Seeking Medical Treatment After an Accident
Car accidents are extremely stressful events, and often result in a broad range of injuries to both drivers and passengers. It is extremely important that you seek medical treatment following a car accident. Not only is it vital to your health and well-being, it can also play an important role in the claims process.
Once you have taken the appropriate steps in the immediate aftermath of an accident, your primary focus should be obtaining a full medical assessment of your injuries and beginning treatment.
I Don’t Think I’m Injured. Should I Still be Evaluated?
Whether or not you think you are injured, you should always be evaluated after a car accident.
Our bodies release adrenaline in times of danger, such as a car accident. This can mask the initial pain of an injury. However, injuries can begin to show themselves after the adrenaline has worn off, causing pain and discomfort.
How to Choose a Doctor for Car Accident Injuries
The best doctor to visit is one that specializes in treating the specific type of injuries you sustained in the accident. You shouldn’t rely on your primary care physician, since they often don’t specialize in treating and documenting car-accident injuries.
Also, avoid finding a doctor through legal referral services, as these doctors tend to focus more on using up your PIP insurance than treating your injuries. Seeking treatment through a legal referral service can often result in the insurance company offering you less money for your settlement, since they tend to distrust the information contained in documents from these injury “mills”.
Why Seeing a Specialist is so Important
Specialists will typically produce much more detailed medical records, which will greatly improve the value of your case in the eyes of the insurance company. While a primary care doctor will keep a basic record of what you said was bothering you and how they treated it, a specialist will create a much more in-depth record of your past and present injuries, how they are being treated, and how they relate to the accident.
A specialist will record things like:
- What happened in the accident
- Detailed history of any pre-existing injuries or conditions you may have
- How the car accident caused your injuries or aggravated pre-existing ones
- Medical tests they performed on you
- If they ordered X-rays or other medical imaging tests
- Whether your injuries are permanent or you will be able to make a full recovery
- Future medical needs
- The effect your injuries will have on your ability to go about life as usual
The more detailed and explanatory your records are, the likelihood that the insurance company will assign a higher value to your case increases.
What Should I Tell the Doctor After a Car Accident?
It is imperative that you seek medical treatment after a car accident if you have even the slightest notion that you may have been injured. Injuries sometimes have delayed symptoms, so seeking the guidance of a medical professional is of paramount importance following an auto accident.
There are certain steps that should be taken when seeking medical treatment after an auto accident to protect both the patient and the doctor. When seeking medical attention, accident victims should ensure that they follow these general guidelines:
Disclose as Much Information as Possible
You should do your best to provide your doctor with as much relevant information as possible regarding the accident. Be prepared to describe the collision, how fast you were going, if you hit your head or lost consciousness, etc.
A detailed description of the crash will allow your doctor to best know what to look for, especially since injuries sometimes do not show symptoms right away. There are common injuries often associated with certain types of car wrecks, so this will give the doctor a good indication of what damage may be present.
Describe All Relevant Injuries
When seeking treatment, you should always disclose any and all relevant injuries. All of your injuries should be treated, even if some of them may seem insignificant at the time. If you are experiencing excruciating neck pain, but you also have minor pain in your wrist and ankle, it is important that you make the doctor aware of that.
Be Honest About Prior Injuries
You should inform the doctor of any past injuries that could be relevant to the situation. For example, if you sustained back injuries from a snowboarding accident during your winter vacation twenty years ago, that information is crucial to your doctor’s handling of your current situation.
Knowledge of past injuries allows your doctor to differentiate between injuries resulting from a recent car accident and those that may be lingering from incidents in the past. It also allows them to determine if a prior injury may have been reaggravated due to your recent accident.
Having pre-existing injuries or conditions will not hurt your case, but lying about them or trying to hide them definitely will. If the insurance company finds out that you were dishonest about a pre-existing injury, they will assume that nothing you say can be trusted or believed.
By being honest about injuries you were living with before the accident, you can show the degree to which the accident made them worse. By hiding them, however, you run the risk of losing the insurance company’s trust and receiving much less money than if you had simply been honest.
