not you need immediate medical attention. Not only can they provide immediate treatment, the medical personnel can also ensure safe transportation from the scene of the accident to a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility, should you need it.

Taking yourself to the hospital could potentially worsen your injuries. Emergency medical technicians have specialized equipment, such as backboards, head blocks, straps, gurneys, neck braces, and splints that hold your body in place and prevent further injury on the journey to the hospital.

2. Go to an urgent care facility or emergency room, even if you do not leave the scene in an ambulance.

If the nature of your injuries do not warrant transportation in an ambulance, go to an emergency room or urgent care facility as soon as possible. Victims cannot see or even feel some serious internal injuries, and it will take the attention of a healthcare provider to detect them. For example, you might not realize that you are bleeding internally until a doctor discovers unusually low blood pressure. Injury to the liver, kidneys, pancreas, or other vital organs may not manifest for hours. All of these injuries can threaten your life if you fail to treat them for any length of time.

3. Follow-up with your primary care provider.

Whether or not you go to an emergency room or urgent care facility, make a point to see your primary care provider as soon as possible. He or she can perform a thorough evaluation of your physical state to determine whether or not you sustained injuries, and, if so, what treatment you need.

Your primary care provider can outline an ongoing treatment plan and manage your care throughout the rest of your recovery. This active management can ensure that you give your injuries the best chance at recovery and protect your legal right to compensation later on.

4. Follow through with any recommendations for consultations with specialists, as well as diagnostic imaging.

Your treatment plan might involve a further evaluation of your injuries from a medical specialist, such as a neurologist for brain injuries, an orthopedic surgeon for broken bones, or a cardiologist for heart damage. Follow through with any referrals your primary care physician makes. This includes referrals for diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. These tests aid your doctor in thoroughly evaluating your injuries so that he or she can make the right treatment recommendations.

5. Fully complete all rehabilitation until your providers agree that you can safely discontinue treatment.

Many physical injuries require some sort of rehabilitation. Follow through with any physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic services, or any other type of recommended rehabilitation. If you choose not to do so, the insurance company could argue that you made your own injuries worse by failing to complete all recommended treatments or that you were not as seriously injured as you claim. If the company successfully makes this argument, they will use it to justify reducing your compensation for pain and suffering, or defeating your claim altogether.

Why You Need to Hire Your Own Personal Injury Lawyer

Providing evidence that you failed to complete recommended treatment is just one of many tactics that an insurance company will employ to reduce your compensation on a personal injury claim. They could also claim that you were partly at fault for the accident, or even deny liability altogether. The insurance company could accuse you of receiving too much medical treatment, or not enough. They might pressure you to settle quickly after an accident by promising a fast payment, convincing you that your claim won’t be worth much at trial.

You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to accurately assess the value of your claim and fight back against the insurance company’s attempts to undervalue it. Remember, an insurance company’s goal is to pay out as little as possible. They are not on your side and they will not give you a fair assessment of your legal right to receive compensation for all your injuries and losses. For that, you need a personal injury lawyer.

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