According to the CDC, around 3 million people are injured in car accidents in the U.S. each year. These injuries range from minor cuts, scrapes, or whiplash, to serious conditions, like spinal cord injuries or concussions.
Seeking medical care after car accidents is important. But it’s a step that many victims choose to skip. Whether they hate visiting the doctor, are afraid of the cost, or don’t think that their injuries warrant medical attention, the reasons they opt not to get treatment vary. What doesn’t vary is the importance of seeing a doctor, no matter how minor you feel that your injuries might be.
Whether you’ve been injured and are avoiding getting care or feel that you weren’t seriously injured, keep reading. We’re breaking down why you should always seek medical care after a car accident.
Early Treatment is Key
The days following a car accident can be incredibly stressful. If your car was damaged or destroyed, you may need to rent one, schedule repairs, or start shopping for a replacement. You might miss work or school, and find yourself playing catch up for days after. There are endless phone calls to make to your insurance company, to schedule childcare, and to find an attorney to handle your case.
You may also find yourself dealing with the emotional toll of the accident.
In the midst of all of this, it’s easy to put off seeing a doctor, especially if you believe that your injuries aren’t serious. This is a big mistake.
No matter how minor your injuries seem, early treatment is key to a successful recovery. Your doctor will not only assess your injuries, but also recommend treatment. Even a minor sprain could require visits to a physical therapist for treatment. Minor cuts and scrapes should still be properly cared for, or else they may develop an infection later on.
It’s also worth noting that you should carefully follow a personal injury car accident checklist to ensure you’re not missing an important step.
Your Injuries May Not Show Up Right Away
Sometimes victims fail to seek medical care after car accidents because they don’t believe that they were injured. While this could be the case, another likely scenario is that they are suffering from an injury but the adrenaline rush following the accident is temporarily masking the pain.
There are a variety of injuries that may not be immediately obvious following an accident. Cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome, more commonly referred to as whiplash, is one such condition. Many cases of whiplash are minor. Victims may feel fine after an accident, but wake up the next day with a stiff neck and sore shoulders. However, in serious cases, whiplash can lead to other complications, like pinched nerves.
Concussions are another type of injury victims may not realize they’ve sustained right away. But seeking medical care after car accidents will give your doctor a chance to catch these injuries and treat them before they can lead to additional complications.
You Could Be Suffering From Hidden Injuries
Some common injuries like whiplash and concussions might not be obvious right away. But hours later, or even the morning after the accident, the victim will likely feel pain. This isn’t the case with all injuries.
Hidden injuries may not result in serious pain in the hours or the day after the accident. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous. For instance, a slight pain in your neck that’s easy to ignore could actually be damage to your spine. Left unchecked, this could lead to paralysis.
Your Medical Records Will Be Important When Seeking a Settlement
If you’ve been the victim of a car accident, you’re entitled to compensation and coverage for your medical bills, as well as for your pain and suffering. However, it can be tough to prove that you were injured in a car accident if you never see a doctor.
Whether you go to the emergency room right away or wait and see your primary care physician, your medical records will be important when it comes time for your accident attorney to build a case. They’ll present your records to the responsible driver’s insurance company to get your medical bills paid. They may also present your records as evidence of your pain and suffering when seeking a settlement.
Insurance companies will often do anything that they can to avoid paying for damages following an accident. Without evidence in your medical records that you sought care for your injuries immediately following your accident, they may claim that your injuries occurred prior to the accident.
Records of Your Medical Treatment Might Be Necessary for a Lawsuit
Medical records are important for more than just building your initial case. If the insurance company of the responsible driver refuses to pay, your records may become key evidence as your accident attorney helps you to launch a lawsuit.
Records of your initial diagnosis aren’t the only medical records that could be important during a lawsuit. If your doctor recommends treatment, such as seeing a physical therapist, and you fail to follow through, the insurance company could use this as evidence of why they are not responsible for your pain and suffering.
Besides getting your injuries documented, it’s also important to follow through with any treatments that your doctor recommends. This is about more than just winning your lawsuit; it’s also the best way to get back to feeling like your old self again, and avoiding any long term pain and complications.
Getting Treatment Can Impact Your Long-term Health
You might hope that the minor back or neck pain that you suffered following a car accident will go away on its own. Even if this pain isn’t masking a more serious injury, this pain still requires a visit to your doctor.
Without your doctor’s intervention, that slight pain could turn into regular, chronic pain. This can affect all areas of your life, and lead to additional medical conditions and injuries. For instance, if you find that you’re suffering from neck pain, your posture may suffer. With time, this poor posture can lead to back pain as well.
Seeking Medical Care After a Car Accident
Seeking medical care after a car accident is important for a number of reasons. The most important thing is your health. Just because you don’t feel pain at the scene of the accident doesn’t mean that you don’t have hidden injuries. Minor pain could actually be masking a more serious injury that, left untreated, could quickly become dangerous.
Getting medical attention is also important for getting compensation or seeking a settlement or pursuing a lawsuit following your accident.