Why You Should See a Doctor After a Car Accident

Key Points:

  • Seeking medical help immediately after an accident is not only critical for your physical recovery but also for your potential legal claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
  • Car accident victims often don’t seek medical treatment when they experience only mild soreness or discomfort immediately after a crash. However, accidents can cause “silent” injuries that may go unnoticed at first but can cause serious problems later.
  • If you don’t seek a medical evaluation in a reasonable amount of time after the accident, the insurance company may use the delay to deny or reduce your compensation.
  • Any medical bills or expenses you or your health insurance company pay should be included in your settlement or damages award.

When you’re involved in a car accident, seeking immediate medical attention can save your life. If you experience severe pain and other symptoms right away, you may realize you need medical help at the accident scene. However, if your symptoms seem minor or nonexistent in the immediate aftermath, you may believe that a medical evaluation is unnecessary.

Unfortunately, certain types of serious injuries may not be obvious until the next day—or later. Injured victims may also think their seemingly minor symptoms will go away without treatment, only to find their condition worsens over time. The only way to know for sure whether you need treatment is to seek a medical evaluation.

Seeking medical help immediately after an accident is not only critical for your physical recovery but also for your potential legal claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. To ensure that you heal quickly and receive maximum compensation for your injuries, a simple visit to the doctor after a car accident can make all the difference.

Medical Exams Can Catch Silent Car Accident Injuries

Car accident victims often don’t seek medical treatment when they experience only mild soreness or discomfort immediately after a crash. However, accidents can cause “silent” injuries that may go unnoticed at first but can cause serious problems later. In fact, even if you experience no symptoms at all in the immediate aftermath, silent injuries may still develop hours, days, or weeks later.

medical evaluation

Some common silent injuries include headaches/dizziness, back or neck pain, numbness, shoulder injuries, abdominal pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Certain symptoms may resolve on their own, but they could also be a sign of a more severe underlying medical issue.

For example, you may start to experience headaches hours or days after the accident. A headache could simply be soreness caused by the impact, but headaches and/or dizziness could also be caused by whiplash, a concussion, a blood clot, or a traumatic brain injury—conditions that should not be left untreated.

A silent injury may even prove fatal without timely medical intervention. For example, abdominal pain, bruising, or swelling may be a sign of internal bleeding. Depending on the severity, internal bleeding can result in organ failure, coma, or death if left untreated.

To ensure that you haven’t suffered a silent injury, it’s important to see a doctor right away after a car accident. With a thorough medical exam, you can get the diagnosis and treatment you need to recover and prevent your injury from becoming more severe over time.

Prompt Medical Treatment Can Help Injuries Heal Faster

While some car accident injuries may be obvious and require an ambulance ride to the hospital, many others are only detected during a medical exam. Often, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or other testing is required to detect an injury or determine its severity. Regardless of the type or severity of the injury, however, early diagnosis and treatment leads to a better prognosis and faster recovery.

By catching the problem early, you can start the healing process quickly and prevent your condition from becoming worse. Once your doctor has diagnosed the problem, you should always follow the treatment protocol they advise—even if you believe you have recovered earlier than expected. Never discontinue treatment without first consulting your doctor, as a medical problem that is not fully resolved can return or become exacerbated.

Remember that prompt treatment not only helps your injuries heal faster but also prevents the insurance company from using the delay against you at trial or during settlement negotiations. If you discontinue treatment or fail to follow the doctor’s instructions, the insurance company can also use that information to deny or reduce your compensation.

What Type of Doctor Should You See for a Car Accident Medical Evaluation?

Getting the right treatment after a car accident is essential to your recovery, but many people wonder which type of doctor is most qualified to assess their injuries through a medical evaluation. The answer isn’t always simple because it often depends on the nature of your injury, and you may need to see more than one doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. If it’s clear in the immediate aftermath of the crash that your injuries are severe and/or life-threatening, you should be transported to the emergency room via ambulance right away. Either you, the police, the other driver, or witnesses may call 911 to request an ambulance. Emergency room doctors routinely treat accident victims and are experienced in providing acute care as well as detecting silent injuries through medical evaluations.

