Seeking immediate medical attention after a car accident is the most prudent course of action to take, for several reasons:
- Any apparent injuries, although minor, could get worse
- You may have suffered “delayed” injuries that are not apparent immediately after a car accident but that require immediate attention
- If you have suffered delayed injuries, further delaying treatment could exacerbate your symptoms and lead to a slower and longer recovery period, long-term disability, or death
- Seeking immediate medical attention demonstrates that you were concerned that you may have been injured at the time of the accident
- You will create a record of your medical evaluations, diagnosis, and treatment, which may be necessary for your financial recovery
Our personal injury lawyers are experienced in dealing with car accident injuries. We know that after an accident, you may not realize that you are injured and, therefore, may not feel the need to seek medical attention. This is only natural, and there may be several reasons for this:
- When you are suddenly thrown into a traumatic situation like a car accident, your body reacts to the trauma by producing adrenaline and endorphins that help you to be more physically and mentally able to deal with the stress of the situation. This natural response can hide other physical sensations, like pain. When you do not feel pain as you otherwise would, you may not be aware that you have been injured.
- You were not planning on being in an accident, of course. You had other plans. And now your accident has interrupted your plans. So even though you may feel that something doesn’t quite feel right after your accident, it may not seem too serious and you may feel that you don’t have time to sit in a hospital waiting room. You may decide to see if the feeling gets worse, and if it does, you will see a doctor later.
- Perhaps you have been in an accident before and went to the hospital out of precaution, but you suffered no injuries. You don’t feel any differently than you did before, so you probably are fine and do not need to waste time at the hospital when you are not injured. You just want to get on with your day.
- Perhaps you sense that you have been slightly injured, but it doesn’t seem too serious, and you do not feel like dealing with police, insurance adjusters, and medical bills. You don’t anticipate suing anyone over this, so you decide to go home and rest—you are likely to feel better in the morning.
- When an accident occurs, it is likely that law enforcement arrives to the scene. They are likely to inquire if you want medical assistance. You should accept that offer at that time. You may want to decline because you are not in a familiar place and you want to wait to see your personal physician. But you should accept medical treatment at the time of the accident. You can always follow-up with your own doctor.
- You may know that you have been injured—perhaps your injuries are obvious. But you are not insured, so you feel that you cannot go to the hospital because they likely will not treat you anyway, with no insurance.
- You may not want to do anything until you speak to your attorney. Although we recommend that you do contact the car accident lawyers at Foster Wallace right away, this is not a reason to decline medical assistance at the time of the accident. You can contact Foster Wallace at the scene and we will help you decide the proper steps to take after your accident.
These are all reasons why many people do not seek immediate medical treatment after an accident. Unfortunately, none of these are valid reasons for not seeking immediate medical attention.
Have I Lost My Right To File a Claim If I Did Not Go to the Hospital Immediately?
No. Even if you waited several days after an accident to go to the hospital, you may still file a claim for damages. Most states (like Kansas) provide a 2-year window after an accident to file a personal injury claim. However, Missouri provides a longer statute of limitations period of 5 years.
However, do not think that because you have 5 years to assert your claim, it is okay for you to delay seeking medical attention. You should begin recording evidence of your injuries right away. Therefore, it is critical for your physical health and your ability to succeed in your personal injury claim that you obtain medical attention as soon as possible. Delaying going to the hospital does not prohibit your claim, but it makes it more difficult to prove that you were injured in the accident.
How Can Delaying Going to the Hospital Hurt My Claim?
To succeed in a claim for damages, it is imperative that you be able to show that any injuries for which you are seeking to be compensated actually occurred during the accident. The longer you wait to obtain medical confirmation that you have suffered an injury, the more likely the negligent party will claim that you did not sustain your injuries in the accident but, rather, by engaging in some other activity after the accident. They will argue that if you had sustained any injuries in the accident, you would have gone to the hospital right away.
For example, suppose you are in a minor accident on your way to a quick weekend get-away to your favorite ski resort. You decline medical attention at the scene of the accident because it was not a significant impact and, although you are a little shaken, you agree with the other driver that no one was hurt, so you exchange information “just in case” and get back on the road. The slight cringe in your neck will probably feel better once you get to the resort and relax. However, by the end of the day, you have a headache and a stiff neck that worsens throughout the weekend. By Monday morning, you are in such pain that you cannot go to work. At your doctor’s appointment later that week, you learn that you have suffered a cracked vertebrae that will require surgery.
If there is evidence that you did not obtain medical treatment for your injury until an entire week after your accident, and during the time after the accident, you were engaged in activity that could easily have caused your injuries, the opposing party will claim that you injured yourself skiing and now want their insurance company to pay for it. Had you gone to the hospital at the time of the accident, you would have evidence to refute this claim.
Do Not Jeopardize Your Health or Your Claim for Damages
In light of what is at stake after being involved in a car accident, you have nothing to lose by obtaining medical attention at the time of your accident to confirm either that you are, in fact, injured or that, if any delayed injuries manifest later, you have a record of having sought medical attention for your injuries right away.
If you have been involved in a car accident, no matter how minor, contact the car accident lawyers at Foster Wallace to learn what you need to do to protect your rights. We are experienced in car accident cases and will fight for your right to obtain fair compensation for your injuries.