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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Always see a doctor right away if you have been in a car accident.

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 It's important to see a doctor right away after you've been involved in a car accident even if you think you didn't sustain any injuries. 

 
In the moments and hours after a traumatic injury people go through a period of shock. The body reacts by sending chemicals and messages throughout your system aimed at helping you get through the initial stages of the crisis.  Pain is the loud voice that tells us to get help, but it can also interfere with thinking, so when your body senses it's in survival mode, it has the ability to reduce pain or even mask it all together. As a result, some people feel no pain right away, despite having been injured. 
 
Although this natural defense mechanism is helpful at first, it can backfire if you don't undergo a medical evaluation. You might feel fine right away, but still be injured. In the hours and days that follow, as the adrenaline wears off, the pain comes through, but in the meantime, you have been nonetheless injured all along. 
 
Going without immediate medical treatment could mean a missed opportunity for early intervention which could make your injury worse or your recovery period longer. 
 
 
Not all serious injuries resulting from car accidents or serious falls are immediately noticeable. Shock and your body's reaction to it, can mask your injuries for days or even weeks after an accident. This is particularly true in the case of traumatic brain and head injuries, but also injuries to the back, neck and spine. 
 
You may also overlook the potential impact of the emotional trauma you just went through. It's natural to experience emotional distress when you go through a trauma, particularly in cases where you may have witnessed the serious injury or death of another individual or worse, a loved one.  This emotional distress could lead to psychological damages if not treated, as it weighs on your mind and takes its toll. 
 
The best course of action  in a serious accident is to see a doctor right away, regardless of whether you are in pain or think you've been injured. 
 
The doctor will be able to examine you thoroughly and conduct any tests necessary to assess whether you've been injured in the accident, even if your body is doing its best to mask your symptoms. 
 
If, by the time you get to the hospital, you've begun to feel any discomfort or pain, or if the doctor determines that you have been injured, then he or she will be able to treat your injuries early and proactively to improve your odds of a full recovery.
 
Still, despite this practical advice, we understand many people don't want to bother with seeing a doctor when they believe their accident was just minor. If feels like a lot of fuss, attention, and maybe even a waste of time and energy. 
 
The problem is, if you fail to seek medical attention right away, and it turns out later that you did suffer an injury, in addition to the health risks you could incur, there can also be legal and financial consequences.  
 
In order to get insurance coverage to help you recover from your damages, including your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, you will need to prove that you were injured as a result of the negligence of another person.  
 
 
 
 
This is a two prong test, which requires you prove that:
 
1).  the accident was caused as a result of another person 
AND 
2).  that any injuries you have, were incurred as a direct result of that accident.  
 
 
 
The longer you wait to seek treatment, the more difficult it is to prove this second prong of the insurance test. Insurance companies will assume that the longer you wait to seek treatment, the less likely your injuries were incurred as a result of the accident. 
 
From the insurance company's perspective, the logic behind this is that if you were really seriously injured, you would have gone to the doctor. Of course, we all know that isn't always the case. There are lots of good reasons people don't go to the doctor right away, including the fact that you didn't realize you were injured at first and it was only after your symptoms began to get worse, that you realized you had actually suffered an injury. 
 
Understandable or not, the problem is it will be much more difficult to prove your claim after a delay in treatment and without the necessary medical documentation to show your injury occurred as a result of the fall, collision or crash. 
 
We often tell clients "if your symptoms aren't in a medical record- they don't exist". While that's not entirely true, it will be the position of many insurance companies. The Insurance company is not your friend, The matter how friendly that adjuster or representative may be on the phone.  Your insurance company and the other drivers insurance company is first and foremost a business and The function of the business is to make money.  As an employee of that business, it's the adjuster's job to save money where possible. 
 
That means they will look for and deny weak claims and one factor adjusters will take into consideration in determining if your claim is weak, is whether you delay treatment or have medical documentation to back up your complaints of increasing pain. 
 
A doctor's opinion, exam, x-ray or an MRI that shows an injury the same day or within a day or two of your accident is much more compelling than one that is offered months later after a long period without treatment. 
 
As you can imagine, the insurance company will question whether your injury actually took place at the time of the accident or if something happened in the interim. The insurance company will also question any complaints or symptoms you say you had, but which you did not have documented in the medical record. It's just your word, and they don't know you. More, you may find that your memory in those early days is not as good as you would hope. 
 
Therefore, It's important that you can show you sought medical treatment within a reasonable period of time after your accident to improve the odds that the insurance company will accept your claim. 
 
Deciding to forego medical treatment after an accident in an effort to save time and money can end up costing you even more in the long run if your injuries become more difficult to treat or if the insurance company decides to deny coverage.
 
 
Car crashes and serious falls can cause life-threatening injuries, some of which can take weeks and even months to appear and even longer to resolve. Further, you may be experiencing symptoms that you've dismissed because you don't realize they are related to an injury caused by the accident. For example, those headaches might not be due to allergies, they could be a sign of a head or neck injury. Your difficulty finding words, sensitivity to light and noise or problems with memory might not be due to stress or lack of sleep, as you thought, but rather, this could be a sign of a post concussive or Trumatic brain injury and that funny feeling in your fingers, like pins and needles, may actually be caused by a spine injury. While you might not recognize these symptoms as being a result of your trauma, chances are, a doctor would.
 
 
 If you've been involved in a serious accident, don't wait, get checked out by a doctor just to be sure - for your sake and for those who rely on you. 
 
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