Your First Medical Treatment After a Vehicle Accident
In 2018, there were 319,146 motor vehicle crashes in Illinois with 67,453 causing injuries. Some injured people were taken directly to the hospital by ambulance. Others went to an emergency room, urgent care center or their physician on their own on the day of the collision. Still others went home, and sought medical attention in the days after the crash because of increasing pains due to the collision. Your first medical visit is critical for getting the diagnosis and treatment you need and for documenting the nature and extent of your condition.
If you are in a vehicle crash, you would likely benefit from medical attention even if you are are not in severe pain and even if you are functioning “ok.”. There are some types of injuries, particularly connective tissue or nerve damage issues, that do not become symptomatic for hours or days after the accident. Delayed symptoms of nerve damage may include radiating pain, tingling and numbness. These could be symptoms of a herniated disc in your vertebra. Other delayed symptoms are signs of a mild brain injury and can include headaches, dizziness and blurred vision. In any case, urgent medical care is always a good choice. It is important to comply with the instructions of the emergency room physician to see your own doctor or specialist for appropriate follow-up care.
At Your First Visit After an Accident: Reporting History and Conditions
In addition to the primary health reasons for receiving immediate medical care, it is vital to document your injuries to support your claim for damages. Medical providers, by law, must maintain medical charts. Medical care providers must record the history of your condition (eg. pedestrian struck by truck), your symptoms (eg. severe pain in back and both legs), your limitations (eg. severe difficulty walking) and other relevant factors. At the first medical encounter, you should fully identify all injuries that were caused by the collision. Remember, if you do not tell the nurse and doctor about the condition, it is as if the condition does not exist in the eyes of the insurance company and perhaps in the eyes of jurors if your case goes to trial.
If you do not fully describe the sensations and limitations you are experiencing, they will not be in your medical chart. If they are not in your chart, the symptoms are difficult to prove. Your treaters must know of any disability or limitation related to your conditions. For example, inability to sleep, weakness, and sensitivity to light and sound can be signs of certain conditions. Your doctor’s staff should document every condition and symptom that you report, including examination findings such as spasm, swelling or numbness.
The insurer handling your claim will scrutinize all of your medical records, so it is essential that your medical records be both accurate and comprehensive in listing all your injuries including your symptoms, your limitations. And if the case goes to trial, jurors will want to know what you reported to doctors and therapists after the incident. Doctors who are familiar with treating patients with traumatic injuries will know the importance of documentation and have procedures in place to ensure accurate charting.
If you forget to report a particular condition or symptom, be sure to report it at your next visit. If you do not fully report your injuries, and the related symptoms and disability, it will be difficult for your attorney to overcome this challenge and prove the injury.
The 72-Hour “Rule”
Insurers now often use software programs to place a value on your claim for damages. One factor they feed into the program is whether or not you saw a physician within 72 hours of the accident. If you did seek medical care within that time, a value is added to your claim. If you did not, a value is deducted from your claim and will reduce the amount of money the insurance company will deem your claim is worth. An experienced personal injury automobile accident attorney may be able to overcome this challenge, but it will make it much more difficult for you to collect all the compensation to which you are legally entitled.
How to Find a Medical Doctor Who Will Treat You Within 72 Hours
If you have a personal physician, call the office to advise that you were in a vehicle accident and need an urgent appointment. If this is not possible, go to a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility. From a personal safety standpoint, it is critical to be evaluated and treated after a traumatic incident. From an insurance claim and litigation perspective, it is necessary to have medical record evidence to prove your claim and recover full value for your injury.
If you were seriously injured in a vehicle crash, contact us at the Blumenshine Law Group at (312)766-1000 or text (312)719-2010. We will provide a free consultation. If you are injured so severely you are unable to come to our office, we can speak on the phone, email, Zoom or text and perhaps arrange to visit you either at your home or your hospital room.