Car accident injuries can range from catastrophic, life-changing disabilities to relatively minor bruising. Ambulances and paramedics typically respond to serious accidents to transport injury victims to emergency rooms. When accidents do not cause injuries that are obviously severe, accident victims often decide to visit a doctor on their own.
The temptation to put off seeing a doctor is common. People who live busy lives find it difficult to work a doctor’s visit into their schedules. Accident victims may realize that they are suffering from nagging pain, but they hope it will go away if they ignore it. Left untreated, however, injuries may lead to long-term impairments that could have been mitigated by seeing a doctor.
There are many reasons to see a doctor promptly after a Georgia car accident. Here are some of the reasons a traffic accident victim should not delay seeking a diagnosis and treatment.
Listen to Paramedics
In some cases, an ambulance arrives at the accident scene and a paramedic recommends transportation to a hospital. If a paramedic thinks an accident victim should be evaluated immediately, it makes sense to follow that advice.
Sometimes accident victims believe they might have been rattled by an accident but are not too seriously injured that they need to incur the cost of an ambulance ride. Paramedics are trained to look for potential injuries that might not be obvious to accident victims.
For example, an accident victim might sustain a concussion in a car crash. Even if the victim experiences no serious symptoms after a concussion, the victim may be at risk due to bleeding or swelling of the brain. Both of those conditions can have deadly consequences.
Paramedics know that concussion injuries cannot be diagnosed by holding up two fingers and asking the victim to count them. If a paramedic suspects that a blow to the head may have caused hidden injuries, an accident victim should accept the paramedic’s direction to ride to the hospital in an ambulance.
Prompt Treatment Improves Medical Outcomes
Injuries that might not seem serious at the time of the accident may become increasingly painful as time passes. A crash victim who has a sore knee may be tempted to “walk it off,” but walking on a damaged knee can worsen the injury.
A prompt diagnosis and treatment might help the injury victim avoid surgery that would become necessary if the injury progresses.
Whiplash victims often feel no neck pain until 12 to 72 hours after a rear-end car accident. Seeing a doctor at the first twinge of pain will improve the chance of minimizing the consequences of a whiplash injury. Delaying treatment makes it more likely that pain will become severe and that limitations of neck motion will turn into a lasting problem.
Prompt Treatment Improves Insurance Settlements
Insurance claims adjusters try to settle claims for less than they are worth. Sometimes they deny claims entirely. Accident victims who delay seeing a doctor open the door for insurance adjusters to argue that their eventual doctor visit was unrelated to the car accident.
Suppose an accident victim with a sore shoulder delays seeing a doctor in the hope that the pain will go away. After a month, the accident victim finally visits a doctor, who diagnoses a torn muscle.
The doctor can conclude that the torn muscle was caused by the car accident if the patient says that the shoulder was pain-free before the collision but started hurting soon after the collision occurred. The insurance adjuster will nevertheless argue that the victim would have seen the doctor immediately if the pain followed shortly on the heels of the accident.
Since the victim waited a month, the insurance adjuster could conclude that some intervening act — lifting a heavy box, slipping, and then falling on the shoulder — was the actual cause of the torn muscle. Since delayed treatment makes it more difficult to prove the cause of an injury, insurance adjusters use that uncertainty to argue for a lower settlement than a case is worth.
Georgia Car Accident Statute of Limitations
With rare exceptions, lawsuits for an injury caused by a Georgia car accident must be filed within two years of the accident date. That statute of limitations causes injury victims to lose their right to collect compensation if they wait more than two years to sue.
However, accident victims should see a doctor long before the deadline for filing a lawsuit arrives. Before commencing a lawsuit, the victim’s personal injury lawyer will want to gather evidence, including medical records that describe the injury and its impact on the accident victim. The lawyer may also want to initiate settlement discussions before filing suit. The lawyer’s ability to prepare a lawsuit or settle the case will be hampered unless the accident victim has been evaluated and treated by a doctor.
What to do After a Car Accident
While a lawsuit can be filed even if the victim has not seen a doctor, it will be very difficult to win a verdict for injuries that a victim left untreated. An accident victim can maximize the compensation that will be paid for an injury by doing these two things:
- The victim should be examined and treated for accident injuries immediately. Following through on treatment recommendations is also vital to a full recovery.
- The victim should consult with a Georgia personal injury lawyer as soon an injury has been diagnosed. A personal injury lawyer can provide important advice about additional steps an accident victim can take to protect the right to receive full compensation for car accident injuries.