Page Updated: September 16, 2021
What Doctor to See After Car Accident
After a car accident, you may be wondering whether you should take an ambulance to the emergency room, or if you should go to an urgent care center, or wait to see your primary care physician.
If you hesitated in making a decision and are now wondering whether taking the ambulance, or not, to the emergency room hurt the value of your case or if seeing one doctor over another was the right choice, this article is for you.
In this complete post-accident emergency room strategy guide, you will learn the answer to those questions, as well as:
♦ Ins-and-outs of ER treatment and how it can increase your settlement value
♦ Should I go to the Emergency Room or to my primary care doctor?
♦ What is the difference between going to the ER versus urgent care?
♦ How long should I wait to see a medical professional?
♦ I feel no pain, should I still get checked out?
♦ What will happen at the ER?
Scroll below to learn more about what doctor you should see after your car accident.
Table of Contents
General Settlement Information
12- About the Author
What Doctor To See After A Car Accident?
Going to the doctor after a car accident can itself be stressful event because you are not sure who you should see.
There are many choices, you can go to the Emergency Room, you can go to the urgent care center or you can wait and see your primary care doctor.
What doctors to see after car accidents can therefore be a difficult decision and the consequences can affect your settlement and health.
After an accident you may not even think you need to go to the doctor because you do not have immediate or what seems like serious injuries.
Often, you are in shock and your body is not yet aware of the damage that has been done to it. Serious complications like torn cartilage and fractured bones will actually not present until hours, days and sometimes weeks after your injury.
In cases like this, it will be hard to justify to yourself why getting in an ambulance and going to the ER is the right choice to make.
Do not minimize your injuries or underestimate how hurt you may actually be. Some serious injuries that take a long time to present are:
♦ Meniscus Injuries
♦ Brain Damage
♦ Back Trauma
Waiting to get medical treatment not only can ensure your settlement values will be harder to justify and lower, but you are putting your health in danger.
If you are reading this now and have been in accident but have not yet sought out medical treatment, it is advisable that you get medical treatment, no matter what medical treatment you choose.
Some medical treatment is better than no medical treatment, which means that whether you select an ER, an urgent care or your primary care doctor, you are making a good choice, because medical care in some format is better than none at all.
Should You Go To the ER After Car Accident
If you are wondering when to go to the hospital after a car accident, the answer is that it is best to go sooner than later.
Each case will be different and you may choose to take an ambulance, or you may decide to have someone drive you there.
Regardless, if you feel any symptoms that feel strange, odd or concerning because they are not the norm, then you should go to the ER.
Just because you chose not to go to the ER immediately after your accident, it does not mean that you cannot go after a few hours.
The Emergency room is equipped with imaging tools and specialists that you cannot find anywhere else and therefore, the ER is the best place to have your entire body checked out for injuries and complications that maybe you cannot feel immediately.
It is best to be proactive and go to the ER after your injury even if you do not feel that you need it. Therefore, for most people, it is not so much a question of should you go to the ER after a car accident, but when should you go?
Preferably, you should go to the emergency room within a few hours or at the most a few days after your accident. This ensures that you get the help that you need and that you ensure you are taking your injuries seriously.
Remember, the insurance companies will try to prove your injuries are not serious and any major delays in getting treatment plays into their arguments that you are not that hurt.
While the ER is the preferable place to go after a major accident, this does not mean its an all or nothing situation.
Some may not feel comfortable going to the ER and prefer to avoid it if they can. The ER does not need to be a scary place and understanding what happens there can make it easier to navigate the situation.
What Happens in the ER After an Accident?
The emergency room process after an accident is similar to other emergency room cases.
You will be given forms to fill out as well as asked for your health insurance information.
Depending on what the attending physician believes is the problem, you will then be given a series of tests including possibly bloodwork, x-rays, MRI scans, CAT scans, etc. There will also often be extensive physical exams and a series of medical health questions.
In some cases you may be admitted to spend the night for observations. It is important that at every step, you explain all of your symptoms in detail, no matter how trivial they may seem to you.
