The trauma from a car accident can be severe and leave individuals with serious injuries. But, if you are injured following an accident, should you go to urgent care or ER after a car accident? Should you go to urgent care or ER after a car accident?
Time is of the essence following a car accident, which is why we’ll discuss when to go to urgent care or the ER after a car accident, based on the type and severity of your injuries. We will explain how to determine the type and severity of injuries, the difference between urgent care and the ER, and when to call 911.
Seeking prompt medical attention after a car accident can help pinpoint the type and severity of injuries so you can decide where to get medical care.
What's The Difference Between Urgent Care and the ER?
Urgent care and the ER are both healthcare facilities that provide medical attention to patients, but they differ in their level of care and services provided. For example, fractures, sprains, and minor lacerations are most frequently treated at urgent care facilities. The ER is specially designed to manage medical circumstances of the most extreme kind, like head injuries, deep burns, and cardiac anguish.
Urgent care centers typically have shorter wait times and lower costs compared to the ER. The ER, on the other hand, has a higher level of care and resources, including imaging tests and specialists on call.1
Determining the Type and Severity of Your Injuries
Not all injuries will be apparent following a car accident. Some injuries may take hours or even days to develop symptoms. So, how long after an accident should you see a doctor? It's crucial to pay close attention to any discomfort or pain you experience after a car accident, and even if you initially feel fine, it’s always a good idea to see a doctor.
Types of Injuries
There are a number of common car accident injuries to look out for following a car accident. These include:
- Whiplash – This is a neck injury that happens when the head is pushed forward and then snapped back.
- Back injuries – These include sprains, strains, and herniated disks.2
- Fractures – These can affect any part of the body, but are most common in the arms, legs, and ribs.
- Concussions – This type of traumatic brain injury is usually caused when someone hits their head during the accident.3
Seeking Medical Care
Seeking medical attention after an accident might help you determine the extent of your car accident injuries. Your doctor can examine you thoroughly and evaluate the nature and severity of your injuries. They may also suggest diagnostic testing such as X-rays or MRIs to have a better understanding of any potential ailments.
However, some injuries may not be detected by tests right away. In this case, your car accident doctor may advise a period of observation to evaluate your symptoms and assess whether further treatment is required.
When to Go to Urgent Care
Urgent care is appropriate for injuries requiring immediate attention but not life-threatening. Minor cuts and burns, sprains and strains, and mild concussions are all instances of when to visit an urgent care.
At urgent care, there is a professional medical staff who provide a range of diagnostic and treatment services. Services provided may include:
- X-rays to assess the extent of an injury
- Stitches to close a wound
- Splints to immobilize a broken bone or sprain
Urgent care centers are intended to provide patients with quick medical assistance without needing an appointment or extended wait times. They usually accept walk-in patients on weekends and holidays, as well as outside regular business hours. So, if you’re in need of quick medical care for minor injuries, urgent care may be your best option.
When to Go to the ER
It's crucial to get emergency room treatment right away if you've been in an accident and have received significant, potentially fatal injuries. Some of the injuries that are treated in the emergency room include:
- Chest discomfort – This may indicate a heart attack or another dangerous condition and you should seek emergency medical assistance right away.
- Severe burns – Burns cause substantial tissue damage and need prompt medical intervention to avoid infection and decrease the risk of long-term scarring.4
- Brain damage or bleeding – This results from injuries to the head, and symptoms may not present themselves right away.5
If you develop any of these symptoms after a motor vehicle accident, visit your closest ER:
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive bleeding
Remember that the ER can be costly, and it is not always essential to go there for every car accident injury. If you have non-life-threatening injuries that need attention, consider going to an urgent care facility instead. However, if you're unclear about the severity of your injuries, avoid potential risks and seek immediate medical treatment. Delaying medical care might lead to further difficulties and even life-threatening situations.
When to Call 911
In certain life-threatening situations, it’s in everyone’s best interest to call 911. Some examples of this include serious bleeding, loss of consciousness, and trouble breathing. These symptoms may suggest a deadly medical condition, and immediate medical attention is essential.
In these situations, paramedics can administer necessary medical attention and bring the affected individuals to the nearest hospital. When you call, remain calm and provide the 911 operator with as much information as possible regarding the accident.
Doing so can save lives, so don’t hesitate to call if you need help after a car accident.
How and When to Make the Decision
Making the decision to go to urgent care or the ER can be daunting, and it’s important to consider factors such as the type and severity of injuries, proximity to medical facilities, and cost. Urgent care can be your best bet if you have a small injury that needs quick attention. However, don’t hesitate to seek emergency room care right away if you suffer a serious or life-threatening car accident injury.
If you’re unsure about what type of care to receive, contact your doctor or insurance provider for guidance. But keep in mind: cost should not be the only consideration when seeking medical attention; your health and safety are the top priority.
How Mighty Can Help You After a Car Accident
Knowing whether to visit the ER or urgent care after an accident might significantly impact how quickly you recover. Consider the extent of your injuries, and if required, get help right away. Lastly, don't forget to monitor your symptoms and seek additional treatment if they continue or get worse.
At Mighty, we understand the challenges that come with a car accident and the importance of seeking appropriate medical care. To help you navigate the legal system and focus on recovering, head to Mighty's Attorney Directory to find a trusted car accident attorney in your area today.
- Mayo Clinic Health System. “Emergency vs. Urgent Care: Differences.” https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/emergency-vs-urgent-care-whats-the-difference.
- Mayo Clinic. “Whiplash.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/symptoms-causes/syc-20378921.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What Is a Concussion?” https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html.
- Mayo Clinic. “Burns.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/burns/symptoms-causes/syc-20370539.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).” https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/traumatic-brain-injury-tbi.
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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