When Is It Too Late to Go to the Doctor After a Car Accident?

A doctor examining a patient's car accident injuries.

There is no legal requirement in Arkansas to seek medical treatment after a car accident. If you feel okay after a collision, it’s easy to get busy with other things and put off seeing the doctor. However, if you leave it too long, you could have a hard time proving your injuries were caused by the crash. If you wait more than three years after your accident to make a claim, you could miss out on compensation completely.

Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is not mandatory in Arkansas. However, if you choose to have a PIP policy, your insurer may require you to seek medical attention within a certain time frame after an accident. This varies, but most insurance companies require you to see a doctor within 72 hours of the accident, with some allowing up to 14 days. 

Seeking prompt medical attention can ensure that you do not miss out on reimbursements or damages for injuries caused by the accident. Join us as we explore why that is the case along with the other benefits of seeking medical treatment after a car accident.

Why Immediate Checks Matter

The relief of walking away seemingly unscathed from a frightening car accident is overwhelming. The trouble is that feeling okay at the time might not be the same as not being injured. 

After a car wreck, the stress hormone adrenaline surges through our bodies. This could mask pain from car accident injuries, giving us a false sense of well-being. Some injuries have no external signs or immediate symptoms, but they can cause serious, long-term consequences down the line. 

Benefits of visiting the doctor

Seeing a doctor as soon as possible after a car wreck has at least three key benefits:

  1. Identifying your injuries: Doctors are trained to spot signs of internal injuries that may not cause pain right after your accident. The sooner you seek medical care, the sooner you can begin the treatment you need – and the better your chances of recovery.
  2. Assessing your emotional state: A 2016 review of studies analyzed the psychological impact of motor vehicle accidents. It showed that these accidents can cause increased mental distress that can continue for years. Seeing a doctor immediately can get you the help you need to deal with the mental and emotional impact of the crash.
  3. Documenting your injuries: When you see a doctor, he or she will record the injuries you have sustained. X-rays, blood tests, and other investigations will be collected together in one place. This can make it easier for a car accident attorney to prove a link between your accident and your injuries at a later date. It can also help your lawyer calculate the compensation you need for your injuries.

Protect your right to file a PIP claim

Although PIP insurance is not required in Arkansas, many people choose to take it. PIP can cover your medical expenses in the immediate aftermath of a car accident. Yet, if you leave it too long to seek medical attention, you could find it hard to file a claim.

It is vital to read your PIP policy carefully to understand its requirements. You may have up to 14 days or need to seek medical care within hours of the accident. Either way, even if you do not have PIP insurance, it is the wisest course to get yourself checked out. This will give you peace of mind from knowing you are okay or else can get the treatment you need to recover.

Protect your right to compensation

After a car wreck, an insurance adjuster will get to work calculating your compensation, if any. While the insurance adjuster is human, a computer program will do much of the work. It will want to know the answer to questions such as:

  • Did you seek medical attention within a reasonable time frame?
  • What was the extent of your injuries?
  • Were the injuries directly caused by the car accident?

Remember that insurance companies are not on your side. Their goal is to pay you as little compensation as possible. If you do not seek immediate medical care, the insurer could use that to try to reduce the amount of compensation it pays you.

Therefore, immediately after an accident, you should do one of the following:

  • Head to the emergency room, 
  • Visit an urgent care clinic, or;
  • See your regular primary care physician

This first step starts a paper trail of documentation linking your injuries to your car accident. This may help you get the compensation that is appropriate for the level of injuries you sustained. Learn more about your right to compensation, here

It is worth the inconvenience

Nobody plans to get into a car wreck. You always have things to do! It can be very tempting to just soldier on with your day, even if you suspect you have been slightly injured.

The problem is that those so-called minor injuries could lead to serious complications in the future if you delay in seeking treatment. Tragically, some could even put your life in danger. 

As inconvenient as it is to go and wait for hours at the emergency room, your long-term well being is far more important than any plans you may have had. Do not risk your future enjoyment of life or your legal rights by not seeing a doctor immediately after even the most minor fender-bender. 

The Danger of Hidden Injuries

The surge of adrenaline and the nature of some injuries mean that you may not feel pain immediately after a car accident. Yet, these injuries can be potentially serious and cause ongoing health problems.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)

Car accidents can cause TBIs through blows to the head and/or violent shaking of the head. These injuries may have no visible signs, and you may initially feel fine. However, if the injuries are severe, they can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms.

Mild traumatic brain injuries can cause:

  • Momentary loss of consciousness
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Balance issues and dizziness
  • Memory problems

Moderate to severe TBIs can cause all of the above, plus other issues, such as persistent vomiting, seizures, and profound confusion. These symptoms could affect your ability to work or take care of other responsibilities for a period of time. In the most serious cases, the effects of a TBI may last a lifetime.