Doctor Discharged Me After Accident, is Everything OK?
The emergency room will usually discharge you when they believe that you have no immediate traumatic injuries that can endanger your life or require immediate surgery.
The discharge however does not mean that you have no medical injuries that can be serious or last a lifetime. It also does not mean that you do not need further medical attention after you have been discharged.
You should always make sure to follow up with a primary care doctor after you have been discharged from the ER.
If you are questioning if you should you go to the doctor after an accident as well as the ER, the answer to this is also yes, because you will need follow up care and testing.
Choosing An Urgent Care After A Car Accident
Remember, when deciding what doctor to see after a car accident, you must remember they are not all the same.
Visiting an urgent care after car accidents can be an alternative for those who cannot go to the ER post-accident.
If you are here reading this and do not want to go to the ER but also wonder if you should go to an urgent care after a car accident, then we would recommend that this is a good option because you need to ensure you are getting some kind of medical care.
Auto injury urgent care procedures are similar to the ER services.
It is not that one is better or worse, but that one, the ER, tends to have more resources and doctors to help you.
Is the ER Better than Urgent Care or Primary Care?
Emergency rooms are always open and have a higher capacity when it comes to testing for all the potential injuries that you may have. The ER will have doctors that are experts with car accidents, blunt force trauma and identifying injuries that are related to your specific injuries and needs.
However, in no way does this mean that going to urgent care after car accidents is a bad choice, or that you might as well wait for a regular doctor. If you have better access to an urgent care, then this is a good place to go and get medical help.
Additionally, the urgent care, if they see that your injuries are more serious than you had thought, can then refer you to the ER.
Urgent Care for Car Accident Treatment
Compared to seeing a regular medical doctor in a private office, the urgent care and ER do have many different capabilities. However, it is likely that some treatments you get at all three will have similarities.
Whether you go to the ER or the urgent care center, you will likely be given medications to take as a first line of treatment, along with suggestions for pain management and physical therapy.
Medication treatments are meant to help you with pain and inflammation. In urgent care and in doctors offices, this medication will most likely be oral. In the ER, it is possible to have many medications in other an oral format, or also through an IV for faster and more targeted relief.
Some medications are prescribed more often than not, and may also have side-effects that also need to be taken into consideration.
The medicines that are mostly prescribed to injured people are:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) come under the wider definition of non-opioid analgesics. NSAIDs are used often for aches, pains, or pain problems involving things like swelling and strained muscles.
NSAIDs can have side effects such as stomach bleeding or kidney problems in some people and in people who are taking blood thinning medicines there can be increased risks. The intensity in effects can also be linked to the kind of NSAID that is prescribed.
Common NSAIDs include:
♦ Naproxen Sodium
Prescription NSAIDs include:
♦ Vimovo (Naproxen/Esomeprazole)
Precautions for Using NSAIDs
The way the body reacts to NSAIDs varies from individual to individual, and some individuals will experience side effects. Some side effects occur more likely by high doses and long-term use.
Things to consider when taking NSAIDs
♦ Taking excessive alcohol while using NSAIDs can lead to gut irritation and stomach bleeding.
♦ Taking multiple NSAIDs at one time can have side effects.
♦ NSAIDs and anti-clotting drugs, like aspirin should not be taken at same time.
♦ Children and people over 65 may avoid taking the NSAIDS.
People who need to avoid taking NSAIDs are:
♦ People who have prior experience of allergy to NSAIDs
♦ Asthma – it can be worsened by NSAIDs in some cases
♦ Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding
♦ Anyone with heart disease
Other Common ER and Urgent Care Treatments
Amoxicillin or Clavulanic acid injections: Bacterial infections may develop in case of soft tissue injuries, bruises or cuts. Amoxicillin or Clavulanic acid injections are useful for the treatment of such infections.
Cefuroxime Injections: Cefuroxime helps to treat bacterial infections that may develop in the wound after an accident.
Ceftriaxone antibiotics: Ceftriaxone is used to treat bacterial infections that may develop in the wound after an accident. It can also be used to prevent such surgeries infections.
