Car accidents are all too common and usually result in injury for those involved. Following an accident, assessing your injuries and seeking treatment may help you avoid long-term implications. But, how long after an accident should you see a doctor?
We’ll discuss the importance of seeking medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident, the potential consequences of delaying treatment, and provide tips on what to do if your car accident injuries are delayed.
Within the First 72 Hours
If you’re not sure when to see a car accident doctor, it’s recommended to go in within the first 72 hours after a car accident. Seeking medical assistance as soon as possible will help you avoid long-term consequences and guarantee you receive the necessary treatment from a medical professional.
There have been many advancements to help with neck pain disorders, however, the prevalence of full recovery following a whiplash injury resulting from a motor vehicle crash has not increased.1
Other types of injuries that may occur include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal injuries
If you delay seeking medical attention, you may not experience symptoms until hours or days after the accident. This can make it more difficult to treat common car accident injuries and lead to complications. Additionally, insurance companies may use delayed treatment as evidence that your injuries are not as severe as you claim.
Why the Sooner You Go is Better
Seeing a doctor as soon as possible following a vehicle accident offers various benefits. For starters, seeing a healthcare provider sooner rather than later helps identify your injuries, which can speed up your healing process and reduce the chance of long-term complications. Also, seeking medical treatment will help you establish a record of your injuries, which can be useful if you decide to submit a personal injury claim later on.
For example, if you delay getting medical assistance, the insurance company may argue that the collision did not cause your injuries. However, if you seek medical assistance immediately, your medical records will demonstrate that the automobile accident caused your injuries.
What to Do if Your Injuries Are Delayed
Delayed injuries are injuries that don’t show symptoms until hours or days after the automobile accident. For instance, you may experience pain or discomfort in your neck or back days after the accident. If you experience delayed symptoms, it's essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Delaying treatment for delayed injuries can lead to long-term complications, such as chronic pain or limited mobility. Additionally, insurance companies may use delayed treatment as evidence that your injuries are not as severe as you claim.
What Can Happen If You Wait Too Long
Delaying a visit to urgent care or the ER after a car accident can have serious repercussions. Even if you feel fine immediately following the auto accident, it's important to get checked out by a medical professional. Here are some of the potential risks of not receiving medical attention after a car accident.
Many injuries, especially soft tissue injuries, may not present symptoms until hours, days, or even weeks after an auto accident.2 If you wait too long to see a medical professional, you may miss the window for early treatment, resulting in longer recovery times and more extensive medical care.
Long-term Health Complications
Delaying medical treatment after a car accident can have severe consequences for your long-term health as well. Even if you initially feel fine, underlying injuries may not immediately manifest symptoms. Here are some potential long-term health complications that can arise from delaying medical treatment:
As we’ve discussed, certain injuries, such as whiplash, back injuries, or soft tissue damage, may not present immediate symptoms. If these are left untreated, you risk developing chronic pain.
Chronic pain can significantly impact your quality of life, making everyday activities difficult and limiting your ability to work or engage in activities you once enjoyed.
Untreated injuries can also lead to reduced mobility and limited range of motion. For instance, fractures that are not properly treated may heal improperly, causing misalignment or joint stiffness—a deformity called a malunion.3 These conditions can make it challenging to perform daily tasks, engage in physical activities, or maintain an active lifestyle.
Development of Secondary Conditions
Delaying medical treatment can also increase the risk of developing secondary conditions. For example, untreated head injuries can lead to cognitive difficulties, memory problems, or even neurological disorders.4 Similarly, untreated back injuries can result in spinal problems or nerve damage.5
In some cases, severe injuries that are left untreated can lead to permanent disability. Spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries may result in long-term impairments that impact mobility, coordination, or cognitive function. Permanent disability can significantly affect your independence, livelihood, and overall quality of life.
The human body is complex, and seemingly minor injuries can have far-reaching consequences if not promptly addressed. Seeking immediate medical attention after a car accident allows healthcare professionals to assess your condition thoroughly and provide appropriate treatment to minimize the risk of long-term complications.
Insurance Claim Denial
Beyond these physical implications, if you wait too long to seek medical care, your insurance company may deny your claim. Insurance companies frequently argue that if you did not seek medical assistance immediately following the accident, your injuries must not have been severe. This is just one more reason to see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident, even if you aren’t experiencing any pain or discomfort.
See related: How Are Medical Bills Paid After a Car Accident?
If you delay medical treatment after a motor vehicle accident, it could negatively impact your legal case if you decide to file a lawsuit. The opposing party may argue that your injuries were not caused by the car crash, since you did not seek medical assistance immediately.
The risks of delaying medical assistance following an accident are simply not worth taking. Seeking medical assistance as soon as possible after an accident can help safeguard your health and well-being while also protecting your legal rights.
Prioritize Your Health and Seek Legal Support After a Car Accident
As we’ve discussed, receiving medical assistance following a car accident is critical to your health and well-being. Even if you feel fine after the collision, it's crucial to see a car accident doctor to ensure you don't have any concealed injuries. Delaying medical care can lead to long-term health problems, insurance claim denials, and legal issues.
Mighty understands the necessity of getting prompt medical care following an automobile accident and we have created a list of attorneys who can provide legal counsel and representation. Head to Mighty's Attorney Directory to find a trusted car accident attorney in your area today.
- JOSPT. “Whiplash Continues Its Challenge.” www.jospt.org/doi/10.2519/jospt.2016.0112.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Symptoms of Mild TBI and Concussion.” www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/concussion/symptoms.html.
- University of Michigan Health. “Malunion Fractures.” www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/cmc/fracture/malunion.
- Mayo Clinic. “Traumatic Brain Injury.” www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-203785.
- Mayo Clinic. “Spinal Cord Injury.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spinal-cord-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20377890.
Written ByLuke Krolak
Client Operations Lead
About the author
Luke is a warm-hearted and highly skilled legal operations expert with an impressive 8-year track record in the personal injury field. As the Client Operations Lead at Mighty, he is dedicated to providing exceptional support, transparent communication, and genuine empathy to clients during their challenging journey. His expertise in streamlining processes and implementing cutting-edge technology makes him an indispensable ally for clients, case managers, and attorneys in their pursuit of justice.
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