A car accident is a physical and emotional traumatic event. Whether it is a rear-end collision or catastrophic collision in an intersection, the body’s natural response to an accident is to mask injuries – part of the natural flight or fight response.
Therefore, immediately after an accident you might feel fine or think that you are not seriously injured. This is especially true in fender benders where lacerations and broken bones are not present, but soft tissue injuries might be.
You may wonder if you should see a doctor right away if you are feeling fine, or how long you have to see a doctor. A prominent mistake accident victims make is making a delay in treatment. This means that they wait to see a physician after an accident – whether going to the emergency room or seeing their family physician.
Not only does this put your health at risk, but it can dramatically decrease your chances of winning an injury lawsuit or even seeking compensation from an insurance claim later.
It is important that you monitor your injuries following a car accident to protect your health, but also your legal rights. Whether you were recently in a car accident or want to be prepared, here are a few things to consider before delaying treatment:
A car accident, from the psychological view, is exciting. It is not fun or thrilling, but your body’s emotional response is like that of something exciting. You could be injured but continue to go on because your body has created adrenaline and endorphins, which mask injuries. These chemicals block pain and charge you to carry forward.
A car accident creates a level of excitement that forces your body to respond by making more adrenaline and endorphins. Your energy increases, you do not feel pain (or pain is dulled), and you will feel fine – even if you might not be fine. Once the chemicals wear off, you might notice the pain increases. Sometimes it takes a few hours, other times a few days depending on the type of injury.
Some people shrug off slight discomfort and pain, thinking they are too tough to be seriously injured in an accident. So, they put off seeing a doctor. A doctor is trained to examine you after an accident and look for the injuries you might not feel right away -including internal bleeding or even a traumatic brain injury.
Whether you are injured or not, see a physician. Let the provider make the professional decision that you are okay and uninjured rather than just assuming you are fine because you walked away.
For every day you wait to seek medical treatment you are reducing the amount of money that the insurance company will pay in a settlement. This is because insurance companies rely on settlement and claim evaluation software programs.
These programs help insurance claims adjusters evaluate your claim. One factor the program uses is data from the accident, medical costs, and treatments. Delays in treatment reduce settlements because the software automatically deducts if you go 72 hours or more without medical treatment.
If you do see a physician in that 72-hour window, the program then adds value score to your claim.
You might feel fine right now, but would you rather wake up in excruciating pain or already have treatments in place to prevent that? Your body’s natural response to direct trauma is to mask it, but your physician can diagnose injuries and proactively treat before the real pain sets in.
This lessens your physical discomfort a few days after the crash but also reduces your medical costs.
As a plaintiff in an injury case or a victim filing an insurance claim, you must mitigate damages. That means do your part to reduce the amount of compensation necessary to satisfy your claim. If you avoid medical treatment, ignore doctor’s advice, or do anything to exacerbate the injury (and increase medical costs as a result), you may find the courts less than willing to give you compensation for those costs.
Therefore, seeking medical treatment right away can prevent the defense team from trying to claim that you did not fulfill your duty to mitigate damages.
Due to the trauma of an accident, certain types of injuries are less likely to be present at the scene – which might make you assume that you are fine.
Soft tissues are the tendons, muscles, ligaments and other soft portions of the body. In an accident, even at low speeds, the force generated from the collision affects these tissues. The stress on your joints, muscles, and ligaments may cause tears and strains, which take a few days to manifest symptoms.
One of the more common types of soft tissue injuries is whiplash. Whiplash is a type of injury involving soft tissue areas in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. It occurs from the violent whipping motions of your neck and head in an accident – especially a rear-end collision.
Soft tissue injuries usually result in pain, reduced mobility, headaches, stiffness, and swelling. However, it can take a few hours to a few days for these symptoms to manifest. Often, victims with whiplash will notice it the day after the accident when they wake up in the morning.
Soft tissues are not easily diagnosed either, because not all soft tissue injuries can be seen on X-rays or other diagnostic tests. While they are more challenging to diagnose, physicians who have experience treating accident victims can diagnose through a series of physical examinations and tests.
A soft tissue injury can be debilitating. Some victims have minor discomfort while others can have stiffness, pain, and even suffer from constant migraines. Getting medical treatment right away might help alleviate the pain and prevent unnecessary discomfort.
Another injury you might not see right away is a concussion or minor TBI. Your skull protects your brain by acting as a shell, and the fluid surrounding the brain is its natural cushion. When your body is violently jolted in an accident, or you strike your head against a hard object, that fluid may not prevent your brain from striking the side of your skull.
When this occurs, you may have a concussion. A concussion could be minor, but also very serious, especially if it goes untreated. Concussions should not be confused with contusions. Contusions are not serious and typically resolve in a few days, while a concussion might require medical treatment.
Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the concussion, and not all accident victims exhibit the same symptoms. Also, you do not need to lose consciousness in your accident to have a concussion. If you notice any of the following symptoms following an accident, speak with a doctor right away:
Some symptoms appear right away, while others take a few hours, days or weeks to develop. In rare cases, a concussion could take months to show symptoms.
Rarely does a concussion cause permanent brain damage, but if you do not know you have a concussion and engage in physical activity – such as a sport – you could cause further damage that does create a permanent injury.
Unlike soft tissue injuries, a concussion can be diagnosed by an emergency room physician – even if you are not exhibiting all the symptoms immediately after your accident. First, physicians will perform a physical examination and ask if you hit your head in the accident. They then may order an MRI or CT scan to check for injuries. These diagnostic tools typically show the injury and make it easier for a physician to diagnose a concussion.
Also, your physician may be able to diagnose your concussion based on eye movements alone. If you have visual changes, pupil size changes, light sensitivity, or weird eye movements following an accident, your physician might diagnose a concussion.
Like any brain injury, you need medical intervention. Some concussions can recover on their own, while other times you may require a medical procedure or even surgery. If your concussion causes a headache, you may be prescribed medication for that headache until the concussion resolves itself.
You will also need to avoid activities that could further injure your brain and stop drinking any alcohol to prevent brain bleeds.
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, seek medical treatment right away. Then, speak with an attorney that has experience handling accident cases. Your attorney can help protect you from an insurance company trying to devalue your claim – even if it took you a day or two to see the doctor.