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Why You Should Always See a Doctor After a Car Accident

You’re in what seems to be a minor car accident. Your car may be damaged, but you walked away okay, perhaps with just a few cuts or scrapes. You may be one of the lucky ones – but you still need to get checked out by a doctor.

That may seem counterintuitive, or like a waste of time when you’re already dealing with the other fallout of your car crash, but it’s important. Some of the most challenging situations car accident lawyers deal with started with someone failing to get medical attention after a crash.

The “fight-or-flight” response can work against you after a wreck.

A traumatic event such as a car crash activates your body’s natural, biological responses to a threat: the acute stress response or “fight-or-flight.” Your levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline go way up. This is important to help you survive the accident, but it can also start to work against you in the aftermath.

While your adrenaline levels are high, you have more energy, faster blood clotting, and in particular, lower perception of pain. This can make a serious injury feel like a minor injury, or a minor injury feel like nothing at all. In other words, you are not in a position to self-assess your level of injury. You need a medical professional to take a closer look.

Some car accident injuries cause delayed-onset symptoms.

Some injuries sustained in car accidents are obvious – puncture wounds, burns, broken bones, and so on. However, there are certain parts of the body where injuries can hide for hours, days, or even weeks after the crash. Some such injuries include:

  • Whiplash, a neck injury caused by hyperextension and hyperflexion when the head moves violently back and forth during a crash.
  • Spine injuries, which have to be caught early in order to prevent serious complications such as paralysis.
  • Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which can take days or weeks to start showing symptoms.
  • Internal bleeding, often caused by the blunt force of the seat belt against organs such as the heart, lungs, or kidneys.

Again, the body’s natural reaction to an accident can betray you here. When an organ or tissue is damaged, the rest of the body works very hard to make up for the loss of function – until it can’t anymore. When that happens, the injury might be worse than it would have been if caught and treated early. In short, getting medical attention is the best option for your health. It also protects your legal rights.

If you don’t get medical attention right away, the insurance company benefits.

If you’re in a car accident caused by another driver, then the other driver’s liability insurance is supposed to pay for your medical expenses and other losses related to the injury. If your policy includes medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP), those types of coverage should likewise cover your injuries on a no-fault basis. However, this insurance only applies to injuries that were actually sustained in a car accident.

As such, if you delayed getting medical attention for days or weeks after the accident, the insurance company can argue that something happened during that intervening time to cause or aggravate your injuries – and thus, they aren’t covered. In other words, the longer you wait, the easier it is for the insurance company to deny your claim on that basis. Conversely, the sooner you get medical attention, the less room the insurance company has to make that argument.

Here’s what to do when you go to the doctor.

If your primary care provider (PCP) has walk-in hours or can make you a same-day appointment after a car accident, see them. They know your medical history and existing medical conditions, so they’re best positioned to diagnose your injuries. Again, though, the key is to act as quickly as possible, even if that means going to an emergency room or urgent care clinic and following up with your doctor afterward.

Tell the provider who sees you that you were in a car accident and explain all your symptoms in as much detail as you can. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t leave anything out either. A minor symptom could be a warning sign of a more serious injury. Your doctor may need to refer you to a specialist or order diagnostic tests such as an X-ray or MRI. Make sure you go to those follow-up appointments and follow your doctor’s instructions. This is the way to protect both your health and your legal rights.

Just as importantly, keep copies of all medical records associated with your car accident – including visit summaries, doctor’s orders, prescriptions, discharge instructions, and bills. The goal is to make sure you have precise documentation of every injury related to the car crash so there is no room for the insurance company to dispute or downplay the effects the accident has had on your body.

Talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your rights after an accident is to see a doctor right away. The other is to get legal advice. Remember, anything you say to an insurance company – even your own – after a car accident can and will be used against you. Insurance adjusters and representatives are trained to look for reasons to reduce or deny claims. Their job is to protect their employer’s interests. A car accident lawyer works for you – and can deal with the insurance company on your behalf to protect your rights.

Most attorneys who represent car accident victims offer free consultations, so there is no downside to talking to a lawyer about your options. When you go to your free consultation, bring your records from your medical evaluation and any other documents related to your case, and be prepared to tell the lawyer what happened and how it has affected your life. Don’t delay; schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney in your area today.

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