Promethazine injections: Promethazine is used to treat nausea and vomiting after a vehicle accident, pain caused by surgery or injuries, and to sedate patients before medical procedures.
Tetanus Toxin Injection: Given to prevent any poison from entering the body.
Metoclopramide tablets: Given to relieve nausea and vomiting as first aid after an accident.
Waiting To See A Family Doctor & Your Settlement
Sometimes there is either no way to see anyone other than your family doctor. If this is the case, then you should contact them asap and make this appointment within 24-72 hours of your accident.
Even if you choose to go to the ER or the urgent care center, you will need to see a primary care doctor within 1-3 days after your initial appointment.
It is not advisable to wait to see your family doctor in serious cases, or if it will take more than just 1-2 days to secure an appointment to see the doctor.
Does it Matter If I Wait? What Happens If I wait?
Failure to seek help in a timely manner can be harmful mainly for your own personal health.
If you do not seek the medical attention recommended in the post-accident period, you can be missing serious injuries that are affecting you and may be threatening your life.
In addition to waiting too long affecting your health, it will have a detrimental effect on your settlement values as well. The longer you wait to get help after an accident, the more ammunition the insurance companies have to deny you payment.
Delay in seeking medical attention post-accident can be seen as a sign that you were not in need of help or did not have any serious injury that needs medical help.
Complications of Delaying Treatment
Delaying medication for any injury, no matter how minor, could lead to a more complications like:
♦ Long recovery time
♦ Re-injury chances
♦ Exacerbation or worsening of injury pain
♦ Trouble getting prompt referrals to specialists
♦ Problems and issues in healing
Going to the doctor after a car accident is therefore the best choice only if it is done very quickly, there is no option to go to the ER/ urgent care, or if it is done in addition to ER/ urgent care visits. The goal is to get speedy treatment as this will help you overall.
You should of course make plans to see your primary care in a more consistent manner post-accident because symptoms and injuries that take time to develop can be spotted with consistent treatment by a medical professional.
Because of this, it is vital that you communicate openly, and in detail with your doctor so that they have all the facts and can help you identify problems as they appear. Being forthcoming is important because all of your medical files can be used in your settlement process with the insurance company.
It is also important that you remember to always go to all appointments and not miss any treatments with your medical professional. Taking proper medical care and following all instructions of the doctor seriously and making it your priority are all vitally important.
Will A Settlement Pay For My Medical Bills?
Average medical costs for a vehicle accident can vary wildly. These costs can include multiple different kinds of costs which can all add up to large sums. This includes costs that you will bear the burden of like:
♦ Emergency room bills
♦ Hospital bills
♦ Ambulance service bills
♦ Doctor’s office visits
♦ Medication bills
♦ Surgical procedures bills
♦ Speech therapy and rehabilitation sessions’ bills
♦ Expenses Mental health treatment sessions
♦ Medical supplies
♦ Expenditures of mobility equipment like crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs etc.
Whether you go to the ER or the urgent care or the primary care doctor, you will incur some of these charges. Even with health insurance, you will have large amounts that you will need to pay.
This is even worse with long-term care injuries.
Some injuries like brain or spine injuries in particular can leave a person with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatments being needed, sometimes treatments that last for life.
A major goal of your legal settlement will be to recover these medical costs. Going to the doctor after a car accident is even more important in this case, because it will be these medical records and treatments that ensure you are able to recover the money you paid for your healthcare.
The answer to the question “Should You Go to the ER After a Car Accident” becomes more complicated because on the one hand, going to the ER or urgent care can cost a considerable amount of money, so many avoid going, but at the same time, any future legal claims will have little chance of being paid out if you do not get swift and comprehensive medical care after your accident.
Who Pays Medical Bills after a Vehicle Accident?
Medical payments are generally paid by the person or entity that is liable for your injury.
If you are at work, this can mean an employer. If you are driving a car and are hit by a negligent party then it will be them and their insurance company.
Medical bills can therefore be paid by a number of individuals, including even yourself if it is found you are partially or wholly liable for your injury.
