Over the past several years, traffic fatalities have risen in the US, reaching a grim 16-year high in 2021. In the aftermath of a collision, emotions usually run high, heightened by additional responsibilities like filing an insurance claim, providing a clear and concise statement for the police report, documenting damage, and seeing a physician if you have any injuries. Signs of trauma to the body may not be initially apparent in some instances, and in others, the injuries are obvious. Either way, getting proper medical attention is crucial. However, errors and oversights individuals commonly make when meeting with physicians after a traffic accident can be detrimental to insurance claims and personal injury suits. Below, we examine car accident victims’ most common mistakes when consulting a physician.
1. Initially Turning Away Medical Attention
People often think they can simply “tough it out” after a car accident, but this can exacerbate underlying injuries. Regardless of initial feelings, it’s always wise to seek medical care after the crash. With many injuries, including whiplash, symptoms may not manifest for days or even weeks after being hit. Symptoms for many injuries are often masked by hormone release following traumatic scenes. Hormones like adrenalin and cortisol regulate the body’s stress and pain management after a motor vehicle accident. When released as coping mechanisms, hormones can provide the perception of momentary relief while covering a range of injuries from mild to severe. Delaying initial consultation and diagnosis can hinder recovery and can limit treatment options. Thus, it is best to have a qualified medical professional examine you for any damage inflicted by the accident’s impact.
2. Missing, Skipping, or Avoiding Follow-up Appointments
Once you have seen a doctor for your injuries, it is essential to follow up as recommended. Some instances may include attending physical therapy, seeing a specialist, or scheduling additional appointments to monitor the progress or regression of an injury. Failure to do so could result in your injuries getting worse or taking longer to heal. When pursuing a personal injury claim due to an accident, it is critical to follow the guidance of the attending physician.
3. Not Getting a Second Opinion
Seek a separate opinion from another medical provider if you are unsure about your current doctor’s diagnosis or treatment plan. If you have doubts regarding your physician’s assessment and conclusion, it is in no way an insult to the doctor to seek a second opinion. After all, your health and well-being come first.
4. Keeping the Doctor in the Dark
It would be best to advise your doctor about areas of concern, pain levels, bruising, other injuries you may have noticed, or changes in your physical ability and range of motion. In addition, providing the physician with a description of how the accident occurred can be incredibly helpful in discovering injuries and underlying concerns early enough to treat them correctly. By explaining how the collision happened, a doctor may determine which side of the body received the brunt of the collision’s impact and if you are at risk for a concussion or other trauma to the brain, head, or spine. For example, left unchecked, a moderate injury to the back can turn into years of chronic pain and trigger other conditions. By being honest and providing your physician with these vital details, you increase the likelihood of receiving a proper diagnosis and management of care.
5. Consulting Your Physician About Legal Matters
Your doctor’s primary focus is on improving the accident-induced injuries, restoring your overall health, and encouraging your recovery progress rather than addressing legal concerns. Your claim or lawsuit could be adversely affected by divulging sensitive case information. Physicians will frequently refer patients with litigious matters to another physician or remove themselves from the patient’s treatment plan, to avoid legal implications. Distancing may occur once a personal injury suit or litigation comes to light. Many physicians have a full caseload and prefer to avoid the added responsibilities, paperwork, and involvement attributed to legal matters such as court cases and lawsuits. Promptly mentioning a lawsuit can make a physician apprehensive about taking you on as a patient.
6. Unorganized Medical and Expenses Records
Following an accident, you will likely receive a slew of paperwork, including medical records. It is a disservice to yourself, your recovery, and a personal injury claim to lose track of related documents. It is best to keep all paperwork organized in files and make hard copies. You may also request copies of x-rays and other medical diagnostic results. All bills and receipts, for example, urgent care statements, therapy costs, prescription charges, and medical equipment receipts, document the expenses related to the injury. Debt can quickly accumulate after an accident, and a primary goal of insurance claims and personal injury suits is obtaining appropriate compensation for all expenses associated with your injury, pain and suffering, and other damages. All of the above elements are crucial to your attorney’s power to negotiate and fight effectively for rightfully owed compensation on your behalf.
7. Lack of Effective Communication of Injuries’ Impact
Ineffectively conveying an injury’s impact on your work, life, and daily task performance to your doctor can paint a false picture of your physical condition and the weight of the injury. Often, patients complain about their injuries until they reach the doctor’s office. Still, pain and other symptoms are downplayed once in the exam room to avoid burdening the “busy doctor” or medical staff. Remember, doctors, nurses, and medical assistants are there to help and work for you.
8. Precluding Treatment Early and Ignoring Mental Health Treatment
Terminating treatment regimens before being medically recommended can be dangerous. In addition, ignoring trauma symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD can be harmful and costly in the short and long term. Most injured victims develop anxiety disorder or depression or suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) due to the crash. Consult your physician regarding such symptoms. Lastly, confer with your doctor before discontinuing a prescribed or recommended treatment.
The above are only some of the most common mistakes traffic accident victims make when addressing their physician. An experienced Bay Area car accident attorney can offer knowledgeable guidance on critical aspects of a personal injury case. If you were injured in a car accident or suffered a personal injury in California, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.