This topic applies to any type of personal injury or a third-party claim. Essentially any injury except Workers Compensation, which has an additional layer of complexity that I won’t be addressing in this post. So, this applies to anyone that is involved in a car accident, a slip and fall, a trip and fall, an animal or dog attack, bike accident etc.
1) Any medical care is better than no medical care, seek IMMEDIATE treatment
The most important thing, from a legal standpoint, is to seek medical care immediately. The earlier you can see a medical provider and document your symptoms, the stronger your legal case is. If there is a delay in receiving medical care, days or weeks, the more time passes the more likely it is an insurance carrier or claims adjuster will dispute (1) that the accident caused the injury and (2) that the injury is significant. The logic of an insurance carrier is that if you are really hurt in an accident, you would seek medical care. Insurance claims adjusters are using computer systems and are very robotic, so there isn’t much consideration for human elements such as a person resting at home or a person struggling to decide who to seek care with.
2) Day of or Day after – Emergency Room and Urgent Care
The most common option for immediate medical care is an Emergency Room visit. However, these ER visits can carry with them a very high medical cost that you may not be able to afford. Other options are Urgent Care rooms that you can research online, these providers are like an ER but are typically not at a hospital and aren’t for the most severe types of injuries. The benefit is they usually carry a lower price tag and often have a much shorter wait time. If you see an Emergency Room or Urgent Care, do not worry if you cannot pay the medical bill. With an attorney, payment plans or alternative options can be agreed with the hospital or urgent care provider.
The use of an ER or Urgent Care is a very strong option for severe injuries. If you break an arm and wait 2 weeks to see a doctor, you are going to raise an eyebrow from the insurance company who will feel compelled to dispute the case. On the other hand, if you don’t go to the ER and have a less traumatic injury (maybe a rotator cuff tear with pain increasing steadily), its more credible that you did not think you needed an ER right away.
3) Within 10 days – Chiropractor, Physical Therapist or Primary Care
Now this does not apply to the severe injuries (i.e. broken bones or a lumbar spine injury causing incontinence etc.). But if the pain isn’t so severe you need immediate medical care, you may be able to schedule an appointment either with a Primary Care physician or a chiropractor within a week. A chiropractor will often provide care related to an accident on a “lien” basis when there is an attorney involved. A lien is a promise of payment upon settlement of a case so that treatment can be made available if you do not have the cash on hand. A chiropractor is most commonly the first-stop for spine injuries that aren’t so severe you needed an ER visit, but they can also provide medical documentation for arm, leg, or head injuries and at the very least document you symptoms (documentation is extremely important). Alternatively, a primary care physician can also serve as a first stop to document your symptoms and provide you with the necessary referrals to specialists. Physical therapists are also a great medical provider to receive care from but often they will require a referral from your primary care physician (a chiropractor does not require a referral).
4) Within 2-6 weeks – Specialists
This is a very broad topic that obviously depends on the specific injury or symptoms involved. In general, the most common specialists involved in accident cases are: Orthopedic spine surgeons, Orthopedic extremity surgeons, neurologists, pain management specialists, neurosurgeons, and plastic surgeons. Usually these specialists are not the first stop, one reason being it can take a few weeks to pass from the point of first contact and the time you get in to see the specialist. Even if you don’t have health insurance, with an attorney, medical care with specialists will be provided (often on a “lien” basis, meaning the specialist is promised payment upon settlement instead of payment up front). Often these specialists will want to see that your symptoms were documented soon after the accident and will either order in advance or after the first appointment a series of diagnostics (i.e. MRI or x-rays).
5) What to do if I don’t have insurance or they don’t take my insurance
If you do not have health insurance or a provider does not take your health insurance, it is extremely important to contact an attorney about your case as soon as possible. Haling Law can work out arrangements with medical providers to provide medical care even when you do not have health insurance. Many medical providers, but not all, are willing to provide medical care to those that do not have health insurance they take so long as they are assured their medical bills will be paid and Haling Law can provide that assurance when you hire Haling Law to represent you.
6) What to do at first medical appointments
The name of the game is documentation. The reality is soon after an accident, you will likely be in a daze with a mixture of shock that you were in the accident and a sense of being overwhelmed as many different parts of your body may be aching. The most important and critical thing is whoever you began treatment with, to document every symptom you have. You do not have a crystal ball to predict what injury will last a month or even a year. But if that injury that bothers you a year later was not documented in the first medical visits, the insurance company will dispute your case. To protect yourself, documenting your symptoms creates a trail of evidence allowing Haling Law to clearly link injuries that may bother you for some time to the very first medical appointment following your accident, and making your injury case that much more airtight and likely to achieve a quicker and more favorable settlement. If you did not report a symptom at your first visit, its never too late to call your medical provider up and mention you forgot about X symptom or to schedule a follow up and discuss it with the medical provider as soon as possible