Should I Go to the Doctor After a Car Accident?

You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after being in a car accident. Failing to receive immediate care can not only impact your physical recovery, but may also compromise your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company will accept none of your claimed injuries unless a medical doctor documents that they are real and occurred as a result of the accident. So yes, you should absolutely go to the doctor after being in a car accident. It’s the only way to prove your injury case. Photos of visible injuries can help, but nothing replaces solid, legitimate documentation from a medical expert.

Why should I go to the doctor after a car accident? A Doctor’s Diagnosis Increases the Value of Your Auto Accident Claim

A doctor’s diagnosis increases the value of your injury claim.

Pain is not an injury. Pain is the outcome or result of an injury, meaning the injury adjuster cannot properly evaluate your injury claim based on your complaint of pain.  In such instances, the adjuster will attempt to resolve your injury claim if that is what you want.  However, with no diagnosis from a doctor, they will default to the most conservative (cost-effective) evaluation possible.

In the world of injury claims, this generally means the adjuster will consider giving a small amount of compensation to you for general soreness and something for your trouble.  But what if your injuries are actually more severe?

For example, let’s say that your left upper arm hurts after an accident and you’re concerned that you may have an injury to your rotator cuff.

You never saw a doctor; all you know is that it hurts.

You inform the injury adjuster of this and expect to be compensated for a serious injury to your left shoulder.

The adjuster wants to resolve the claim and get it off his desk, but there’s a problem: the adjuster has nothing from a doctor stating that you have a serious injury.

Therefore, the adjuster will offer you a small amount of compensation for soreness to your left shoulder.   You’ll probably feel offended by the adjuster’s offer, but there’s really nothing that can be done.

If you had received care from a doctor immediately following the accident, you would have documented evidence from a medical expert who could confirm the severity of your injury.

For example, the treating physician would order an MRI of your left shoulder, which you would submit to your adjuster. The MRI could show a torn rotator cuff in your left shoulder, a serious injury that may require future surgery.

Armed with proof of a severe injury, the adjuster will no longer see your injury claims as simply being sore. The settlement offer on your injury claim will increase, and so will your satisfaction that the adjuster now understands the truth regarding your injury caused by their negligent insured driver.

Documented Treatment Increases the Credibility of Your Injury Claim

After a car accident, the medical attention you receive indicates that your injuries were caused by the at-fault driver’s negligence.

An emergency room doctor wouldn’t order a CT scan of your head for no reason — they would do so if they believed you suffered a head injury in the accident.

Doctors’ orders can refute the injury adjuster’s attempt to devalue your claim.

The injury adjuster may not know that you hit your head in the accident, and months after the accident happened, they may ask why you never brought it up before. The adjuster may suspect you are bringing this up for the first time to increase the value of your claim.

The injured victim could then respond, “Then why did the doctor order a CT scan of my head?” Suddenly, the injured victim’s documented medical treatment increased the credibility of their injury claim.

Even if no CT scan was performed, the head injury is still discussed in the medical records from the injured victim’s physical examination by a doctor.  Without medical documentation from a doctor that speaks to your accident-related injuries and complaints of pain, the injury adjuster will have no way to document his file and validate giving you more money in compensation.

Medical records help maintain continuity between injuries and accident facts.

A competent adjuster will understand the difference between your injury and the cause of your injury. In other words, were the injuries you are claiming really caused by the car accident?

This is not a bad or atypical question. Your injury adjuster does not know you. For all they know, you had a rotator cuff tear from a sports injury years ago.  Here, we find another good reason why an injured victim should go to a doctor after a car accident.

After a car accident, the medical documentation by a treating physician will often document your injuries as being in the context of a recent car accident.

Even better, sometimes a treating physician will speak to the kind of car accident that took place.  When the doctor takes time to record the sort of accident that happened, it increases the believability of the patients’ injuries.

For example, rotator cuff tears are not uncommon in sideswipe accidents.  Therefore, if a doctor takes time to mention in his or her medical notes that the mechanism for injuries was specifically a sideswipe -type car accident, this helps to maintain continuity between injuries claimed and accident facts.

Which doctor should I go to after a car accident?

Emergency room care after your car accident.

More than anything else, do what makes sense.  If you were hurt in a car accident, you may need treatment as soon as possible.  In car accidents involving severe injuries, this will be the obvious next step. In cases with non-life-threatening injuries, it can still be a smart move.  Emergency room doctors specialize in car accident injuries and blunt trauma and can help you quickly.

