After A Wreck – Should You Go To A Doctor?

Mark was involved in an accident at Airline Highway and Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan, Louisiana.  He was headed home to Norco from his job in Metairie and was stopped at the right light.  John was not paying attention to the road and was texting.  He did not notice Mark had stopped due to the red light and crashed into the back of Mark’s truck.  Mark felt a little stiff but declined the ambulance.  He went home and then to work the next day, and the next.  He felt stiff but figured it would get better.  Before long, it was two weeks and the stiffness had not gone away.  He decided to go to his doctor then.

Jennifer was on her way to work in Raceland when she was rear-ended at the red light on Highway 90 and Bayou Gauche Road in Paradis, Louisiana.  Just like Mark, it was the inattentive driving of a teenager trying to text while driving.  Jennifer felt the stiffness in her neck and back immediately. She did not want to go in the ambulance and declined, but she went straight to urgent care after her husband picked her up from the scene. 

Assuming everything else is equal – type of injury, the length of treatment, lost wages, etc. – who protected themselves better?

A big mistake I see after a car wreck is what is called a delay in treatment. A delay in treatment is failing to see a doctor – any doctor - soon after the wreck. This is a big mistake for two important reasons.

  1. You are putting your health at risk. If you have been in a wreck, you really need to be checked out by a physician. Don’t be John Wayne or your dad – you know, the tough guys who think that they are too tough to be hurt and don't need to see a doctor. A medical doctor, chiropractor or other health care provider is trained to take a history, examine you and treat you if necessary. You will be better off seeing a health care provider and letting that provider confirm you are not injured.
  2. Delaying treatment can reduce the amount of any compensation you are entitled to receive and introduces uncertainty into your claim – were you really hurt by the collision or by some other incident? 

In understanding the second reason, you should know how insurance companies evaluate claims.  They use sophisticated computer programs to help determine the value of your claim based on information specific to your case.   The insurance adjuster obtains the case-specific information and feeds into the program. The program only works based on the information put into it and based only on this information will generate a settlement dollar amount. Once the program speaks, the adjuster is unlikely to increase the amount significantly.  Because of this, it is very important that the data the insurance company feeds into the software is correct and complete. Delays in treatment are sometimes known to reduce the amount of money the insurance company pays.

So how does a delay in treatment hurt the case – the date of first treatment is one of the first pieces of data that the insurance company will be feeding into their software. If you have seen a physician within that time frame then you have added what is called a value driver to your score in the insurance company software. There are more and larger value software drivers used in the software but in terms of time, this is the first important value driver that you want to have in your case profile.

Here's the main takeaway – get checked out, preferably within 72 hours of the collision, to make sure you receive care if you need it and protect yourself in case a personal injury claim needs to be made.

Often, accident victims don’t realize how injured they are until a day, or even two or three days, after the accident. Sometimes it's weeks before they realize that the lingering pain, stiffness, or soreness that they assumed would go away, hasn't stopped at all. But it is essential to seek medical care as soon as possible, both to determine the level of injury and receive proper treatment, and to strengthen your personal injury case later on. If you wait more than a week to see a doctor, you’ve just told the insurance company that your injury isn’t that bad.

Not going to a doctor after an accident such a big mistake, that it is number one on my list of 7 Deadly Sins that Can Destroy a Personal Injury ClaimShould you always see a doctor after a wreck?

Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Disability and Personal Injury Attorney