I’ll begin this series of posts about auto accidents with perhaps the most important consideration of all: whether or not you should seek medical attention after a crash. Like most questions in the legal world, the answer depends on the facts.
Let’s imagine a crash where a truck hits your car in the middle of a four-way stop. You’re shaken up from an unexpected collision, but should you get checked out by a doctor?
There are certainly accidents where a driver can reasonably assume that he or she will not sustain any future pain and/or injury. The problem comes in making that determination, as sometimes small crashes can cause big injuries and big crashes can cause merely small injuries. I believe that a driver involved in a crash of any significance should seriously consider obtaining a medical evaluation as soon as possible. The driver may very well decide against it, but he or she needs to fully understand the context of the decision. It has become a cliché in our society that individuals involved in auto collisions attempt to fake injuries and recover money. Of course, there are unscrupulous people who are willing to take advantage of others, whether it is a person faking an injury or an insurance adjuster who is not willing to carry out his or her obligations under an insurance policy. However, do not allow this cliché to scare you away from pursuing medical care. What is important is whether getting checked out by a medical professional is the right choice in your situation.
The reality in many auto collisions is that the extent of the injuries suffered is not immediately known. Damage to the spine, neck, and back can take time to fully manifest. Even a relatively small collision can result in pain that takes days or weeks to develop. If you have been involved in a crash and you decline medical care or decide that you’re not going to seek medical care, you have made the decision that you are better able to determine what’s going on in your body than your doctor. The safe bet is to allow your doctor to have the opportunity to evaluate you immediately after the impact and let him or her determine whether you are actually okay. He or she may spot something that could cause trouble down the road, even if the full effects are not yet felt.
In sum, your decision about whether or not to get a medical evaluation after a collision should be based on the facts of your collision, with a consideration that that the types of injuries frequently suffered in crashes are not always immediately apparent. When in doubt, get checked out.
In a later post, I’ll discuss how medical evaluations fit into the larger picture of legal proceedings regarding injuries caused by a collision. I’ll also touch upon how a medical evaluation soon after a collision is important even when the injury is not immediately apparent.