The most important thing you can do after an accident is seek medical attention. There are many reasons for this, but primarily, seeing a doctor is the best way to rule out injuries — or begin treatment right away to limit the damage. Your health should always be your first priority after an accident, and seeing a medical professional is a crucial part of caring for yourself.
Visiting a doctor also creates a record of your injury, documentation that serves as critical evidence in a personal injury case. If you wait to visit a doctor, it can limit the amount of compensation you are able to recover to pay for your medical care and other expenses and damages.
This is true even if your accident seems minor, or if you feel as though you are not seriously injured. Even less severe accidents can cause serious injuries, and symptoms may be subtle or may not be immediately apparent. And if you do notice signs of an issue — such as dizziness or headaches — you shouldn’t assume that these symptoms will go away on their own.
The bottom line is that you should always seek medical care as soon as possible after an accident. Here’s why in more detail.
Injuries Occur Frequently — Even in Minor Accidents
Even fender benders and other minor accidents can cause injuries. In fact, whiplash and nerve issues are common in these accidents. The impact of a collision — any collision — generates a great deal of force. Additionally, applying the brakes suddenly can cause you to jerk forward. This places incredible stress on your joints and surrounding soft tissue, particularly around your spine and neck.
Individuals involved in car accidents often sustain injuries like these. For instance, around 12 percent of accident victims are diagnosed with whiplash following a collision, making it the most common injury in motor vehicle accidents. Soft tissue injuries like this can have a serious impact on your health and overall well-being. Most individuals suffering from whiplash experience diminished quality of life — even years after their accident.
These types of injuries can also be expensive to treat. For instance, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), minor external injuries cost a mean of $3,321 to treat, while minor to moderate fractures and dislocations can cost up to a mean $14,696. The cost of treatment for a less serious accident can still have a major impact on your financial stability.
Symptoms of Serious Injuries May Take Days to Appear
Another reason not to delay medical treatment is that you may be more seriously injured than you realize. Your body will release a rush of adrenaline and endorphins after an accident, which can diminish feelings of pain. It can sometimes take days for these chemical reactions to subside, after which you may notice symptoms like pain, stiffness, and lack of motor function that were not immediately evident after the collision.
Furthermore, signs of head and neck trauma, such as difficulty concentrating or dizziness, may only become apparent after you return to your daily activities. For the sake of your health, it’s imperative that you have a doctor examine you as soon as possible to rule out injuries like these.
Waiting to See a Doctor Can Undermine Your Case
From a legal standpoint, waiting over 72 hours to seek medical care can significantly impact your case for compensation. Visiting a medical professional creates a record of your injuries, which can be used to document their severity and potential impact to your life. As soon as you receive care, you will be able to begin building a case for compensation.
However, if you delay treatment, insurance carriers, defendants, and other parties may claim that your accident was not serious. Although medical symptoms may take time to manifest, a delay in treatment can be construed by some as evidence of a less severe — and less costly — injury.
You Have More Options to Pay for Medical Care Than You Think
Some accident victims delay medical treatment because they are concerned about how to afford care. However, many people do not understand the full range of options available to them to pay doctors bills. For instance, your medical provider may be willing to arrange a payment plan or defer payments until after your case is resolved. In certain situations, you may be able to apply for financial aid through various programs. You may even be able to obtain a medical loan or a line of credit to pay for treatment while you wait for your case to be settled.
Navigating the process of obtaining medical care, documenting injuries, and arranging payments is extremely difficult and labor intensive. That’s why many accident victims turn to car accident lawyers for advice on these matters. Our team at FVF has extensive experience with accidents like yours and can provide you with a summary of your rights and options — including your choices for receiving and paying for medical care. Contact us today for a free case consultation with one of our expert car accident lawyers.