Suing for a Delayed Personal Injury in Orange County woman sitting next to window with head wrapped in bandages after injury in CA

You thought everything was fine. You had a car accident and walked away unscathed. Thank goodness, right? Maybe not — at least, not if you start hurting a few days, weeks, or even months after the incident.

This is just one example of delayed injury, but it’s a common one. Often, we don’t understand the full extent of our injuries until some time after the accident. But how does that affect a potential personal injury lawsuit? More specifically, how does a delayed injury affect the statute of limitations?

That’s exactly what the Case Barnett Law team explores in this article. Read on to learn everything you need to know, but before you keep reading, know this: If you’ve been hurt thanks to someone else’s negligence, the clock may already be ticking for when you can sue. If that is the case for you, contact our Orange County auto accident attorney and legal team as soon as possible.

The California Statute of Limitations

To understand how delayed injuries affect personal injury lawsuits, we need to begin with the basic rule about the time limit for when you can sue after an injury. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitations for most kinds of injuries is two years.

Generally, that means you have two years from the date of a car accident, slip-and-fall accident, or some other kind of accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. And if you miss that deadline, you probably will lose your chance to recover personal injury compensation.

That’s usually the case, but it’s not always true. That’s because some injuries show up long after an accident occurs. California has a rule for situations like that, and it can affect your lawsuit filing timeline.

The Delayed Discovery Rule in California

How long do you have to file a lawsuit if you don’t discover your injury right away? According to the delayed discovery rule, you have one year from the date you discover a previously unknown injury to file your lawsuit.

Keep in mind, however, that this rule only applies when you truly didn’t know about the injury and no reasonable person would have. You either need to have had no reason to suspect you were injured or received some kind of confirmation that you appeared to be OK. In those cases, you can get a little longer than the prescribed two-year statute of limitations.

Other Situations in Which ‘Tolling’ May Apply

Delayed injury discovery is not the only situation in which California law may intervene to delay the statute of limitations. In fact, there are several situations that may call for “tolling” — delaying — the statute of limitations.

The rules for when the statute of limitations may be tolled in California are not as consistent as the delayed discovery rule. However, under certain circumstances, you may be able to have the statute of limitations tolled. Here is some examples of when that might happen:

For all of the above situations, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the situation changes. So, when you become an adult, get out of prison, return to California, or regain your mental health, the clock may start ticking.

Why Contact a California Lawyer for a Delayed Injury?

It can be difficult to determine when the delayed discovery rule may apply to your case. For example, what if you feel delayed pain from an injury a couple of weeks after a car crash? How long do you have to file? 

This is why so many people in your situation team up with a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney can answer all of these questions and advise you on your best next steps. Meanwhile, making the argument that the statute of limitations should be tolled may be much easier if you have the guidance of a qualified attorney.

This is a serious situation: Your ability to recover compensation for your injuries is on the line if you miss the deadline to file a claim. The right personal injury attorney can help you make sure you file on time and with a solid case.

How Delayed Injuries Happen

If you have never experienced pain from a delayed injury before, the idea of a delayed injury may sound a little hard to believe. But our Costa Mesa personal injury attorney mentions that this is a common phenomenon that can have serious effects on your life. 

Here are just a few common types of delayed injuries:

  • Whiplash. Adrenaline surges through your body during a car crash. That surge can delay the pain from whiplash and similar neck injuries for days.
  • Internal bleeding. You may look and feel fine on the outside after an accident, but on the inside, an impact or other force might have started some internal bleeding. Over time, internal bleeding can become deadly.
  • Concussions. If you suffer a blow to your head, you may feel OK immediately after but actually have a concussion that requires medical attention.
  • Ringing in the ears. Traumatic brain injuries can lead to ringing in the ears (tinnitus) that doesn’t show up for weeks or even months.
  • Back pain. Pain in your back can be long-term and debilitating, but it doesn’t always show up immediately after an accident.
  • Tingling and numbness. Nerve damage in an accident may be undetectable at first but lead to numbness and tingling, as well as nerve pain, later on.
  • Internal injuries after surgery. If a surgeon makes a mistake during surgery, you may not know for months or even years that the mistake happened. For example, one study found that 1 out of every 6 surgical instruments left inside of a patient was not discovered for over six months.

Because some of these injuries are difficult to immediately detect but can be life-threatening, it’s critically important that you seek medical care after any kind of accident — even if you feel fine at the moment.

Delayed Pain from an Injury? Reach Out to Case Barnett Law

Delayed injuries are common, and they’re often serious. Just because your injury didn’t show up right away doesn’t mean it’s not hurting you now. In fact, delayed pain from an injury can turn your entire life upside-down, leaving you unable to work or enjoy your life the way you once did.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law
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