Additionally, since the emergency room is in a hospital setting, diagnostic exams (such as MRIs or CT scans) can be easily obtained.  Emergency room care is also a good start toward documenting your accident-related injuries.  An emergency room doctor will often end their treatment by recommending that you follow up with a doctor as needed.  So then, after a visit to the emergency room, “where should I go to the doctor after a car accident?”  In most cases, orthopedic care is next.

Orthopedic care after your car accident.

If days or weeks have passed after your accident and you still have no relief from your pain, you may need to see an orthopedist.  An orthopedist specializes in diagnosing and treating injuries and conditions related to the bones, tendons, joints, muscles, and ligaments.  This is typically the next best move after a car accident.  Some healthcare plans may require that you obtain a referral from your primary care physician before scheduling an appointment with an orthopedist.  Otherwise, you may look for a reputable orthopedist and make an appointment accordingly.

Seeking additional care from a specialist, such as an orthopedist, may keep a bad injury from getting worse. In your initial visit with the orthopedist, they will typically obtain your medical history, including all visits or conditions related to your recent motor vehicle accident.  You will then go through several physical and diagnostic tests to determine the specific injuries that you have.

You should fully disclose all of your pain to the orthopedist.  Do not gloss over small things.  Just because something hurts less than something else does not mean it doesn’t hurt.

Remember, all communication between you and the orthopedist will be read later by an injury adjuster.  Once the orthopedist has thoroughly examined you, he or she will usually refer you to physical therapy.  Physical therapy will typically involve two to three sessions of therapeutic exercises per week.

Be sure to attend all therapeutic sessions and keep your last appointment with your orthopedist.

Your final appointment with the orthopedist is one of the most important. Here, the orthopedist will document their final assessment of your accident-related condition.  Not attending your last orthopedic appointment can have the appearance that you just quit going.  You never want this as part of your presentation to an injury adjuster.

When should I go to the doctor after a car accident?

Go to the doctor when you realize you’re hurt.

This may seem like an obvious point.  However, as we all know, some refuse to go to a doctor when they should do so. There are at least two problems with this approach.

First, if you need medical care, claim or no claim, you should do whatever is necessary to take care of yourself.

Second, a gap in treatment from the accident date to the first day of treatment creates doubt in the mind of the injury adjuster regarding the legitimacy of your injuries.

Suppose you were hurt in an accident and never sought medical treatment for your accident-related injuries for six months. In that case, the injury adjuster will naturally wonder about the severity of your injuries.

Moreover, the adjuster will question whether or not your injuries were caused by the car accident in question.  After all, six months is a long time.  Anything could have happened during that time. To avoid this problem with the adjuster, make sure you seek medical attention immediately following your car accident.

Stay on the path of treatment prescribed by your treating physician.  Avoid gaps in treatment as much as possible.

Go to the doctor when you are scheduled to do so.

There are two kinds of medical appointments: ones you make and ones a doctor creates for you (a referral).  Do not miss these appointments.  As mentioned, gaps in treatment can damage your injury claim. The insurance adjuster is looking for ways to devalue your injury claim.

Holding gaps in your treatment over your head, the injury adjuster will contend that your injuries must not be that bad.  If they were, you would not have missed so many appointments.  But this does not mean that gaps in treatment are not answerable.  With legitimate explanations, you can account for gaps in treatment.

For example, the unrelated sickness of a loved one (or yourself) is a legitimate explanation for not keeping doctor appointments.  Recuperating from an unrelated surgery is another honest explanation.

In one case recently, an injured victim could not attend physical therapy to address soreness in his middle back because he had a fractured tailbone from the same accident.  This is a legitimate explanation as to why the patient could not endure physical therapy sessions for pain in his middle back.  In the final analysis, when should you go to a doctor after a car accident?  You should go when you’re hurt and when you are scheduled to do so.

Do you have more questions about the medical treatment after an accident?

In this article, we answered the question, “should I go to the doctor after a car accident?”  No doubt, you have many more questions that need answering.  If you are the victim of an auto accident and need help with your claim, give us a call; Scholle Law is here to represent you. Your questions will be addressed by our experienced accident and injury team who has a proven track record of success.

Call us today; we look forward to being there for you.