The phrase “car accident” usually conjures images of mangled vehicles, ambulances and life-threatening injuries. Serious accidents take place every day, but in truth, the majority of accidents are considered minor. These are the accidents most of us refer to as “fender benders,” in which the damage and injuries are minimal.
When you experience a minor accident, the first thing to do is to check for injuries and call for emergency help if necessary. In many cases, injuries in these accidents are not immediately apparent or appear to be minor when they are actually serious. Given that state laws limit the amount of time one has to file an insurance claim, it is critical that you see a doctor right away even if you think you are fine.
Legal Issues With Car Accident Injuries
The process of obtaining compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident is not always as straightforward as it may seem. Many insurance companies will reduce compensation for those claimants who do not seek medical treatment in a short period (usually up to 72 hours) after the accident. Insurers generally assume that if the claimant was truly injured, he or she would have sought medical treatment sooner.
Therefore, failing to seek treatment immediately will impair your ability to make a viable claim in the future. Documentation by medical providers of the extent of your injuries, your prognosis and your treatment will go a long way toward bolstering your case with the insurance company. Should your case go to trial, a medical professional can also provide expert testimony that will improve the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
Delaying Treatment Makes Things Worse
Seeing a doctor immediately after an accident is important for health reasons as well as legal. Physicians are trained to identify injuries patients may not recognize right away. It is not uncommon for drivers or passengers to feel fine immediately after the crash and assume they have not been injured, only to have pain or other problems a few days or weeks later. Waiting too long to seek treatment could also make your injuries worse.
Car accidents often cause concussions, for example. A minor concussion may not be immediately obvious, but in time, it could lead to post-concussion syndrome, a wide array of symptoms that often mimic those of other conditions. Without a diagnosis of a concussion after the accident, it is virtually impossible to attribute those symptoms to the accident and receive compensation. Untreated neck, spinal or back injuries can heal incorrectly, causing long-term pain and discomfort. Even chronic muscle pain or stiffness can be attributed to car accidents and should be evaluated by a health care provider.
Seeking medical treatment after a fender-bender may seem unnecessary or inconvenient, but if it turns out you do have an injury, you will have a greater chance of making a successful case against the other driver — and getting the compensation you deserve.