How Soon Should I Seek Treatment?
Another important reason to seek medical care as soon as possible is that there are time constraints regarding treatment that affect your ability to receive compensation from your PIP coverage.
Your PIP policy will cover 80% of your medical costs and 60% of your lost wages as a result of your accident, up to 10,000 dollars. However, treatment must begin within 14 days of the accident in order to receive PIP benefits. If you delay treatment past 14 days, you won’t have access to these funds.
Do Not Skip or Delay Appointments With Your Doctor
Failing to attend scheduled appointments causes gaps in treatment, which can hurt your case. Gaps in treatment lead to skepticism that you will actually continue with necessary treatment in the future, which drastically lowers the value of your claim.
If a judge or jury sees that you have failed to show up to treatment, they will be less likely to reward you with money in your settlement for future visits to the doctor, and rightfully so. It is in your best interest to avoid this situation altogether, and plan to attend any and all appointments related to the treatment of your injuries.
How Does Treatment Affect My Personal Injury Case?
In addition to improving the length and capacity of your recovery, promptly seeking treatment will help strengthen your insurance claim, as well as your personal injury case if you pursue one. Insurance companies and defense attorneys will do their best to downplay your injuries and the degree to which the accident caused them. If you prolong the treatment of your injuries, they will attempt to argue that they were not a result of the accident, or that they aren’t severe.
Injuries sometimes take a while to present themselves with physical symptoms, which is why it’s imperative that you seek medical care whether you think you are injured or not. During your examination, your doctor can spot the signs of delayed injuries and document them if they exist. This will strengthen your claim, and help to make it clear that the injuries resulted from your car accident.
Documentation of Treatment
As you go through the treatment process, be sure to ask for copies of any and all of your medical records. It is important that you have these documents, and that all of the information they contain is accurate. Be sure to read over the documents to verify that all of the information is accurate. You should pay careful attention to any descriptions of the accident, as well as your medical history. The accuracy of these pieces of information are particularly important to achieving the best possible outcome in your personal injury case.
As mentioned before, Insurance companies will attempt to use anything they can to pay you the least amount of money possible for your injuries. They often try to claim that the injuries were unrelated to the accident, or downplay their severity in an effort to lessen the amount of damages you receive. This is why it is vital that you have copies of your medical records, and that they are accurate and descriptive.
With medical proof of your injuries and how they relate to the accident at hand, it will be extremely hard for the insurance company to deny you rightful compensation.
How to Pay for Treatment
If you have car insurance, then your PIP policy provides you with $10,000 towards the treatment of your injuries, regardless of who was at fault. Passengers who have their own car insurance policy can use it even if they were not the driver of the vehicle in the crash. If a passenger does not have insurance of their own, they may be entitled to PIP benefits from the insurance of the vehicle they were in, or the vehicle that struck them.
Some doctors will agree to treat you at no up-front cost, so long as you have an Insurance Security Agreement. An Insurance Security Agreement is essentially a contract between your doctor, your attorney, and yourself. It states that your lawyer will not release settlement money until the doctor’s bill is paid following the conclusion of your case.
Trust Dismuke Law to Fight for You
If you’ve been in an accident, your primary focus should be recovering from your injuries, and getting back to the quality of life you experienced before it occurred. At Dismuke Law, we specialize in personal injury cases involving car accidents. We’ll make sure you receive the compensation you deserve, so that you can focus on what matters most: recovery.
Decades of Experience
Dave has dedicated 15 years and a significant portion of his practice to auto accidents and has well-trained staff in place to help you.
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Our core belief is that every detail must be studied, that every adversary must be out prepared and outworked and that every client must be treated like they are family.
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Dave is a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and focuses his practice on automobile accidents.
Dave and his staff worked hard for me and always did what was in my best interest.- Rena S.
Dismuke Law is who I will use for the rest of my life. Definitely worth the phone call!- Shawn B.
Dismuke Law is the first place we would call. They did not disappoint!- Daniel R.
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