I am commonly asked by friends and family…
“The hospital discharged me after my motor vehicle accident with a clean bill of health, but I’m injured. What should I do?”
Hospitals in South Florida are the equivalent of army triage units.
They predominately check for life-threatening injuries (including head injuries), take X-Rays, and treat for broken bones and punctured organs. They diagnose almost all neck and back injuries as “sprains”. X-rays check for broken bones and are not appropriate for diagnosing soft tissue injuries commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents.
Very rarely, if ever, will hospitals properly diagnose spine injuries by way of MRI, despite that MRIs are by far the best way for evaluating soft tissues of the spine, including intervertebral discs.
Hospitals refuse to perform these tests after a motor vehicle accident as MRIs are expensive and the hospital does not want to be left “holding the bill”. They typically prefer CT Scans for their reduced cost. In fact, many of our clients are discharged from the hospital with a prescription for Ibuprofen or Flexeril, only to find out later they suffered a traumatic spine injury (i.e. herniated disc(s)) that requires years of treatment and/or surgical intervention.
In fact, one client was discharged from the hospital with a “clean bill of health” and was later diagnosed with a fracture in his thoracic spine and a herniated disc at T11-12, requiring surgery.
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The hospital said I’m okay, but I’m still in pain. Am I okay?
It depends on your injuries.
Hospitals do serve a purpose as they memorialize the car accident and ensure you do not have a life-threatening injury or injury that requires immediate attention (i.e. head injury, broken bones).
As a result, we do recommend our clients admit themselves to a hospital – especially if they are dizzy, lightheaded, having vision troubles (including sensitivity to light / double vision), having severe headaches, are coughing up blood, etc.
That being said, a hospitals benefits are limited for individuals suffering from soft tissue injuries or ligament tears. Many individuals leave the hospital with the false belief that they are “ok”, which is misleading.
If the hospital says you’re good to go…should you get another doctor’s opinion?
Typically, yes. If you believe you have suffered any “soft tissue” injuries (neck, back, shoulder, knee) – especially if the pain begins to radiate in your extremities – our personal injury attorneys recommend that you immediately make an appointment with a chiropractor or physiatrist (pain management doctor).
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 (typically 2-4 days).
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.
Does the chiropractor do anything different than the hospital?
Absolutely, yes! Remember, the hospital’s job is to make sure you are not suffering from life-threatening injuries. Whether you are having trouble bending, lifting, sitting, standing, etc. is not their concern. Motor vehicle accident – even at low impact – can jar your spinal column out of alignment putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Sometime the pain can be radiating, sharp (like a knife), or burning (like an electrical jolt).
Pressure on the spinal column can be debilitating including: trouble sitting, sleeping, standing, bending, lifting, and typing (radiating pain in hands). Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments (such as TENS units) to properly align and restore your musculoskeletal structure – particularly the spine.
Chiropractors also monitor your physical therapy, if recommended.
Additionally, chiropractors evaluate your range of motion and listen to your complains over a period of weeks or months to better pinpoint the source of the pain.
For example, shoulder pain oftentimes stems from the neck and not the shoulder; leg pain stems from a lumbar injury (usually at L4-5 or L5-S1). These evaluations allow the chiropractor to diagnose the severity of your injuries, order MRIs (if required), and possibly refer you to another doctor (such as an orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, or neurosurgeon) for more advanced treatment.
The hospital said I’m fine, should I still contact a car accident attorney?
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”).
Although it should go without saying, never negotiate with the at-fault insurance company before speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Additionally, never sign up with a non-attorney “runner” who promises to “take care of your case and/or send you to an attorney”. This type of solicitation is illegal and your case will be jeopardized.