It is imperative that you obtain legal representation after you have gone to the doctor, or the urgent care or ER. Pain and suffering is often where you can recover both past and future medical expenses as well as lost wages and emotional damage, will be through pain and suffering payouts, which are complex processes that factor in multiple variables to get you a fair number.
See the Right Primary Care Doctor
Even if you choose to go to an ER or urgent care for car accident treatment, eventually you will need to see a primary care doctor.
If you don’t have a primary care and need to find a post-accident doctor for treatment, you should make sure you are asking the right questions.
Some basic questions that you should be asking include:
♦ Ask About Their Credentials: This way you can better understanding their training and competencies
♦ Ask About Their Experience of Treating Accidental Injuries: This can let you know if they have experience with cases like yours
♦ Ask about Views of Other Patients: Getting reviews from other patients can give you insight into who the doctor is in their daily practice
♦ When They Will Be Able to See You After Accident? This is important because you do not want to wait a long period of time to get treatment
♦ Is He Part Of Multi-Specialty Medical Care Network? It is likely that you will need multiple kinds of doctors, and a multi-specialty office can make your treatment process easier
♦ Will they Provide Detailed Medical Report of Your Injuries and Their Treatment? You will need this for your medical claims
♦ Whether they use Diagnostic Testing as part of Their Evaluation? Tests like these will prove valuable in court and are important for you to have access to.
♦ Will they accept PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance and medical liens? Medical Practitioners who do not accept this will demand more immediate payment, which may be hard for you when hit with large medical bills.
♦ Do They Have a Variety of Treatment Options and Diagnostic Testing Available? The more options and specialties that they have, the better your treatment will be overall.
♦ Does the Doctor Have Proper Privacy Policies? Your medical records should be private and they should be protected. Finding a provider who respects and upholds patient confidentiality is of high importance for you.
Do They Have a Variety of Treatment Options and Diagnostic Testing Available? The more options and specialties that they have, the better your treatment will be overall.
Does the Doctor Have Proper Privacy Policies? Your medical records should be private and they should be protected. Finding a provider who respects and upholds patient confidentiality is of high importance for you.
Seeing A Specialists or a General Care Doctor After Accident
It is possible that after your car accident you will have very specific injuries that need to be taken care of. Usually, the starting location for doctors visits is to go to a primary care or general doctor.
This is the doctor that will help guide you towards the specialists that you will need to see for your specific injuries. It is also possible to choose a specialist directly after your urgent care or ER visit if you know who you need to see.
Finding a doctor who specializes in the kinds of injury you have and auto injuries is important because these doctors will have the experience and competency needed to give you the best possible care.
In addition to the medical care that they can provide, a specialist can also help with managing insurance claims in an organized and clear manner that helps to relieve a great deal of stress from your plate.
It is also imperative that you make sure all of your medical appointments and providers are state and board certified and authorized to practice medicine in your state. Failing to do this can lead to your insurance company rejecting your claims and refusing to cover medical treatment costs.
Insurance companies are always looking for a way to pay less, don’t help them by making small mistakes that they can use against you.
Emergency Room Sample Verdicts & Settlements
SAMPLE SETTLEMENT (Maryland): $17,000. Plaintiff went to the ER immediately after being rear-ended by a truck while stopped at a traffic light. The plaintiff suffered a broken collar bone as well as a torn meniscus. There was the need for long-term care and surgery which resulted in the final settlement that was agreed upon.
SAMPLE VERDICT/ SETTLEMENT (California): $65,500. After being hit while sitting in a parked car, an adult male driver went to an urgent care center for pain in his back and in his legs. It was found that he had a sprained back and a fracture in his left leg. Patient required extensive surgery and physical therapy.
SAMPLE SETTLEMENT (New York): $35,000. While driving on a public highway, plaintiff was struck from the rear which pushed her car into a barrier . The impact caused the plaintiff to have shoulder pain as well as arm and hand pain. Plaintiff was taken to the ER with an ambulance as she was feeling intense pain and discomfort. Defendant was found to be negligent and the case settled out of court with both sides agreeing on the final settlement value.
