How Long Do You Have to See a Doctor After an Auto Accident?

There are obvious health reasons for seeing a doctor after a car accident.  But not only is prompt care important to your health – it’s also important to your insurance claim against the at-fault driver.  If you wait for too long to seek medical treatment, the insurance company can deny coverage – even if you were seriously hurt.  For this reason, getting immediate medical treatment is one of the most important steps to take after a car accident in Oklahoma.

Delay in Treatment: Getting Medical Care within 72 Hours of a Car Accident

A car accident is a high-stress emergency event.  Your body responds by pumping out a huge surge of adrenaline (epinephrine), the hormone associated with the “fight or flight” response.  During an adrenaline rush, your heartbeat speeds up, you take faster breaths, and you’re less sensitive to sensations of pain.  However, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that tissue has been damaged.  When you don’t feel pain signals the way you normally would, you don’t receive your body’s message that an injury has occurred.  It can take hours or entire days to start feeling pain while the initial rush and shock of the accident subsides.

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When you report the accident to your insurance company, do not make any statements indicating that you “feel fine,” “weren’t badly hurt,” or any remarks along those lines.  You may have sustained injuries you aren’t even aware of, because your body, responding to a state of high stress, is so flooded with chemicals.

It is also critically important to get medical care as soon as possible following any vehicular accident.  You should see a doctor within the first 72 hours of the crash, which is the standard time period insurance companies use when evaluating claims.  Auto insurance companies are motivated by one goal above all else – minimizing their financial losses – and will look for any ammunition they can use to argue that you are faking or exaggerating your injuries.  If you fail to get prompt medical care – or if you prematurely express that you were not injured, only to later discover that isn’t actually true – the insurance company may cite “delays in treatment” as an excuse to dramatically limit or outright deny coverage.

If waiting lists pose an obstacle, you can try visiting an Urgent Care center, a walk-in clinic, or the emergency department at your local hospital.  Alternately, you may be able to get an appointment with a chiropractor, who is considered to be a physician by insurance company standards.  Wherever you go to receive treatment, make sure to hold onto all medical forms and documents for your records.  Keeping a file of extensive, organized paperwork will help to strengthen your claim.

Common Crash Injuries and Their Warning Signs

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Even if you feel fine after an accident, you should still see a doctor to rule out the possibility of any injuries.  What starts out as “feeling a little sore” can quickly escalate into excruciating pain.  It’s helpful if you know how to recognize the warning signs of common injuries resulting from automotive accidents, such as:

  • Bone Fracture Warning Signs
    • Bruising
    • Pain in response to pressure/movement
    • Physical deformity
    • Swelling
  • Brain Injury Warning Signs
    • Changes to your senses (e.g. blurred vision, ringing ears)
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Feeling sensitive to light or sound
    • Feeling tired or dazed all the time
    • Grogginess/confusion
    • Headaches
    • Memory problems
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Bulging/Herniated Disc Warning Signs
    • Back pain
    • Pain that radiates outward to your extremities and/or buttocks
    • Tingling or burning sensations
    • Weakness
  • Spinal Injury Warning Signs
    • Chronic cough
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Feeling like you can’t clear all the phlegm out of your chest or throat
    • Loss of bowel or bladder control (incontinence)
    • Muscle spasms
    • Numbness or reduced sensation
    • Sexual dysfunction
  • Whiplash Warning Signs
    • Blurred vision
    • Dizziness
    • Memory problems
    • Neck pain
    • Pain in the shoulders and upper back area
    • Tinnitus (ringing ears)

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately.  Even if you haven’t, keep the 72-hour rule in mind: the longer you wait to see a doctor, the easier it will be for the at-fault driver’s insurance company to deny coverage.  Of course, even without any of these insurance considerations in the picture, it is always best to err on the side of caution when your health is at stake.  Nothing is more important than taking care of your safety and wellbeing.

The Oklahoma City Personal Injury Attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook are Ready to Help

If you were recently involved in a car accident in the Oklahoma City area, you should schedule an appointment with your physician right away.  You should also call the Oklahoma car accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 for a free legal consultation.  We have more than 75 years of combined experience helping automotive accident victims fight for the compensation they deserve.