Q: Should I get medical treatment immediately after a car accident?
People may decide not to seek medical treatment for a variety of reasons, but often it's because the initial bumps and bruises don't seem serious, or the onset of the symptoms aren't immediately apparent.
Of course, not every accident produces injury. However, if the onset of a serious injury is delayed, the failure to have a medical complaint recorded can affect your chances of recovery. Back and neck injuries like herniated disks are not always immediately determinable. They are often initially diagnosed as "soft tissue" injuries before an MRI or CT scan reveals a disc injury. Normal x-ray film is generally not diagnostic of disc injuries.
The type of injury may not always be obvious to a person injured in an automobile accident. For instance, there are many documented cases of carpal tunnel syndrome caused by a person tightly clenching the steering wheel during an accident. Since the wrists may not have slammed into a part of the car, the person involved in the injury may not associate this problem with the car accident until it is too late to make a claim.
Moreover, many insurance adjusters will refuse to pay claims when there has been a delay in receiving treatment or when large gaps in the treatment have occurred. Even though there are explainable and legitimate reasons for the delay or gap in treatment, victims may end up either uncompensated or under-compensated.
It is not uncommon for accident victims to leave the scene of the accident feeling that they were uninjured and wake up the next day or two later with extreme soreness, tightness or muscle spasm. In these instances, immediate medical attention should be sought from your doctor.
Again, documentation of the onset of injury is important in establishing a causal link between an accident and an injury.
If an injury has been diagnosed by your physician, it's critical that you keep your appointments and attend your scheduled treatments. Skipping doctor's appointments gives the insurance company a valid argument that suggests you're injuries aren't severe or legitimate. Medical records and clear treatment paths are essential to successfully pursuing a claim.