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How Long Do You Have to Go to the Doctor after a Car Accident?

Posted on August 24, 2018 by Kelly Wolford
Injured woman visiting her doctor for check-up.

The aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming, with many urgent and unexpected concerns suddenly emerging at once. One of the most important concerns is getting medical attention. How long do you have to go to the doctor after a car accident?

Unfortunately, some accident victims either think they don’t need to see a doctor at all or lose track of time with other concerns, pushing off a doctor’s visit for days or weeks. This could be a big mistake – both for your health and your legal claim.

Medical attention after a car accident is a time-sensitive matter. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible is important not only for your medical recovery, but also for receiving the maximum amount of compensation from your insurance.

How Long Do You Have to Go to the Doctor after a Car Accident?

At Powers & Santola, LLP, we want to see personal injury victims recover to their fullest potential both in the medical sense and in the financial sense. With that in mind, we want to help you understand how soon you need to see a doctor and why.

When you are ready to fight for the compensation you need, our Albany car accident lawyers are here to help.

When to See a Doctor After a Car Accident

If your own perception of the severity of your injuries is not enough to get you to see a doctor right away, the cold, hard process insurance companies use to determine compensation should be. While you will likely be in touch with a claims adjuster, most of the real insurance adjusting is done by a computer program that will be fed data about your accident and injuries.

One important piece of data that could increase your odds of recovering fair compensation is whether you sought medical attention in a “reasonable” amount of time after the accident. Most insurance companies consider 72 hours to be reasonable. This means that for insurance purposes, you have 72 hours to see a doctor before you risk a serious reduction in the compensation you receive.

Can’t get in with your primary care physician within 72 hours? Try some alternatives. One popular option is to go to an urgent care clinic where you can be seen right away. There are plenty of these clinics in the Albany area. While you may pay more out-of-pocket for an appointment at one of these clinics than you would with your regular doctor, you can submit the bill to the insurer for compensation.

For insurance purposes, seeing a chiropractor within the first 72 hours is generally treated the same as seeing a doctor.

What If My Accident Injuries Don’t Show Up Right Away?

While some injuries, such as broken bones and open wounds, may be immediately obvious after a car accident, others can take some time to show up. This does not mean you should wait to see a doctor, but it does mean that you may want to go back for a follow-up when you start to notice symptoms you didn’t notice before. Some of the most common injuries that may not be apparent at first are brain injuries and soft tissue injuries.

Concussions After a Car Accident

A concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), occurs when the brain receives some kind of trauma. In car accidents, this often happens when the head jerks forward and the brain hits the inside of the skull, even if there was no direct impact to the head.

Because car accidents are usually at least somewhat disorienting, some patients may not realize they are experiencing concussion symptoms, which can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Seeing stars
  • Momentary loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Balance issues
  • Ringing in the ears

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after an accident, you may have a concussion, and you should discuss your symptoms with a doctor. If you have already seen a doctor but did not discuss the possibility of a concussion, do not hesitate to follow up with another appointment.

Soft Tissue Injuries After a Car Accident

Another issue that can go undiagnosed for even longer is a soft tissue injury. These injuries affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissue. They can cause terrible pain and even mobility issues if left untreated.

Soft tissue injuries will not show up on an x-ray, so even if you have already undergone an x-ray, you could have additional injuries lurking under the skin that your doctor did not notice. Symptoms may not show up for a few days. If you have experienced new pain or discomfort after your initial doctor visit, you should go back for another appointment to get any soft tissue injuries diagnosed.

The Bottom Line: Get Medical Help Now, Get More Later If Needed

Just because soft tissue injuries, concussions, and other types of injuries may take days to become apparent, it does not mean that you should wait to see a doctor. You can always go back if you experience new symptoms and submit your additional bills to your insurance for compensation.

The most important thing is that you get that first visit within the first 72 hours for insurance purposes. It is better to see a doctor multiple times than to lose out on the full amount of compensation you need and deserve for your injuries. However, even if you waited longer to seek medical treatment, you could still recover compensation for your car accident injuries.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Albany Today

The insurance claims process is tough, and its twists and turns can seem to add insult to injury after a car accident. At the end of the day, insurers want to protect their bottom line, even if that means withholding compensation simply because you waited too long to see a doctor.

Don’t be cheated.If you want to maximize your compensation, the Albany car accident lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP can help you fight for every penny you’re entitled to. For more information, contact us online or call us now.