How Orthopedic Doctors Can Help Car Accident Victims

Key Points:

  • Orthopedic doctors specialize in the bones, joints, and muscles that make movement possible.
  • An orthopedic clinic is specially equipped and staffed to diagnose and treat of traumatic injuries caused by car accidents.
  • Many orthopedists understand the process of personal injury insurance claims, which can help with documentation to expedite your claim.

What Does an Orthopedic Specialist Do?

Physical therapists are checking patients elbows at the clinic office room
Physical therapists are checking patients elbows at the clinic office room

Orthopedists are doctors who specialize in the musculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that are essential to our movements.

While orthopedic doctors are often referred to as “sports doctors,” their expertise goes far beyond the treatment of impact injuries suffered by athletes. In addition, these specialists treat a wide range of injuries, including trauma from automobile accidents. Orthopedists can help victims retain and regain the use of their musculoskeletal system after injuries.

What Type of Car Accident Injuries Would an Orthopedic Doctor Treat?

Orthopedic doctors treat broken arms and legs, in addition to other injuries to the musculoskeletal system. Some of the injuries orthopedic doctors treat include the following:

  • Fractured hips
  • Broken or fractured hands, wrists, and fingers
  • Shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff damage
  • Injuries to tendons and joints, such as the medial or anterior cruciate ligaments of the knee (MCL/ACL)
  • Herniated spinal discs and other spinal injuries
  • Severe burns

Pinched nerve: This is the common name for what doctors call nerve compression. When a nerve in your spine is compacted or pinched between vertebra, it can cause pain, numbness, weakness, and a tingling sensation that feels like “pins and needles.” These injuries are common in car accidents because of the rapid, violent bending and shaking that can occur. Victims may feel pain in the area where the nerve is pinched but can also suffer radiating pain that starts in the back and then shoots down the leg and hip. The pain may worsen during certain movements or motions.

Whiplash: Whiplash often occurs from car accidents when there is a rapid and forceful deceleration or jerking of the head that causes it to whip forward and back again. Whiplash can occur even in low-speed accidents and is quite common from rear-end collisions. The violent motion from impact can cause the muscles and ligaments of the neck to stretch and strain, hyperextending them.

Symptoms of whiplash include headache, limitations to the neck’s normal range of motion, numbness, and muscle spasms, which can happen immediately or appear hours or days after the accident.

Concussion: The impact of a traffic collision can cause your brain, which floats in protective spinal fluid in your skull, to bang around inside your head. This forceful impact can result in brain bruising, or a concussion. A concussion can occur when your head is violently shaken, even if it doesn’t hit anything.

Because your brain controls all the systems in your body, normal functions such as balance, vision, and hearing can be compromised as a result of a concussion. Additionally, such an injury can impact your ability to think, reason, and concentrate.

Burns: When accident victims suffer severe burns, they may require surgery and skin grafts. The scarring from burns can cause contractures (the shortening and hardening of muscles, tendons, or other tissues), which can lead to the deformity and rigidity of joints around the affected areas. Such contractures can prevent certain areas of the body from functioning properly. Therefore, orthopedists often help treat these injuries to avoid the long-term consequences burns can cause.  

Benefits of Seeing an Orthopedic Doctor After a Car Accident

Because of the nature of their work, orthopedic clinics are usually equipped with specialized tools needed to visualize and diagnose problems with bones and joints. Orthopedic offices also usually provide access to X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.

In addition, orthopedic doctors regularly see patients involved in car accidents. This means they are likely accustomed to dealing with the insurance claims that follow such accidents.

Working with an experienced orthopedist can make the claims process easier for victims. The doctor’s familiarity with the process also gives them a better understanding of the financial problems victims face. This often means they can provide the victim with more options in terms of payment.

Most importantly, though, they deal with traumatic injuries each day. As a result, they know which injuries to look for – including ones that may be hidden. This means less time is wasted in the diagnostic process, which can help you get the necessary treatment more quickly so you can begin healing.

When to See an Orthopedic Doctor After a Car Accident

After a car accident, it is crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure your injuries are thoroughly reviewed, documented, and that you receive any necessary care. While you may be tempted to wait to see your primary care provider, these doctors are typically not available right away. In addition, primary care facilities often do not have the advanced diagnostic equipment that may be required. Therefore, we encourage you to go to the hospital emergency room, where your injuries can be fully assessed.

During this process, the ER doctors may recommend that you follow up with an orthopedic shortly after. If so, it’s best to make an appointment with an orthopedist as quickly as possible. However, because orthopedics are specialists, there can sometimes be long waits for appointments.

Fortunately, many practices recognize that accident victims need emergent care and offer their services more readily. Some orthopedic clinics also offer expert emergent care on a 24/7 basis.

Do You Need a Referral to See an Orthopedic Doctor?

Under ordinary circumstances, your health insurance may require you to get a referral to see a specialist, like an orthopedic doctor. However, after an accident or other emergency, you may have the option of selecting the doctor you want to see. If you are not treated at an emergency room, you may need to make arrangements for your own medical care. 

The Cost and Expense of Seeing an Orthopedic Doctor

While you might be concerned about the expense of seeing an orthopedic doctor, it’s imperative to get the medical care you need as soon as possible. Your automobile or health insurance will likely pay for the cost of your accident-related medical care initially. If the other driver is found to be at fault, their insurance will probably be required to pay for your medical care when you settle your injury claim. You may want to consult with an attorney about how to do this.

Remember, after an accident, you should focus on your health and appropriate medical treatment first. Even if you are unsure about how you will pay the medical bills, there are a number of possibilities available to consider after you get the care you need. For more information about medical coverage after an accident, see here.

- D. Lo
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