Many people refuse medical care immediately after an accident, only to find out that they actually sustained serious injuries. When you get into a car accident, you should always let the emergency medical technicians check you over, but keep in mind that first responders face limitations in what they can evaluate because they do not have all the diagnostic equipment at the scene.
To determine whether you have certain injuries, including internal injuries, especially those that do not manifest until hours or days later, you should get a complete checkup at the emergency room. Even walk-in clinics and urgent care clinics face similar limitations in what they can see and do for accident victims.
Waiting to Seek Medical Care
If you wait to find out if you suffered injuries in a car accident, you could put your financial future and health at risk. Medically, if you wait, you might not find something that could affect your health later. Financially, the insurance company could try to deny your claim, claiming that you couldn’t have suffered injuries because you didn’t seek medical attention right away.
You don’t want to give the insurance company an excuse to deny your claim or offer you such a low amount that it might not cover medical expenses that arise, especially if you have injuries that lead to long-term or permanent disabilities.
Additionally, you might not realize that you have sustained injuries. Your adrenaline will run high right after an accident, most likely masking some symptoms. In other cases, symptoms of certain injuries simply do not manifest for hours or days later.
If you allow the hospital to check you over, you’ll find out if you have hidden injuries. However, when you go to the emergency room, you need to tell the nurses and doctors that you’ve just been involved in a car accident and that you need a thorough checkup. Otherwise, they will not scan for internal injuries, brain injuries, or other injuries that might take time to show symptoms.
Injuries and Symptoms That Might Appear Later
Some injuries that often do not show immediate symptoms include:
- Muscle strains and sprains. Have you ever had a sore arm and had to stop and think of what you might have done to make it sore? Sometimes, you have to think back one or two days to determine when you might have caused the injury that has now caused your arm to ache when you move it.
- Doctors label a mild concussion as a traumatic brain injury because of the seriousness of this type of injury. Even if you did not hit your head, but it suddenly jerked, you could have a concussion. You might not notice the symptoms of a concussion for hours, days, or weeks later, including nausea, balance issues, and clouded thinking.
Doctors can check for these and other hidden injuries and get you on the road to recovery, even if you do not have symptoms.
Additionally, some injuries cause disabilities that show up much, much later. For example, the more concussions you sustain, the higher the chances of you developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While this disease usually does not show up until you have reached middle age, if you are over 40 and suffer a concussion, it might not take many years to manifest. It could show up within months.
Tracking your injuries not only keeps the insurance company from trying to low-ball your settlement, but it also helps your doctors make a quicker diagnosis of difficult-to-diagnose diseases caused by accident injuries.
What if I Cannot Afford To Go to the Emergency Room
Even if the other person bears liability for your accident, your health and vehicle insurance will usually cover the emergency room visit. However, should you obtain a settlement or win a trial award, most insurance companies require that you reimburse them once you receive compensation for your accident. If you do not recover a settlement or a trial award, the insurance company does not usually make you pay back the money.
You will likely receive better care in a hospital where doctors have access to all of the equipment to make a correct diagnosis.
Gathering Evidence for a Claim
Going to the hospital constitutes an important step in gathering evidence for your claim. It also allows the defendant’s insurance company to follow your medical needs, making it harder for it to deny a claim. When you have initial medical bills that support injuries that might seem minor but actually prove major, you may struggle to refute the assertion that you did something else that might have caused those injuries.
For example, if a car accident proves emotionally traumatic, but you only suffered minor physical injuries, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder weeks later. This might happen if you experience an accident with your child in the rear seat. Although your child might suffer minor injuries, you will likely worry about the possibility of severe, life-changing injuries, which can prove traumatizing to any parent.
Those medical records, combined with a police report, photos of the accident, and other evidence, help support a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an accident.
If you suffer a mild concussion, but the symptoms do not seem to go away, and doctors later determine that you suffered more than a mild concussion, you now have the evidence pointing to suffering those injuries in the accident. This will prove valuable if you choose to pursue legal action down the road.
Nowadays, insurance adjusters use software to generate settlement amounts. They enter your medical expenses, lost wages, the extent of the damage to your personal property, and other factors. In making their determinations, insurance adjusters will consider the amount of time you sought medical treatment.
