When is it Too Late to See a Doctor After a Car Accident?

Friday, September 8, 2023

When is it Too Late to See a Doctor After a Car Accident?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

After a car accident, you may think seeing your doctor is unnecessary if you didn’t suffer any noticeable injuries. Even if you only have minor scrapes and bruises or any symptoms that you believe are insignificant, you should see a physician as soon as possible.

In Illinois, 1,334 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021. Some of these victims may have assumed their injuries were minor and did not seek medical treatment, only to succumb to them later.

If you have been in a car accident, no matter how minor, the attorneys at Malman Law would like to hear from you.

Common Car Accident Injuries

In 2021, there were over 69,000 passenger car injury crashes in Illinois. Since a car crash involves a lot of force, drivers and passengers are susceptible to many injuries.

Some common injuries associated with car accidents include:

  • Abrasions (bruises)
  • Lower extremity injuries
  • Broken ribs
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)*

Motor vehicle accidents account for 25% of all TBIs. A traumatic brain injury disrupts healthy brain function and is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States.

When Should I Seek Medical Treatment?

It is never too late to see a doctor following a car accident. Even if you think your injuries are minor, you should still receive medical care. The symptoms of some injuries may not show up until hours or even a few days following a car accident.

Take, for example, whiplash, a common injury from a motor vehicle accident. Whiplash is associated with any type of accident in which your head, neck, and body move at different speeds.

In a car accident, any sudden change in speed can cause your neck to compress or extend. This sudden movement will cause your neck to jerk backward and forward rapidly, putting an undue strain on the neck’s ligaments and muscles and even injuring your cervical spine.

Should I Visit the ER?

In a recent year, there were 2.1 million ER visits due to injuries from motor vehicle collisions. Many of these ER visits were not by choice. If an ambulance is called to the scene of a car accident, the paramedics will likely bring you to the hospital.

You can request to be taken to your hospital of choice, and the paramedics will use their judgment to determine if it is wise to bring you to that hospital, which may be located further away.

If you were in a car accident and you sustained serious injuries, you should go directly to the emergency room (ER). ER physicians are used to treating traumas and will order the appropriate medical imaging and treatments you need.

If an ER doctor evaluates you and determines your injuries are minor, the physician may suggest that you follow up with your primary care physician (PCP) or a specialist.

Urgent Care

If you have only minor injuries, visiting an urgent care center may be a good idea. Visiting an urgent care center is a good idea if your injuries are not severe and you don’t need to be seen immediately.

An urgent care center allows you to simply walk in and be examined by a doctor. It is usually unnecessary to schedule an appointment. However, if many patients walk in, you can expect a long wait time before you are seen.

The downside: an urgent care physician will not be familiar with your medical history and current medications. It is important that you tell the urgent care physician your current medications to avoid drug interactions.

Steps for a Productive Visit with Your Doctor

To have a productive visit with your doctor after an accident, you will want to be upfront about the following:

  1. Describing your pain or discomfort—how severe is the pain on a pain scale from 1 to 10?
  2. Explain how long you have been feeling pain or discomfort—was it immediately after the accident, or did it start later?
  3. Be specific where in your body you are feeling the pain or discomfort
  4. Has your pain or discomfort affected any of your daily activities?
  5. Is the pain intermittent (does it come and go), or is it constant?

Answering these questions will give your doctor a clearer picture of your injuries. The more information your doctor has, the better he or she can help you.

What to Do After Your Medical Visit

Following your doctor’s appointment, it is essential to follow your treatment plan. If your doctor prescribes medication, take it as directed. If you have any other treatment instructions, you should follow those as closely as possible.

Diverging from your treatment plan could be viewed as you not taking the necessary steps to treat your injuries. This could limit or prohibit your ability to be compensated if you choose to file a personal injury claim.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

It is important to seek medical treatment filing for personal injury since your health should be your priority. Seeing a doctor has the added benefit of providing key evidence if you decide to file a car accident claim.

Medical expenses account for a significant portion of your damages following a car accident. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible following your accident so that your injuries can be linked to the incident. If you wait too long following your accident, the insurance company could potentially claim that some or all of your injuries are not associated with the accident.

In receiving medical care, a physician will document notes, test results, and consultation records as part of your medical record. If a doctor orders MRIs, CT scans, or X-rays, this will also be part of your medical record. Your medical record can help support your request for certain damages by proving the extent of your injuries.

Contact a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer

Taking care of yourself should be your utmost priority following a car accident. We believe that includes compensation for your financial and emotional well-being. Find out how we can help. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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