After you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, you are likely dealing with a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. For some, your pain and injuries are significant enough to accept treatment at the scene, whether a simple evaluation and minor treatment from emergency response personnel or ambulance transport to the hospital. However, many people involved in motor vehicle accidents do not accept medical treatment at the scene for various reasons.
How do you determine that treatment is needed after a motor vehicle accident?
If your injuries are severe or life-threatening, you need to seek emergency treatment immediately. Suppose you are in pain or discomfort immediately after the accident, but the injuries identified by emergency response personnel do not require immediate transportation to the hospital. In that case, you should seek treatment that day. If you cannot seek treatment on the day of the accident, you should seek treatment as soon as possible after the accident.
What if I do not feel pain or discomfort immediately after the car accident?
Given that motor vehicle accidents are events that are not expected, clients have described an “adrenaline” or “shock” response that continues to occur in the hours after the accident. Over my practicing career, I have had many clients who began to have pain and discomfort in the days following the accident. Once you feel pain and discomfort, it is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Why Treatment is Important to Your Case
To recover from your injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident, you need to seek treatment and follow up with treatment until your issues are resolved. Be sure to identify and describe every injury and every area of pain or discomfort.
I have had clients mention only their most significant injury or injuries, believing their other injuries were not significant enough to warrant medical treatment at their initial medical visit.
For some of these clients, the most significant injury was the injury they did not treat until weeks or months after the accident.
A real example of why you need to disclose all of your potential injuries right away
An injured person suffers from headaches, neck pain, and neck stiffness after an accident. The injured person sought treatment for his headaches, neck pain, and stiffness, but he did not mention or otherwise seek treatment for back pain.
Months later, the injured person began to seek medical treatment for significant back pain, which eventually resulted in several cortisone injection procedures, as well as a selective nerve block procedure.
Although it was not communicated to his medical providers at the time of his initial treatment and follow-up treatments for his headaches, neck pain, and stiffness, the injured person also had lower back pain that began shortly after the accident. The injured person worked a job that required twists, turns, and lifting, and the opposing party argued successfully that his back injury was not related to the accident.
Key takeaway: If you do not mention all known injuries, significant or minor, at the beginning of your medical treatment following a motor vehicle accident, it can have a lasting impact on the value of your case.
Although medical treatment is not the only factor in determining the value of your case, it is the most significant factor.
In other cases, I have had prospective clients who do not seek treatment until weeks or months after an accident.
In initial contact phone calls, I have had individuals tell me several reasons for not seeking treatment, such as:
- They could continue to work through their injuries;
- They thought that their injuries would heal on their own;
- They did not have time to seek medical treatment, and
- They could not afford medical treatment.
In Indiana, it is the injured person’s burden to prove, among other things, that a negligent person’s actions cause the person’s injuries.
Some types of injuries that are suffered in car accidents can also be caused by post-accident falls, post-accident activities, or other accidents that occurred after the initial accident. In the opposing party’s defense of your claim and presentation to a jury, the opposing party will argue that your injuries were not significant enough for you to seek treatment shortly after the accident. As such, your injuries were not caused by the accident at issue in your case.
If a jury were to find that your injuries were not caused by the accident, you would receive nothing.
Key takeaway: It is important to treat as soon as possible after your accident, as well as after you begin feeling symptoms from an accident. Suppose your barrier is your inability to pay for your medical expenses. In that case, you may have insurance coverage, or there may be alternative ways to obtain treatment while your case is pending. If you contact our office, we can provide you with a no-obligation case consultation.
Follow Up Treatment and Addressing Injuries not Addressed in Your Initial Treatment.
If you first seek post-accident treatment outside of your primary care physician, you will typically be requested to follow up with a primary care physician. You may have provided all of your known injuries to the initial treatment provider, but the provider did not evaluate or otherwise order diagnostic tests for all your complained areas of injury.
To determine whether this may have occurred, you can review your discharge paperwork or medical treatment records. If this happens to you, be sure to consult with your primary care physician or follow-up treatment provider regarding the injuries you still have, and inform your provider whether the initial medical provider performed an analysis of those injuries.
A real case example shows the importance of follow-up treatment
A former client suffered injuries to her neck, back, and head after an automobile accident. While at the hospital, she informed the medical provider that she had hit her head, in addition to jarring her neck and back.
The client received x-rays of her neck and back, but the client did not receive a CT scan of her brain. Days after the accident, the prospective client had blurred vision and headaches. After my multiple requests to have her seek additional medical treatment, she underwent a CT scan of her brain. The CT scan revealed that she had suffered a concussion, and she received treatment for her concussion.
Key takeaway: Although you may have disclosed all known injuries to your initial treating provider, the treating provider may not have conducted all tests at your initial treating visit for various reasons. It is essential to follow up on any injuries not addressed in your initial treatment plan, in addition to following up on injuries within your initial treatment plan.
After your initial treatment, you may be required to undergo additional scans, treatment, and/or evaluations. Your medical provider may order physical therapy.
You must always communicate any issues or injuries to your medical providers. It is also essential that you continue to follow up until your medical issues are entirely resolved.
Another real case example showing the importance of follow-up treatment
I had a client who suffered lumbar and wrist issues due to a motor vehicle accident. The client had pre-existing back issues, but the accident caused worsening back symptoms.
The client received steroid injections and nerve root blocks in his back. However, after a few of these procedures, he stopped treatment.
He began treatment approximately six months later for the same issues. Due to his lack of treatment, he could not receive the full value of his claim, as his later treatment was deemed “unrelated.”
Key takeaway: Always follow up with all treatment until you no longer have any injury symptoms. If there is a gap in time when you stop treatment and later restart treatment, your case may lose significant value, as the treatment after the gap in treatment could be found unrelated to the accident.
Mental Health Counseling and Treatment After a Motor Vehicle Accident
Car accidents are traumatic. The most common impact on my clients, regardless of the injuries sustained, is the emotional and mental trauma caused by the accident.
Emotional and mental trauma and stress are frequently also present due to your injuries and changes to your daily schedule and activities. If you suffer from emotional or mental trauma or stress due to the accident, you should seek mental health counseling and treatment.
I have had several clients state that they do not feel comfortable driving for a long time after the accident. Other clients have stated that their emotional and mental trauma has caused significant issues with their personal lives and family.
At a trial, injured parties will often claim that they suffered emotional and mental trauma due to the accident and the impacts that the accident had on their daily life. The opposing party typically argues that while the injured person claims they suffered emotional and mental trauma, they have not sought treatment for those injuries.
Although most people believe that they want to handle their emotional trauma and stress on their own, it is helpful to you, as well as your case, to seek treatment.
When seeking treatment with your mental health counselor or treatment provider, be sure to mention the impact that the accident is having on your life during each appointment. Your mental health records can be significant in establishing that your emotional and mental trauma was caused by an accident.
Of course, we always recommend you call our motor vehicle accident attorneys immediately following an accident. Every case is different. Our team will ensure you do everything necessary to heal and maximize compensation for your injuries. Call for a FREE CONSULTATION.