Even if you don’t require an ambulance, you can still seek a medical evaluation for your accident injuries at the ER. If you need surgery or follow-up treatment, the ER doctor will likely send you to another doctor that specializes in your type of injury.

For example, if you need surgery or treatment to repair a broken bone or torn ligament, you will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
Though primary care doctors typically don’t have as much experience in evaluating car accident injuries as ER physicians, you can still see your primary care doctor for a medical exam if you prefer. Your primary care doctor is also likely to refer you to a specialist based on your type of injury and may order x-rays or other tests to assess your condition. If you’re unable to schedule a timely appointment with your primary care doctor, an urgent care facility is another option.

For certain types of injuries, you may be treated by a chiropractor or physical therapist. You should seek an evaluation from a medical doctor before starting treatment; however, chiropractors and physical therapists are also trained to take histories, perform examinations, and administer treatment.

No matter who examines and/or treats you for your injuries, all health-care providers—even the paramedics at the scene— keep records that can be submitted to prove your insurance claim. If you’re filing a legal claim, your doctor will write up a report documenting your assessment and treatment. Make sure that your doctor’s records accurately reflect what you stated about the accident and your injuries.

Who Pays for Your Medical Exam after a Car Accident?

After a car accident, the carrier that insures the at-fault driver is responsible for paying the costs. These costs include medical exams and any treatment you receive for your injuries and can be recovered as damages in your insurance claim.

That means if someone else caused the collision, their insurance company is obligated to pay your medical expenses up to the liability policy limit. (Likewise, if you were at fault, your liability policy would cover the other driver’s medical costs.)

Because you generally must pay medical bills as you incur them, you may seek reimbursement as part of your settlement. Your health insurance company would also be entitled to reimbursement for the portion it paid.

If you were responsible for causing the accident, your health insurance company pays the cost of your medical exam and other treatment based on the terms of your plan. If you have MedPay as part of your auto insurance coverage, MedPay coverage can help with the cost of co-payments, deductibles, or other medical expenses your health insurance doesn’t pay. MedPay is optional in Georgia and can provide coverage regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

Insurance Companies May Deny or Reduce Compensation if You Delay Treatment

Sometimes after a car accident, an injured party may wait days or weeks to see a doctor either because they don’t realize how badly they’re hurt, or they’re worried about how much they may pay out of pocket. However, delaying medical treatment after an accident can have serious consequences for your health and your potential legal claim.

If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you will likely be contacted by an insurance claims adjuster. The adjuster is responsible for investigating the accident, determining who was at fault, and calculating how much compensation you should receive. You should consult an attorney before providing information about the accident and your costs; if you hire an attorney to represent you, the adjuster should collect relevant information from your attorney.

The insurance adjuster will use any information they receive to help determine compensation. If you file an injury claim, the adjuster will seek documentation that shows the accident caused your injuries. Part of this documentation includes the dates and records relating to your medical evaluations and treatment. The adjuster will compare your exam date(s) with the date of the accident to determine whether you sought medical treatment within a reasonable time frame.

Note that many insurance carriers consider 72 hours a reasonable amount of time—if you wait longer to get an exam, the adjuster may question the severity of your injury. After all, the adjuster may claim, if you didn’t need to see a doctor right away, you must not have been badly hurt. The adjuster may even use the delay to argue that the accident didn’t cause the injury; something else did (e.g., a previous accident).

Remember that insurance companies make a profit by protecting their bottom line. That means they will look for any evidence they can use to deny or reduce the amount of compensation they pay for an injury claim. In other words, the longer you wait to get a medical evaluation, the lower your chances are of receiving maximum compensation for your injuries.

Our Team of Car Accident Injury Lawyers Can Help

Without an experienced car accident attorney handling your case, you risk not receiving all the compensation you deserve. Since 1993, our injury lawyers have represented car accident victims through all stages of the claims process and know how to negotiate with insurance companies that are trying to unfairly withhold compensation.

Our lawyers go to work immediately to investigate the accident and gather all the evidence necessary to prove the insurance company owes you compensation for your injuries. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

- D. Lo
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