How Long Do I Have to Go to a Doctor after a Car Accident?

Categories: Car Accidents

car accident from behind

You have been in a motor vehicle accident, but you feel fine. You walked away, you have a few scrapes and bruises, but you don’t think it is serious. So, do you need to see a doctor?

If you were involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, regardless of how you feel right after, yes, you should. The quicker you seek medical attention the better – and for more reasons than you may realize. To start, immediately after an accident, you do not feel the full extent of your injuries. Your body releases chemicals as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism, and those chemicals can mask pain. Once they wear off, you may realize you were more seriously injured than you thought.

Sometimes you have a little pain, but you just hope it will subside. However, the longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to not only get fair compensation from an insurance company, but to prove a case if you find yourself having to file an injury lawsuit later.

72 Hours Is the Rule of Thumb – but Sooner Is Even Better

If you want a strict rule of thumb, you should not wait any longer than 72 hours after the accident to seek medical attention. Waiting much longer than this can make it easier for the defense attorney or insurance claim’s adjuster to dispute that your injuries were part of the accident – and even dispute the severity of those injuries. To an insurance company, a person with serious injuries seeks medical treatment immediately and not days later.

Ideally, you should go much sooner than the 72-hour mark. In fact, you should leave the accident scene immediately (once approved by law enforcement to go, of course) and seek medical attention. The faster you go to an emergency room or your private physician, the faster you can start a record proving that your injuries were the direct result of your accident.

Some Serious Injuries Don’t Have Symptoms Right Away – and They Could be Life-Threatening

Some injuries do not show for a few hours to days after the accident. For example, whiplash injuries often do not show symptoms until a few hours to a full day later. You might wake the next day in severe pain, even though you felt fine when you went to bed the day of the incident.

Also, some serious injuries may not show symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you are okay. Internal bleeding can take a few hours before symptoms appear, and by then it could be too late. If you have a traumatic brain injury, you may not realize how serious it is until you start experiencing headaches, blurred vision, or worse symptoms like those associated with brain bleeds.

Regardless, it is in your best interest to seek medical attention right away. Let the emergency room physician know you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, and they will run the necessary diagnostic tests to make sure you do not have any serious or life-threatening injuries (whether you’re symptomatic or not).

Seeking Medical Treatment Creates a Direct Line between Accident and Injury

One of the insurance company’s favorite tactics for reducing a settlement is arguing that the injuries are not from the accident. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove that your injuries did come from the accident. The insurance company might say you are trying to tie injuries from another incident to your accident, and if you don’t have any way to prove otherwise, you may lose out on the compensation you deserve.

The closer your accident is to the medical treatment, the easier it is to prove they are related to one another.

Do Not Wait to Speak with an Attorney

While you shouldn’t wait to seek medical treatment, you also should not wait to speak with an injury attorney. An attorney with experience handling car accident cases can start to gather evidence, and even begin the process of filing a claim with the insurance company so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries.

Some reasons to hire an attorney after you seek medical treatment include:

  1. They can help prove your injuries came from the accident. Whether you waited a few hours or a few days, an attorney can help tie the accident and injuries together and fight against claims that you’re making up injuries for compensation.
  2. Your attorney knows how the insurance company works. An injury attorney works with insurance companies daily. They know how claims’ adjusters evaluate cases, and they know what it takes to get a fair settlement. More importantly, insurance companies know that they cannot use the same tactics they would with the victim when there’s an attorney involved. Statistically, victims receiving higher compensation faster with an attorney than when they try to negotiate alone.
  3. Your attorney knows what evidence you need to win your case. Immediately after you hire an attorney, they will get started collecting evidence (witness statements, photographs, medical records, and more). All of this will be used to approach the insurance company and open negotiations so that you get a fair settlement in the end.

Injured in an Accident? Seek Medical Attention and Then Contact a Local Injury Advocate

Once you seek medical attention, even if you are not sure whether you should file a lawsuit or not, contact an injury attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, PLLC. Our attorneys know how confusing and overwhelming fighting with insurance companies can be – especially when you’re dealing with serious accident injuries.

We’re here to advocate for your right to compensation, and we work hard to ensure you have the compensation you need for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To get started, schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with our team. You can also request more information about our legal services online.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.