SAMPLE VERDICT (California): $87,500. A passenger in the backseat of a vehicle driven by a third party suffered a broken nose and neck pain after the car she was in was t-boned by a vehicle that ran through a red light, causing a collision. Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room where she received medical care for her injuries and later received months of rehabilitative care and follow up medical treatment.
How soon should I get checked out after a car accident?
You should get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible after your car accident. This means that preferably within 24-48 hours you have seen a medical professional in some setting.
Exactly where should I go after a car accident?
You can go to multiple locations with the major ones being the ER, an urgent care or a primary care doctor. Any place that you can get swift medical treatment is the proper place to go post-accident.
Should you go to the ER after car accidents?
Yes, the ER is the preferable place to go after an accident. If it is not possible to go to the ER, then you can go to an alternative location like an urgent care, but the ER is the best option after an accident.
Will going to urgent care after a car accident increase my settlement value?
Yes, it can increase your settlement value to go to an urgent care as opposed to waiting a longer period of time to see a primary care doctor. What increases your chances of a high settlement will be getting swift treatment and documentation of all your medical care.
Is urgent care for car accident injuries a better choice than going to the ER or a primary care doctor?
Urgent care is a better choice than waiting to go to a primary care doctor and not as good of a choice as going to an ER after an accident. The reason for this is that an ER is better equipped to deal with a larger number of medical problems than an urgent care.
Should I go to urgent care after a car accident even if I do not feel pain?
Yes, whether you decide on an urgent care center, an ER or a primary care doctor, you should go even if you do not have visible symptoms and pain. Often after an accident you are injured but you do not feel the pain immediately.
Get Help With Your Accident Settlements
Not sure if you made the right choice after your car accident?
Is the insurance company using your choice of post-accident treatment as a reason to reduce your settlement offer?
Citations for Supporting Literature & Resources:
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Rosenfeld, M., Gunnarsson, R., & Borenstein, P. (2000). Early intervention in whiplash-associated disorders: a comparison of two treatment protocols. Spine, 25(14), 1782-1787.
Blanchard, E. B., & Hickling, E. J. (2004). After the crash: Psychological assessment and treatment of survivors of motor vehicle accidents. American Psychological Association.
Platzer, P., Hauswirth, N., Jaindl, M., Chatwani, S., Vecsei, V., & Gaebler, C. (2006). Delayed or missed diagnosis of cervical spine injuries. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 61(1), 150-155.
Mundinger, M. O., Kane, R. L., Lenz, E. R., Totten, A. M., Tsai, W. Y., Cleary, P. D., … & Shelanski, M. L. (2000). Primary care outcomes in patients treated by nurse practitioners or physicians: a randomized trial. Jama, 283(1), 59-68.
Murray, M., & Berwick, D. M. (2003). Advanced access: reducing waiting and delays in primary care. Jama, 289(8), 1035-1040.
UK, N. G. C. (2018). Minor injury unit, urgent care centre or walk-in centre. In Emergency and acute medical care in over 16s: service delivery and organisation. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK).
Castledine, G. (2008). Overzealousness in accident and emergency nursing. British journal of nursing (Mark Allen Publishing), 17(18), 1199-1199.
Davis, C. (2005). No waiting in vein. Nursing Standard, 20(11).
O’Cathain, A., Knowles, E., Turner, J., Maheswaran, R., Goodacre, S., Hirst, E., & Nicholl, J. (2014). Phase 2: case studies of six emergency and urgent care systems–methods and overarching themes. In Explaining variation in emergency admissions: a mixed-methods study of emergency and urgent care systems. NIHR Journals Library.
About the Author
Article Author: This law article was written by attorney Ramin Benyamin, Esquire. Mr. Benyamin received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and his license to practice law from the State Bar of California. His law license number is #277263. He has been practicing law for ten years. Mr. Benyamin is a registered member of the following legal organizations: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Mr. Benyamin has helped his clients recover millions of dollars in car accident claims in the State of California.
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