According to the CDC, it can take hours or even days after the injury to appear. When you go to the doctor after a car accident, he or she will be on the lookout for signs you have suffered a mild TBI. The doctor may also order brain scans that can show the extent of any internal damage. 

Soft-tissue injuries

X-rays may show you have no broken bones, but soft-tissue injuries can be just as serious. Some common types that may not show up immediately include:

  • Whiplash/sprains: Whiplash, one of the most common car accident injuries, is a sprain that overextends the ligaments in your neck. In some cases, whiplash can cause debilitating, long-term pain. If your neck starts hurting in the hours, days, or weeks after a car accident, seek medical care right away.
  • Strains: These injuries affect the tendons that connect our muscles to our bones. Back strains are common injuries in car accidents and caused by sudden impact. 
  • Spinal cord damage: Sometimes, a collision can cause serious damage to the tissue between the bones in your spine. Slipped or herniated discs can lead to serious complications, including numbness in a car accident victim’s limbs. 

Internal organ injuries

The blunt force trauma experienced in a car accident can cause catastrophic internal injuries. Yet, these may present no initial symptoms and may not be visible externally. If left untreated, internal bleeding can lead to serious conditions, such as shock, which can be fatal.

Signs of damage to a road traffic accident victim’s internal organs include:

  • Weakness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Low blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or another person who has been in a car accident, you must get immediate medical attention. Call 911 and make sure he or she sees a doctor, even if he or she has already seen one after the accident.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder that can be a hidden consequence of a car accident. Although it leaves no visible scars, it can cause long-term difficulties, including:

  • Reliving the accident
  • Distressing dreams
  • Heightened reactions to stimuli
  • Emotional numbness
  • Sleeping difficulties

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD symptoms usually begin within 3 months but can take longer to emerge. Therefore, if your symptoms do not start for months after your accident, do not conclude that you have left it too long to get treatment. Talk to a doctor as soon as possible so you can start the medical treatment you need. 

When pain develops later

It is possible that a doctor will give you a clean bill of health after a car accident, only for painful symptoms to develop later. In this case, do not delay!

Go back to the doctor right away and get further tests. It is crucial that you do not wait a moment longer than necessary to get medical help so that the link between your accident and your injuries becomes clear.

Do Not Miss Your Chance to File a Lawsuit

Under Arkansas state law, you have 3 years to file a lawsuit after a car accident. As long as you begin proceedings within three years since the collision, you can pursue compensation to cover your medical expenses and other losses caused. 

However, if you wait more than three years, you will miss out on the opportunity to claim damages to cover these losses. So do not delay in seeking legal advice to recover your expenditure on medical costs due to your accident.

The Takeaway: Get Medical Help Now and Get More Later If Necessary

The bottom line is that it is never too late to get medical care after a car accident. If you experience any symptoms, then seek medical attention, whether you think it may be related to the car accident or not. Never put your health at risk by delaying medical care, even if a doctor said you were fine early on.

Some car accident victims sustain injuries that require long-term care. These injuries can present different symptoms at different times. However, seeking the medical care you need will not only help you recover physically and emotionally but will also add to your medical file which could be used to pursue damages. 

Once your health has stabilized, it’s time to talk to personal injury lawyers who will be able to explain your legal options. If they take on your case, will fight hard to recover the compensation you need to rebuild your life. 

Now Is the Time to Talk to Minton Law

At Minton Law, we understand that nobody has time for a car accident. Collisions are inconvenient, expensive, and can have a long-term impact on your health and financial well-being. That’s why we are determined to do everything we can to assist you in your pursuit of justice.

As soon as your health permits, call us for a free consultation to discuss your accident. We will:

  • Listen to your story: A qualified and experienced auto accident attorney will listen carefully to your story and its impact on your life. He or she will ask questions to understand your situation fully. If our attorney feels that your case has a strong chance of success, we may agree to take it on.
  • Fight for compensation: If we take on your case, you can rest assured that we will use every resource at our disposal to see justice for you. Our team is headed up by Justin Minton, a former insurance adjuster turned personal injury lawyer. He and his team of dedicated auto accident attorneys know all the tactics insurance companies use and how to counter them. 
  • Represent you in court: If we cannot get a fair result at the negotiating table, we will fight for your rights in the courtroom.

Do not delay in finding out about your legal rights! Call us 24/7 for a free consultation at (501) 794-0001 or fill out our online form.

At Minton Law, we are proud to represent the following areas: Little Rock – Pulaski County – Arkansas, Benton – Saline County – Arkansas, and Conway – Faulkner County – Arkansas.

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