A common question by those injured in car accidents is: "how much time does a person have to seek medical treatment following a car accident?"
The short answer is that there is no certain time frame within which Iowa law requires an accident victim to seek medical treatment. Theoretically, a person could be hit by a car, not go to the doctor for a year, and the insurance company would still be responsible for your medical bills and other damages. However, there are time frames within which claims have to be filed.
Generally a person has two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations. So while there is not technically a period within which a person must seek treatment, if an individual discovered an injury after two years, the claim would be denied outright by the insurance company and could not be filed. Luckily, it would be highly unlikely that symptoms from an injury would start to be noticed more than two years after an accident. Regardless, it is certainly advisable to seek medical attention as soon as is practical following an accident.
The most important reason to promptly seek medical attention following an injury is obviously for the person's health. Many injuries require immediate attention to minimize the pain and effects on the body. In certain circumstances, injuries can become life threatening if not treated immediately. Also, in the worst scenarios, a person, often one that is in shock, simply does not realize the severity of an injury. For these reasons, it is advisable to be checked out by a physician following an accident even if the person thinks they are not seriously hurt.
Another effect of delaying treatment is an insurance company’s treatment of medical expenses. If another driver causes an accident that results in injuries, that driver’s insurance company is generally responsible for the injured individual's medical expenses and other damages. However, the longer the time period between the accident and the treatment, the more likely the insurance company will resist or at least delay paying for treatment. Insurance companies often try many tactics to avoid paying an injured party. One is to claim that the injury was not related to the accident. This claim is difficult to make if the treatment was received immediately following the accident. However, if there is no treatment for say, six months, it is much more likely that an insurance company tries to relate the symptoms to another cause such as work, exercising, or another factor. This is yet another reason to seek medical treatment sooner rather than later.
In summary, if you are in an accident, it is always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor to be safe. Even if time has gone by since the accident, if a problem arises, definitely seek medical attention. While a delay can complicate the claims process, it definitely does not does not preclude recovery. Lastly, once you are aware of a problem, do not delay. This can hurt you and your recovery and your health is paramount regardless of whether or not a claim is ever necessary.