As a personal injury attorney, I am oftentimes asked by friends and family…”I was just involved in a car accident – should I go to the hospital?”
The answer is “it depends”. Every case is different and many unique factors must be considered before making the decision to go to the hospital. That being said, when in doubt our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately have someone drive you to the hospital.
It goes without saying that you should immediately have someone drive you to the hospital if you have suffered any type of closed head injury, even if you do not initially feel any “concussion like” symptoms. Signs of a closed head injury may include: headaches, loss of consciousness, dizziness, vertigo, double vision, nausea, etc.). Note that closed head injuries may have a delayed onset. Do not take any chances with these types of injuries as they could be life-threatening. A closed head injury could occur from whiplash or hitting your head on the steering wheel or door during impact.
Assuming you do not have a closed head injury, ask yourself…
- “Am I injured (and what type of injury)?” and
- “Do I have insurance?”
Am I injured?
If you believe you have suffered any “major” injury such as a broken (fractured) bone (especially an open fracture) or have labored breathing our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately have someone drive you to the hospital. At the hospital, a doctor will take x-rays (to confirm the break) and place you in a cast or splint, if necessary. A doctor will also check your vitals and confirm you do not have any other injuries, such as internal bleeding.
If you believe you have suffered any “major” injury such as a torn ligament (i.e. torn ACL) our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately have someone drive you to the hospital OR an orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist (physical/pain management doctor).
The reason being is that an emergency room doctor will typically administer X-rays (which check for broken bones) not MRIs (which check for ligament tears and disc injuries). In these cases, an emergency room doctor will advise you that you do not have any broken bones, provide you with pain medication, and refer you to a doctor (such as an orthopedic surgeon) for a follow up visit – which will likely include MRIs. As a result, if you can immediately be treated by an orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist, they may be better able to diagnose the injury, without the added step (i.e. significant cost) of checking into a hospital. In the large majority of cases, hospitals discharge individuals with “clean bills of health” although these clients end up receiving treatment for injuries for many months or years.
If you are unsure of your injuries (especially if you have a closed head injury) or cannot schedule an immediate appointment with an orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist, our personal injury attorneys recommend that you have someone drive you to the hospital.
If you believe you have suffered any “soft tissue” injuries (such as strained back or neck), our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately make an appointment with a physiatrist or chiropractor, in the event that you do not want to check yourself into an emergency room. Chiropractors provide excellent relief for individuals suffering from back and neck injuries. Many times, soft tissue injuries have a delayed onset. A large number of soft tissue injury clients do not report significant pain until a few days after their accident. Do not wait until the pain becomes debilitating – make an appointment at the first sign of pain, even slight pain. A physiatrist or chiropractor can diagnose your injuries and determine the severity of your injuries. A physiatrist or chiropractor can refer you to receive a MRI, if necessary.
Regardless of your injuries, you should always immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a free consultation. The personal injury attorney can recommend treatment providers, consult you on how to deal with any insurance related questions, explain your personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits, and discuss letters of protection (“LOPs”).
Do I have insurance?
Trips to the emergency room are expensive. Your personal injury protection (PIP) benefits may cover all the costs, but you do not want to exhaust those benefits haphazardly – especially if you do not have health insurance.
If you have health insurance, it is better to be safe than sorry – check yourself into the hospital if you are injured.
If you do not have health insurance, you have to weigh the pros/cons (i.e. potential cost vs. severity of injury) before checking yourself into the hospital.
Here’s the rub: Insurance adjusters believe that an individual injured in an automobile accident will immediately check themselves in to a hospital, period. Stated another way, if an individual who does not immediately check themselves into a hospital, they must not be hurt.
Although this logic is flawed on many different levels, this is how insurance adjusters operate. As a result, your personal injury case could potentially be compromised if you wait on treatment as the insurance adjuster may claim that…
- you were not injured as a result of the automobile accident or
- you are manifesting injuries to obtain a higher settlement.
This is why it is so important to receive some medical treatment contemporaneous with your accident as it memorializes the accident and documents your injuries. This applies even to soft-tissue injuries that may have delayed onsets. An insurance company will have a much more difficult task of convincing a jury you were not injured as a result of the accident when you have documentation that you reported immediate pain and received medical treatment contemporaneous with the accident.
Please call our experienced personal injury attorneys if you have any questions or concerns related to your automobile accident. As always, the consultation is free.