Should You Visit an Urgent Care Facility After a Car Accident?

Key Points:

  • As the name implies, urgent care facilities are meant to treat urgent but not severe or life-threatening injuries or illnesses.
  • After an accident, an urgent care visit might be beneficial if you are sure you only have minor injuries.
  • If you suspect severe or silent damage, a hospital emergency room is better staffed and equipped to provide a thorough examination, diagnosis, and treatment.

What Is an Urgent Care Facility?

Nurse and patient talking in urgent care

An urgent care facility acts as an intermediate step between your primary care provider and the emergency room. These clinics are often used if someone has a minor illness or injury that cannot be postponed or wait for a doctor’s appointment. As the name implies, these facilities typically see patients with urgent but not critical or life-threatening problems.

Urgent cares are also a good option if you have illnesses or injuries without other symptoms or if you do not have other underlying health conditions. For instance, a broken finger or toe can typically be treated at an urgent care facility, but a more serious fracture or possible internal injuries should be handled at the hospital emergency room or at an orthopedic medical office.

Although some urgent care clinics have physicians and nurse practitioners on staff, they are trained to treat non-critical injuries or illnesses. Therefore, it is unlikely that an urgent care clinic is the ideal place to get a comprehensive assessment of complicated or serious injuries.

While urgent care providers can order basic lab work and imaging tests, such as X-rays to help with diagnoses, they don’t always have the equipment or radiologists on staff to complete these tests on site. These facilities are also generally not equipped to conduct other procedures, such as ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or CT scans. Therefore, in some cases, urgent care facility providers may refer you to the local emergency room for additional testing.

The Advantages of Visiting Urgent Care Rather Than the ER After an Accident

Urgent care clinics have set hours and an established list of conditions they can treat. Although appointments are not necessary, and patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis, the wait is typically much shorter than an emergency room visit. Urgent care visits are also typically less expensive than a hospital trip, making them an especially attractive option for those without health insurance.

If injuries following an accident seem minor and non-life threatening, an urgent care facility might be a good option for treatment. Providers at these facilities can prepare an acceptable injury report to use for insurance purposes.

But keep in mind, the care and diagnostic capabilities these facilities can provide for accident victims are limited. If you have been in a serious accident with considerable damage, it could be beneficial to go directly to the emergency room. Hospitals have more thorough and comprehensive examination options for external and internal injuries, which can be completed by specialists.

If you attempt to go to an urgent care and serious or internal injuries are suspected, the medical professionals will refer you to other healthcare facilities or your local hospital where specialized staff and treatment capabilities are available.

Do Urgent Care Clinics Have the Medical Technology Available to Detect Hidden Silent Injuries?

Silent injuries are those that are not immediately obvious to the naked eye but can be severe or life-threatening. They include internal injuries or bleeding; head trauma or traumatic brain injury; spinal injuries; cracked or fractured vertebra; or soft-tissue damage to joints, ligaments, or other body parts.

Because urgent care clinics do not always have specialized imaging equipment or trained staff to read such images or diagnose these injuries, you will likely be referred to the emergency room for treatment if such injuries are suspected.

FAQs About Visiting Urgent Care Facilities for Personal Injury Claims

  • Q: Will an urgent care send me to another doctor or hospital?

A: If there is any doubt about the severity of your injuries, urgent care staff should refer you to a better-equipped, more specialized facility for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Q: Do urgent cares mainly take on minor illnesses and injuries?

A: The role of an urgent care facility is to provide care for those who are ill or injured and need medical attention immediately but who are not critically ill or injured.

  • Q: Can an urgent care give me a credible car accident physical exam?

A: Unless you are certain that your injuries are merely scrapes and scratches, we do not recommend using an urgent care to obtain a car accident exam. Hidden injuries, including fractures, internal damage, or head trauma, might be missed if you are seen by medical staff that does not specialize in these areas.

  • Q: Where is the ideal place to get a car accident physical exam?

A: If you have or suspect severe or internal injuries, you should proceed immediately to the emergency room of the nearest hospital to be evaluated and treated.

  • Q: Can a settlement cover urgent care expenses?

A: Following an accident, your medical care should be included in your accident claim, regardless of where you sought assistance. While urgent care facility costs may be less than those for emergency rooms, they should still be included in your claim so you can be reimbursed.

  • Q: If injuries are minor, is an urgent care ideal to visit?

A: Urgent care facilities are geared toward diagnosing and treating minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and minor fractures of the fingers or toes. Because the staff at these facilities are not always capable of diagnosing soft-tissue injuries, such as whiplash or others that are not obvious, they can be missed. Ultimately, the more serious the accident, the more likely it is that there are internal or soft-tissue injuries not immediately visible.

 If you are at all concerned that your injuries are severe, it is better to visit the emergency room.

Why You Should Seek Medical Care After an Accident

A complete and thorough examination is crucial following an accident. Not only will you obtain a medical report for use in an accident claim, but you will also have a reliable record of the severity of your injuries.

If you’re concerned you might have serious or hidden injuries, it is usually worth visiting your local emergency room. Going to an urgent care clinic that is not equipped to diagnose these types of injuries can rob you of valuable time for treatment.  


- D. Lo
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