After a serious Alabama car accident, your health should be the top priority. Your health is far, far more important than any claim or case. Following any type of injury, medical care and recovery is the top goal. That means — If you are hurting, you need to see a doctor for your own well-being.
How does a delay in medical treatment impact a later claim for damages against the at-fault driver? That’s the question today. To answer, I need to start by saying car accident injuries are not always immediately obvious. Some injuries are latent. Some progressively worsen over time. When the impacts of an injury are not immediately known, a delay in medical care is certainly reasonable. So, let’s first talk about latent car accident injuries.
Car Accident Injuries May NOT Be Immediately Known!
Brakes screech. Slam! Crash! Metal crunches around you. Glass shatters. An air bag may even explode. The crash thrusts your car from the roadway. Then, just as suddenly, it all stops! What just happened? If you’ve ever been in a serious accident, you may know that feeling of shock just after the crash. Adrenaline pumps through your body. When this happens, you may not even realize you are hurt.
In the hours after the accident, your adrenaline decreases. Your muscles start to tighten and spasm. I’ve heard countless stories of car accident victims who couldn’t sleep or move hours after the wreck. Hours later, the injured victim realizes he or she needs emergency care.
Just from the standpoint of shock and adrenaline, sometimes you don’t realize you are hurt at the scene. In other cases, injuries are truly latent. The trauma occurs in the wreck but the injury then develops over time. For example, an accident victim may suffer a ruptured spinal disc in an accident but not fully realize the problem. Over time, the ruptured disc continues to impinge on a nerve. The person suffers worsening pain or numbness.
I’ve written about latent injuries on several prior occasions. I’ve published a few of my past articles on this blog. Whether a trauma produces an immediate or latent injury, you need to seek medical care once you suffer symptoms of the injury. If you let an injury linger, the problem can become more difficult to treat and heal.
What Are Some Common Reasons People Delay Medical Care?
Lack of Health Insurance. One common reason people delay medical care following an injury is due to a lack of health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, you still have options. Talk to an experienced car accident lawyer about these options. Just a few of these other options include: Medical funding companies; Doctors who will provide care based upon promises of later payment; or, Medical payments coverage under your own automobile policy. If you were on-the-job when the car accident occurred, you may also be entitled to medical treatment under Alabama’s workers’ compensation laws. Discuss your options.
Dislike of Medical Providers. Does anyone really want to see lawyers or doctors? Normal people do not. But, sometimes it’s necessary. While you may not like to see the doctor, it’s necessary for your health and recovery. If you wait, your condition could even worsen requiring you to see even more doctors later! Sometimes, untreated injuries produce chronic pain and long-term disability that could have been avoided.
Worry about missing work. I get it. You might be afraid of losing your job if you miss work. I’ve helped injured workers with Alabama workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years. I know some employers want their workers to get treatment so they can fully recover. I also know that other employers will replace you for missing work. You may be scared to miss work. In almost every long-term scenario, you are far better off, if you get your medical care. If an employer is going to terminate you for missing a little time to see the doctor, that employer is probably also going to terminate you if you suffer the lingering and untreated impacts of an injury that affect work. You need to get important medical care so you can live and work fully for the long-term.
Keep in mind that if your car crash happened while you were working, you might be entitled to medical care and benefits while off work recovering. Workers’ compensation benefits can protect your job or provide necessary money benefits while you are unable to work.
If you work for a large employer, you may also have access to Family and Medical Leave Act protections (FMLA). FMLA can provide valuable and protected time-off for serious medical conditions.
Fear of surgery. Maybe you have a serious back injury but don’t want to even think about surgery. I certainly understand that. You may be worried but you need to talk about your options with an experienced medical doctor. In some cases, surgery may be necessary. In other cases, you may have non-surgical options. In Huntsville, we have teams of doctors that offer the full range of treatment both surgical and non-surgical. In fact, most of the spinal surgeons in our community, have teams of rehabilitation doctors, pain doctors, and physical therapists. These teams may be able to help you without surgery. See the doctor if you are hurt!
If I Wait Too Long, How Will It Impact My Injury Case?
I’ve discussed several reasons why injuries are sometimes delayed or latent. I’ve also discussed several reasons why people avoid medical care even after injury symptoms are known. For me, the issue always returns to long-term health. Needless delays in treatment increase your problems and may even decrease the ability of doctors to heal you. Since we are talking about the impact on any personal injury claim or lawsuit, I’ll get back to the original question — How does a delay in medical care impact a claim? Here are a few ways a needless delay in seeking medical care may negatively impact your Alabama personal injury claim.
Delays make it more difficult for the doctor to relate your condition to the claimed injury. You need medical experts to support your claim that an accident caused specific injuries. In most cases, the best experts are the doctors who actually examined and treated you. The expert medical opinions they provide are crucial!
When you seek medical care in a timely manner, it’s a lot easier for the doctor to testify that the accident caused your problems. The longer you wait, the harder it is for the doctor to provide that opinion. Don’t wait too long.
Delays provide time for something else to happen outside the accident. You have a serious accident. You hurt your back in that accident. But, you wait to see the doctor. Because of that, the relationship and extent of your problems are not promptly documented. Let’s say you wait 6 months. During that 6 months, you have another car accident that you feel is minor. You may feel the 2nd accident was minor and caused no harm, but the insurance company and its lawyers are now likely to argue it’s difficult to determine what caused your current problems. If you had gone to the doctor promptly after your first accident, you may have avoided this unnecessary confusion.
Delays give the insurance company an argument your problem is not that bad. You suffer an accident. You are now making a claim that you suffered a serious injury. But, you waited 6 months to see any doctor. I can hear the insurance adjuster and insurance lawyer raising the question — “How can you be in such severe pain if you waited so long to see a doctor?” Don’t wait. Get the medical care you need.
If You Are Hurt, Seek Needed Medical Care
If you suffered a personal injury, see the doctor. Get the medical care you need. Timely medical care is important to your long-term health. Will delays also harm your personal injury claim? Yes, they can. Delays create issues in personal injury claims. If you have questions about any delay, talk to an experienced Alabama car accident lawyer.