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Car Accident Claim Settlement Mistake #3: Delaying your Medical Care

Waiting to see a doctor after being injured in an accident can reduce the amount of your auto accident claim settlement especially if you have soft tissue or back injuries, neck injuries, or a combination.

WHEN and IF medical care is sought is a critical component of your automobile accident claim or personal injury case.  A delay in medical care does not make the insurance company or a jury think that you are trying to handle your injuries on your own.  It does not make anyone think that you are trying to be responsible and take care of things on your own.  It doesn’t make people think that you are doing the best you can and had no choice.  Jurors and insurance companies are not sympathetic to the fact that you might have no insurance and might not know where to turn.  A delay in medical care impacts your case and reduces its value. 

Every day you wait to see the doctor after your car accident injury means that your case is worth less and less money. 

Any delay in medical care is a bad idea.  If you are not hurt then you don’t need to go to the doctor.  However, if you are hurt then you should get immediate medical attention.  Go to the emergency room or use your family doctor.  Get checked out to make nothing more serious is wrong.  If you need physical therapy or need to see a chiropractor, then just go see one. It does not help you and every day of delay hurts your case.  Some people on every jury will not understand why you delayed seeking medical care.  If you are hurt, they expect you to go to a doctor.

I encourage you if you are injured to go to the emergency room.  I don’t recommend everyone go by ambulance.  If you’re not hurt, if it’s not life threatening, then you don’t need an ambulance.  If you are hurt, however, go to the emergency room, get seen by the doctor; make sure nothing is seriously wrong.  Right or wrong, an insurance company will consider your bodily injury case a more serious and important case if you go to the emergency room right after the accident or the day of the accident.  Do you have to go right after the accident?  No.  You can wait several hours, get your vehicle home, and then go.  Have someone take you.  If you don’t go that night, is it okay to go the next day?  The answer to that is yes.  You can go the next day.  If you wake up and you’re terribly sore and in a lot of pain, go to the emergency room.  You can also go see your family care doctor or a medical doctor.  But regardless of which one you’re going to choose, get some medical care quickly, the day of the accident or the next day.

Seeing a Chiropractor After Your Peachtree City Car Accident

Some clients have asked me can they just go see their chiropractor.  If you have a chiropractor you’re familiar with or you’re injured and you believe they’ll best be able to treat you, then go see them.  But make sure you’re seen immediately after the accident within one or two days.  As long as you seek medical care for your injuries and you have your injuries documented within several days of the accident, you’ll be okay.  We recommend going to the emergency room, your family care doctor, your chiropractor or some other medical doctor who can diagnose your injuries, document them and begin your medical care.

Back and Neck Injuries

If you are sore at all the day of the accident, I would encourage you to immediately go to a medical doctor who can prescribe muscle relaxers or pain medicine.  Back and neck injuries get worse over several days, the first 48 to 72 hours.  Therefore, my experience has shown that if you are hurting the day of the accident and you seek no medical care, you will be in extreme pain within two to three days.

What If I Don't Have Health Insurance?

Some people in today’s economy do not have health insurance and are worried about going to the doctor.  They don’t think a doctor will see them or they don’t know a doctor that will see them without health insurance.  This is not a good reason to not seek medical care.  Under Georgia law, insurance or health insurance is not relevant and is not to be discussed in a personal injury case.  Under certain circumstances it might be brought up that you didn’t have health insurance and you can argue that was the reason for your delay in medical care.  However, most jury members are going to think if you were really hurt you would go to the doctor and worry about paying the bills later.  Therefore, when you delay medical care because you don’t have health insurance it says to them that you were not really hurt and did not really need to go.  Therefore, if you’re hurt you must seek medical care. 

The Insurance Adjuster Will Try to Delay Your Doctor Visit

I’ve had some clients tell me that they were trying to get the insurance company to give them a doctor or authorize going to the doctor.  The insurance companies don’t want to do this.  They are not going to prepay for you to visit a doctor.  They’re going to tell you if you’re hurt, go get medical care.  That’s if you talk to them right away.  Think about this.  The insurance adjuster’s job is to minimize the value of your auto accident claim settlement.  Their training is to teach them how to pay you as little for your case as possible.  If a delay in medical care reduces the value of your case to a jury and to them and they can delay you seeking medical care, they will do so.  If you call them and leave a message that says, "Hey, I need to go to the doctor.  Tell me where I can go."  Why would they call you back immediately?  If they can wait 24 to 48 hours to do so, they’ve effectively reduced the value of your case all the time you’re waiting for them to call and tell you where to go.  An insurance adjuster will almost always seek to delay your medical care through authorizations or not returning phone calls or just not providing you with a doctor.  It is not in their best interest to make it easy for you to go to the doctor.  They will not preauthorize any treatment.  They will not prepay anything.  They will not pay any bills until after your case is settled.  Therefore, it’s important to you to be in charge of your own medical care, to find your own doctor, to make a decision whether you’re hurt or not, and if you are to go to the doctor.  If you don’t think you know a doctor or don’t know of a doctor that can see you, I would recommend going and either calling a personal injury lawyer who might know a doctor in your area or checking with friends or family or asking a chiropractor you might know. If you would like for us to help recommend a doctor for you or to evaluate your case, give us a call at (770) 487-8999.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia