A look at hospital and emergency room visit data shows many people have stopped seeking medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic, even in emergencies. We understand how, after hearing about the disease’s infection rate and the potential for over-crowded emergency rooms, it might seem better to put off seeing a doctor. However, even with the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, skipping treatment for serious issues could be the worse choice for your health. It’s smart to be cautious when it comes to entering public spaces, but after a traumatic incident like a car accident, you should be fully checked for any injuries. Not only is this information necessary to make sure you get the treatment you need—it’s also important for your insurance claim against the at-fault driver.
How Serious Is a Car Accident, Really?
After a car accident, injuries can range from mild (bruises and small lacerations) to severe (traumatic brain injury). People in lower-speed accidents are less likely to sustain the latter. However, just because you feel fine at the scene of the accident doesn’t mean your body hasn’t suffered.
When we’re in dangerous situations, our body increases its production of adrenaline. This can increase our ability to react quickly and get away from potentially life-threatening situations, but it also dials down our pain response. That “fine” feeling is likely to wear off later, revealing aches and pains that could be symptoms of a deeper injury. In some cases, such as neck and back injuries, the soreness might not show up for a few days after the accident. This is why we recommend seeing a doctor after a car accident. As professionals who know what to look for, they are the only people who can give you a reliable “all clear” if you are fine. If you are not, they know how to diagnose your injuries and what your next steps for treatment should be.
Signs You Should See a Doctor
Your next steps after a car accident are likely to depend on how serious that collision was and what type of injuries you are facing. For serious acute trauma, you should seek treatment at the ER—in fact, you might be taken there straight from the scene. The following injuries should be evaluated by an emergency response team:
- Second- or Third-Degree Burns
- Head Injury
- Concussion or Cognitive Impairment
- Eye Injury
- Broken Bones
- Severe Lacerations
If you’re less seriously injured, you might be able to visit an urgent care facility instead of an emergency room. The doctors at these clinics can help with concerns like:
- Minor Lacerations
You’ll still get quick care, but because these injuries have a less-involved treatment, they do not necessarily need an ER-level response.
So, what about other injuries, or pains you’re not sure about? With many doctor’s offices switching to telemedicine offerings, you might be able to call in and get an initial consultation via phone or video. Many people have found virtual visits have shorter wait times, which is a plus if you might be injured. While you’ll likely need an in-person examination to verify the diagnosis (a majority of car accident injuries require imaging), this first step can potentially save you some human contact and help you get an idea of what your doctor is doing to protect patients against COVID-19.
Don’t Delay Seeking Care
If you don’t think you’ve been seriously injured, we can understand why you might think visiting a doctor isn’t a top priority. However, no matter how you’re feeling, it’s essential to see a doctor within 48 hours of a car accident. Not only does this protect you in case one of your aches and pains is actually a sign of a serious internal injury but it also gives you evidence linking your injuries to the accident. The longer you wait to see a doctor, the easier an insurance company will find it to question whether your damages were caused directly by the car accident or by something else.
Staying Safe at a Doctor’s Office
Thankfully, healthcare professionals are likely to have the most thorough infection control measures in place—in part because they already take some of these precautions, and in part because their teams know firsthand how much harm a virus like this one can cause. Make sure your doctor is taking appropriate action by looking for information online or calling their office before visiting. The Mayo Clinic suggests asking the following:
- What are the mask requirements for patients and staff?
- How is the team cleaning and disinfecting public areas (stairwells and waiting spaces) and exam rooms?
- How are patients encouraged to socially distance while in the office?
- Is there a limit on how many people can be present at one time?
- Are staff tested at the door for symptoms of COVID-19? Are patients?
- Do the doctors and nurses have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE)? How are they using it?
- Can you fill out forms and/or be billed electronically to cut down on in-person contact?
When you go, you should of course follow recommended safety practices: Wash your hands for 20 seconds after touching any shared surfaces, wear a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth, and don’t touch your face. While there’s no way to guarantee you won’t be infected, these three simple practices can do a lot to keep you safe.
Let Our Car Accident Attorneys Know if You Need Help
Aside from the inconvenience of dealing with pain and/or injury if you don’t see a doctor, an insurer could hold this choice against you when you ask for compensation. They can claim you made your injury worse by refusing to seek care, and thereby get out of paying some of your bills. Don’t give them this chance to reduce your settlement.
Dealing with insurance and an injury at the same time can be overwhelming, especially during a pandemic. The team at Del Rio & Caraway, P.C. wants you to know we are there for you, no matter what. We can provide the support you need as you seek medical care and make your insurance claim. Above all, we can help you avoid taking any actions that the other party’s insurer could use against you. Getting compensation after a car accident can be essential to maintaining your life as you go through your treatment and recovery. We want to help you make a strong claim.
Del Rio & Caraway, P.C. is offering consultations via phone, email, and video conferencing to allow safe client interactions during the pandemic. Call us any time at (916) 229-6755 or send a message right now to schedule yours.