What doctor you see after being injured in a car accident can have a ripple effect if you decide to file an injury claim with the at fault driver’s insurance company. Medical records play an important role in the outcome of your case, so finding a doctor that is familiar with your injuries and also can provide detailed records of your injuries and how it is impacting your life is important. In this article, we cover:
- What Doctor to See After a Car Accident
- How to Find the Right Doctor
- What to Do If You Didn’t See a Doctor Right Away
- How to Talk to Your Doctor After a Car Crash
If you were injured in a car accident, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure you receive the medical treatment you need and that any invisible, but serious injuries are caught early. When choosing which doctor to see, there are a few different options:
1. Emergency Room Doctors
If you are seriously injured and need immediate medical care, you need to go to the emergency room to receive treatment. Emergency rooms are for life-changing injuries, like:
- Broken bones
- Brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
Because emergency rooms are usually located at the hospital, they’ll have the resources needed to provide care for your immediate needs. That said, emergency room doctors will likely only determine what your immediate needs are, so if you are experiencing pain, but don’t seem to have suffered one of the above injuries, emergency room doctors may just prescribe medication such as muscle relaxers or pain relievers. Even if you go to the emergency room, if your pain persists, you should schedule a follow-up appointment with a specialist to make sure you receive proper treatment for your injuries.
2. Urgent Care Doctors
If your injuries seem to be less severe, but you are experiencing pain and soreness, you may choose to see an urgent care doctor. Urgent cares will have lower out-of-pocket costs than emergency room treatment, and you’ll likely be able to get an appointment faster than you would with your primary care physician.
Urgent cares don’t have the same resources as an emergency room, meaning they are not as well-equipped to treat trauma. However, going to see an urgent care doctor is better than seeing no doctor at all if you are injured.
3. Primary Care Doctors
A lot of people will choose to go see their primary care physician (PCP) after a car accident since they already have an established relationship with them. Your doctor will be able to provide basic medical treatment and provide prescriptions for soreness, like muscle relaxers and mild pain relievers. Since primary care doctors are “generalists,” they may refer you to a specialist that can provide specialized treatment for your injuries and properly document them for your injury case.
4. Specialist Doctors
Specialist doctors are physicians that focus on one area of the body. After a car accident, you may see one of the following specialists:
- Neurologist – spinal cord, back injury, neck injury, brain injury
- Orthopedic Surgeon – shoulder, hip, and knee injuries and broken bones
Specialists will be more familiar with the symptoms and injuries you’re experiencing after a wreck and will be better able to document what you are going through throughout the duration of your treatment. Since medical records play an important role in communicating the severity of your injury, it’s important to work with a doctor that will be able to diagnose your injuries, identify the cause of the injury, and also be able to communicate the impact your injury will have on your life to the insurance company, and if necessary, a jury.
Don’t Miss Your Follow-Up Appointments
Whatever doctor you see, make sure you attend all follow-up appointments. This will help make sure you heal but will also legitimize the care you need. If you don’t attend your appointments, an insurance company will have a hard time believing you require future treatment.
For immediate care after an accident, you can visit any nearby emergency room or urgent care, but if you prefer to see your primary care doctor, make sure to call and confirm they’ll see you for car accident injuries. You can also ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a specialist.
If you can’t find the right doctor to treat your injury, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney. An injury attorney in your area will be familiar with local doctors that are familiar with the different injuries that often take place after a car accident. They also have networks of attorneys and doctors throughout the state, so if they don’t personally know of someone that you should treat with, they should be able to find the information for you easily.
If you’re reading this article because you were just in a car accident, know that it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. This will help identify any injuries before they go unchecked, but it will also make your case stronger, as an insurance company may try and use it against you if you don’t see a doctor. That said, an attorney can help you take on the insurance companies to make sure they treat you fairly, whether or not you saw a doctor right away.
If you have waited to go to the doctor because you thought the pain would go away, that does not mean you are out of options. If you are in pain, you should go to the doctor – no matter how long after the accident it is. You should always get the medical treatment you need because it will help you recover faster and limit the long-term effects of the crash as much as possible.
- If payment is a concern when determining if you should go to the doctor, it’s important to know:
- You can file with your health insurance after a car accident, despite what the hospital or doctor’s office may try to tell you.
- If you don’t have health insurance, you aren’t out of luck. Some doctors will agree to treat you now and get paid later from your personal injury settlement by using what’s call a letter of protection – read more about that here.
- You may have what’s known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance included in your car insurance policy. You can file a claim with PIP to cover your medical expenses. This is true even if the accident was your fault.
I come from a family of doctors. I also consider a number of doctors to be personal friends. They don't like insurance companies any more than you do, but in order to assist you after a car accident, they must know about all your injuries and symptoms. What you tell your doctor matters. The value of most personal injury cases in South Carolina is influenced far more by medical records than allegations made by an attorney. The last thing we want is for a truly injured person's words to be used against them at a deposition or trial simply because they were unsure of how to effectively communicate with their doctor. I, therefore, provide car accident clients with the following information as it relates to conversations with medical providers.
1. When talking with doctors or other care providers remember that everything you say could be documented in the record. The exam begins the moment you walk into the office. This means that if a doctor or nurse walks through the exam room door and asks “How are you doing?” and you say “Fine,” their records may read “Patient states he is doing fine.” This happens every day, even though you might go on to inform the doctor that you are in tremendous pain. When insurance companies uncover a medical record that contains such a statement, it can greatly damage the value of your case.
2. You must be honest with your doctors and nurses. Never exaggerate your injuries or pain levels, but do inform the care provider of exactly what is troubling you. A good tip is to take a few minutes while in the waiting room to think back to all the troubles or pain you have experienced since your last visit. These are the things you should share with your care providers – nothing more and nothing less.
Innocent people who have been harmed in car wrecks must understand the importance of their interactions with health care professionals. While the patient-doctor relationship is confidential, medical records can be obtained through subpoena or an authorized request. It is therefore critical that you tell the doctor about every source of pain, the injuries' effect on your daily activities, and any other troubles related to the accident. The more honest you are with your care provider, the less chance the insurance company will be able to use your words against you.
A Car Wreck Attorney Can Help You Take On Insurance Adjusters
I help injured people across South Carolina every day and am glad to provide you with a free consultation if you have any additional questions. Our firm has handled a variety of catastrophic injury cases and know many incredible doctors throughout South Carolina. We would be honored to help you find a specialist to provide the treatment you need to recover from your injuries and help you get back as close as possible to your previous lifestyle.
Car accidents can rattle your life. There is no need to take on insurance adjusters, medical bills, and the legal system by yourself. Allow our team of experienced car accident lawyers to focus on your case while you focus on getting well. To learn more, call us today at 803-790-2800 (Columbia, SC) / 843-427-2800 (Myrtle Beach, SC), or start a live chat 24/7 with a real, live person to arrange a free and confidential consultation.