There are several key reasons why you should seek medical help as soon as possible after a vehicle accident. Prompt medical care can mean the difference between life and death, between chronic injuries and injuries that fully mend, and between treatments that have a good chance of success and treatments that may not be as effective because you waited too long before receiving treatment. Delaying your medical care can also affect the value of your claim. Most insurance adjusters will give you a lower offer if they think your injuries weren’t serious enough to seek immediate medical help. In short, seeing a doctor immediately helps to protect your health and your right to compensation.
How does prompt medical care affect your medical recovery?
Delaying treatment for injuries you suffered can hurt the ability of doctors to treat you. Many victims are taken directly from the car accident site to the closest emergency room. If you’re undecided or think that you’re okay, you need to think again. It’s always advisable to err on the side of caution and get examined at a local ER or urgent care.
Many injuries don’t result in immediate pain due to our body’s natural injury response by producing large amount of hormones that diminishes the feeling of pain. A classic example is a whiplash injury. Your neck may not bother you until days after the accident – but if you wait until the pain appears, you may lose valuable time to treat the whiplash injury properly. Another common example is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The symptoms of a TBI may be delayed and show up weeks or months after the head injury occurred. Some victims don’t even know they have a TBI until a family member realizes there’s something wrong.
Delays in treatment could even cause death. For example, many car accident victims don’t know whether they’re bleeding internally. Without immediate care, the bleeding may lead to fatal complications.
If you do have any pain, the sooner you see a doctor, the sooner the doctor can diagnose your injuries and recommend treatments. Many car accident victims require surgery to maximize their chances of a full recovery or the best recovery possible. It’s perfectly reasonable to seek medical treatment after any accident. You shouldn’t try to be a hero by waiting until the pain is unbearable.
What are the signs that you need medical care after an Atlanta vehicle accident?
You should never self-diagnose yourself. Emergency medical care providers are trained to examine victims of car accidents, truck accidents, and other types of vehicle accidents. They are trained to examine your symptoms, ask you questions, conduct a physical examination, and perform diagnostic tests like X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and blood tests.
Some of the common types of motor vehicle accident injuries that should be examined immediately include:
- Traumatic brain injuries and head injuries: These injuries occur when there is a forceful blow to the head. A common example is when a vehicle occupant’s head strikes the car dashboard or the side of the vehicle. Some of the signs and symptoms of a TBI or a concussion include behavior changes, convulsions, seizures, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, lack of balance, loss of memory, loss of concentration, nausea, vomiting, blurry vision, and unconsciousness. Neurosurgeons, neurologists, and other doctors help to treat victims with head trauma. Victims may suffer permeant cognitive damage, physical pain, and emotional distress.
- Spinal cord damage: Damage to the spine can cause paralysis, disc damage, and a lifetime of chronic pain. The sooner doctors diagnose and treat spinal cord damage, the better.
- Broken bones: The human body has 206 bones. Any one of these bones can be fractured in an accident. X-rays are usually used to determine which bone(s) broke and the type of fracture (complex, simple, compound, or multiple). Symptoms include intense pain, loss of motion, numbness, inability to move or use that part of your body, and tingling sensations.
- Internal bleeding and organ damage: These dangerous, and possibly deadly, injuries must be examined immediately. Some of the symptoms include chest pain, breathlessness, extreme thirst, sweating, vomiting, nausea, and organ dysfunction.
- Soft tissue injuries: These are injuries to the muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons. Failure to treat these injuries promptly can cause mobility problems and chronic pain. Symptoms of soft tissue and nerve injuries include loss of sensation, reduced mobility, shooting pains, and swelling and redness.
- Whiplash: This injury is very common from rear-end collisions. The occupants of the vehicle in front often suffer whiplash when their necks are pushed forward and then rapidly back to the original position.
- Back and neck injuries: Many car, truck, and motorcycle accident victims suffer back and neck injuries, including whiplash, broken bones, sprains, disc damage, and other related injuries. Signs of neck or back damage include pain, numbness or tingling of the arms or legs, spine stiffness, a sharp shooting pain from your buttocks down your leg, and bladder or bowel problems. Signs of neck pain include headaches, shoulder pain, sharp shooting pains or dull aches in your neck, and arm numbness or tingling. Accident victims who do not get prompt treatment for their injuries may live with chronic back and neck pain for the rest of their lives. Early intervention can help minimize the severity of the damage.
How does a delay in medical care affect the value of your legal claim?
Failure to seek prompt medical care can affect your claim for compensation in several ways:
- The liability insurance carrier will use your delay in seeking treatment against you. Their argument will be that if you were really hurting, you would have gone to the ER or seen a specialist immediately. The insurance company will likely offer you less money to settle your claim than if you had sought prompt medical treatment.
- The defense lawyer will use your delay in seeking medical care against you. If the insurance company doesn’t offer a fair settlement, your case will likely be tried before a jury. The defense lawyer will introduce into evidence the fact that you waited to seek treatment.
- Your own carrier may have time limits built into their policies. You do need to be concerned about your own insurance carrier and waiting too long to seek treatment because they may pay your medical bills while your lawsuit is pending. They may also argue that they don’t have to pay an uninsured/underinsured claim (UM/UIM) claim in case the defendants do not have the insurance to pay your damages.
Should you wait to seek medical care if you don’t have medical insurance?
No. Your health comes first. Without your health, you can’t work and you can’t enjoy your family and your life. Generally, the emergency room doctors and specialists will treat you if you had an accident – even if you don’t have insurance – because they understand they will usually be paid when your case settles or if there is a jury verdict in your favor. Our lawyers will advocate on your behalf if your health provider is hesitant to help because of your finances or lack of health insurance.
Further, per the Patient Advocate Foundation, “No matter what your insurance status, hospitals and emergencies room must provide adequate care if your situation qualifies as an emergency.”
Normally, you should seek care at a local emergency room. After the ER treatment, you should meet with your family doctor for follow-up care. Your family doctor will then help you see any specialists and therapists that you may need to treat your vehicle accident injuries.
All the doctors you see should have medical records that document when you saw them, the cost of the care, and the type of treatment they provided. Our Atlanta vehicle accident lawyers will work with your doctors to obtain the proper medical records – including your diagnosis, prognosis, all the ways your injuries are affecting your life, and confirmation that your injuries were due to your accident.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our lawyers have been recognized by leading rating associations, bar associations, insurance companies, and defense lawyers as one of the top personal injury advocates in Georgia. We’ll guide you through each phase of your vehicle accident claim, including working with your doctors and our own network of doctors when necessary to help you obtain the legal recovery you deserve. To discuss your car, truck, or other accident claim, call us or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation with our experienced personal injury lawyers in Atlanta or Savannah.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.