Each day, more than 15,000 individuals are involved in auto accidents on U.S. roads and highways. Fortunately, the majority of these accidents are relatively minor and may result only in property damage to the vehicles involved. However, even a low-impact crash can generate potentially serious physical injuries, and failing to seek medical attention after an accident can have far-reaching physical, legal, and financial consequences.
Why Find Immediate Medical Treatment After an Accident?
The main and most important reason to seek medical attention after any car crash, no matter how minor, is to prevent physical complications that can sideline you later. From soft tissue injuries, like seatbelt bruising and whiplash, to neurological injuries, like concussions, many crash-related injuries may start out minor and quickly grow worse.
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After a crash, your body produces a high level of the hormone epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. This “fight or flight” hormone can mask the pain for hours to days after an accident. Many tales of heroism have epinephrine as a contributing factor, from a parent who can inexplicably lift a two-ton vehicle off a child to someone who walks miles for help after a crash despite serious injuries.
Unfortunately, the epinephrine crash can leave you feeling far worse than the actual crash. By the time you realize the extent of your injuries, you may have already suffered physical damage.
Failing to quickly seek medical attention after a car crash can also have a financial impact. While the prospect of filling out endless insurance questionnaires or claim forms can be daunting, the longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to later argue that the other driver’s negligence caused you serious physical injuries. If you’re not able to connect your injuries (and any ongoing care you may require) to the other driver’s negligence, you may diminish or even eliminate your ability to recover compensation for medical costs you’ve incurred.
What Might Happen if You Don’t See a Doctor Quickly?
In addition to the potential physical complications that can come from delayed medical treatment, failing to see a doctor after a car crash could harm your right to recover from the defendant. Personal injury laws are different from state to state, but just about every state’s statutes include the concept of “mitigating damages” — that is, behaving in such a manner that you don’t make your own injuries worse through inaction or risky behavior.
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For example, someone who suffers from untreated whiplash after an accident and continues his or her typical lifestyle could find himself or herself with disabling neck pain in just a few years. A defendant could then plausibly argue that, while he or she may have been responsible for the medical expenses that would stem from a typical case of whiplash, he or she is not at fault for any injuries resulting from the plaintiff’s own failure to seek treatment.
What if You Can’t Afford to Pay Doctor Bills After an Accident?
Many people are reluctant to go to the emergency room or an urgent care facility due to concerns about cost. With the average ER bill hovering around $1,300 in 2017, it’s no wonder that price is a paramount consideration when it comes to seeking treatment. However, even if you’re worried that going to the ER is a waste of time and money, you should never let cost considerations dissuade you from being checked out after an accident. Often, you’ll find that you can’t afford not to go to the emergency room.
If you’re seeking treatment after an accident that was caused by someone else, it’s possible that you’ll never even see a medical bill from your visit, let alone pay one. In fact, just about every hospital and healthcare facility will include questions like “Were you injured in a car crash?” on their intake forms precisely to flag the claims that are likely to be settled through (and paid by) another person’s insurance policy.
Enlisting the help of a personal injury law firm, such as Andrew Pickett Law, early in this process can help you keep your out-of-pocket expenses straight and ensure that you receive adequate compensation to cover all the medical bills you’ve incurred after an accident.