The longer it takes you to seek medical treatment, the more the insurance adjuster’s software shaves off the amount of compensation the software recommends. If you do not seek medical attention immediately, insurance companies won’t consider your injuries severe. Additionally, if you go to a chiropractor or a professional that offers alternative treatment, the insurance company software will offer less money.
Going to the emergency room right after an accident shows that you did, in fact, suffer injuries and makes it harder for the insurance company to refute your claim.
If you wait to seek medical attention or go to a clinic that does not have all the equipment to check you over thoroughly, some injuries could worsen over the initial several days after the wreck. Insurance companies have every right to deny claims for injuries that you caused by not getting medical attention. In some cases, doctors could have mitigated pain and suffering if you visited the hospital sooner. Insurance companies may also prove reluctant to pay for accident injuries that get worse as time goes by.
If you go to the hospital, and doctors do not find a hidden injury, it may prove more difficult for an insurance company to deny your claim or lower the amount of compensation for your damages if you have documentation that the injury stems from the accident but did not manifest until days later.
Complex Medical Claims
Often, medical claims prove complex, even if doctors expect your injuries to heal within months. You might have torn a muscle, which usually requires surgery, then physical therapy. An insurance company might question your need for physical therapy.
In other cases, you might suffer injuries that doctors expect to turn into long-term or permanent disabilities. These injuries often require ongoing physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and other psychological therapies.
If an insurance company refuses to pay for the care you need, you will need an attorney with experience in complex claims. You should retain an attorney that has experience dealing with these complex injury claims and that has the skills necessary to ensure that you receive compensation to cover the full cost of your injuries.
Car Accident Injuries
The injuries you could sustain in a car accident depend on several factors, including but not limited to the size of your vehicle, the size and/or weight of the vehicle that hits you, the combined speed of the vehicles, your current health, the weather conditions, and even road conditions.
Injuries could include:
- Cuts, scrapes, scratches, bruises, and bumps.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled muscles, torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or a limb.
- Chemical and/or thermal burns.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Road rash.
Additionally, you could suffer secondary injuries, such as infections of open wounds. Whether a wound from the accident or surgical wound from repairing an accident injury becomes infected, the defendant may bear liability for the extra medical expense and pain and suffering for secondary wounds.
In some cases, you might have pre-existing injuries or conditions that become worse because of accident injuries. You would incur additional medical expenses and pain and suffering because your accident injuries exacerbated your pre-existing conditions. The defendant also bears liability for these additional damages.
Recovering Past and Future Damages for Accident Injuries
After an accident, you can collect damages in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages. You can also collect punitive damages. When you settle, you know your medical expenses. Still, if doctors expect your injuries to become long-term or permanent disabilities, the insurance company guesses what medical treatments and other economic damages will cost.
A car accident attorney works with medical professionals to determine the approximate cost of the medical care you will need after your case settles or you obtain a trial award. Doctors and other medical professionals that have experience in the type of injuries you have will serve as your expert witnesses. These professionals have seen many cases of traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other injuries that cause permanent disabilities.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Medical expenses, including doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, and ambulatory aids. If you have to install wheelchair ramps, grab bars, or make other changes to your home, you can also recover damages for those items. Additionally, if you have to add hand controls or otherwise modify your vehicle, such as adding a wheelchair lift, you should include the cost of those items as well.
- Wages include the wages you lost from the time of the wreck through the time you settle or win a trial award. You can also recover lost future earning capacity if your injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
- Personal property includes your vehicle and any personal property in your vehicle, such as cell phones, your laptop, clothing you just picked up from the dry cleaners, and other personal items.
- End-of-life expenses, including funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses. You might also collect the cost of filing probate for a loved one’s estate and other costs associated with your loss.
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value, because you cannot put a price on someone’s pain, suffering, and losses.
Non-economic damages include:
Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand, or a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, such as lawn maintenance, home repair and maintenance, house cleaning, and grocery shopping.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy spending time with your family or participating in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. However, if it awards compensatory damages and finds that the defendant engaged in grossly negligent or intentional actions, the court might order the defendant to pay punitive damages as a punishment for the defendant’s actions.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.