By: Kimball Law
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Injuries Sustained After an Accident
What you see, what you don’t see, and why it’s important.
When you’re in an accident, anything can happen. The aftermath of an accident can have widespread consequences on your functioning in everyday life. You may notice an acute onset of some symptoms of your injuries, while other symptoms are insidious in nature, and therefore take time to show themselves and their effect on your life. It is important after being involved in a car accident to understand what’s going on with your body, and the steps to take both for your health, and when making an insurance claim.
When an Accident Happens
After an accident, you may sustain injuries that are clear to see or you can feel because of the pain you feel in your body. However, this is not always the case. When you’re in an extremely stressful situation, like a car accident, your body reacts by engaging in the fight or flight response. This response is a defense mechanism that prepares your body for action if you experience a harmful event or a threat to your life, originally intended to fight off prey or flee a dangerous situation. To prepare your body for action your brain releases norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline). While this is beneficial in certain life-or-death situations, such as coming across a bear in the woods, it can have negative consequences in the event of an accident and an insurance claim. Adrenaline can dampen your ability to perceive pain, and result in you sustaining injuries but not being aware of them at the time. As a result of this, you may think you’re fine after an accident when, in reality, you just aren’t capable of registering the pain at this time. This can last for hours, which can mean that you may not be able to recognize your pain and the full extent of your injuries until the next day. This delayed onset can result in a sequence of events that puts your health and insurance claim at risk.
It is important that you seek medical attention immediately after an accident, even if you can’t see or feel any injuries. If you experience pain it can be easy to shrug it off and assume that it will subside or that your injuries are not severe enough to warrant a doctor’s visit. Part of the problem with this is that the longer you wait, the more likely it is that complications can arise and your injuries may become worse and more debilitating as a result. Some injuries are more likely to motivate you to seek out a doctor’s advice than others, specifically, ones that can be seen with the naked eye. However there are some other symptoms that can indicate injuries below the surface, which are important to address and can influence your functioning or explain any dysfunction.
Some symptoms to take note of are:
- Headaches / dizziness
- Neck, shoulder or back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Emotional distress
While these symptoms may seem harmless enough, they can be caused by a variety of things, some more harmful than others. Perhaps you assume they are a result of stress following the accident. You may be correct in this assumption; however, another likely explanation is that these are symptoms of a concussion, a brain injury or whiplash. These can have serious consequences especially if not treated in a timely manner. This is an example of an injury that can have a delayed onset, but it is important to have this issue addressed as soon as symptoms arise.
Neck, shoulder or back pain
These can be caused by whiplash, spinal injuries or pinched nerves, among other things, and can result in a decrease in mobility. This limitation on your mobility can strain your ability to function at home, such as in taking care of your children, and at your job, such as by limiting how much you can lift or move around. For these reasons, even if you don’t think the pain is severe enough at the time of your accident, neck, shoulder, and back pain can progress and leave you with a lower quality of life if untreated.
Abdominal pain is a symptom that could point to a potentially fatal injury like internal bleeding. Internal bleeding can require emergency care and even surgery. Because of this, immediate medical attention is important to address this or rule it out as a cause of any abdominal pains.
Numbness can often arise as a result of spinal injury or a herniated disk. The spine is a very important and sensitive part of the body and if numbness arises it can mean there is an issue with the spinal cord.
A symptom that is often overlooked but that can contribute to extreme distress and dysfunction is the strain that an accident or a traumatic experience can have on your mental health. Emotional consequences are often the most overlooked but can be as much of a negative contribution to one’s health as a physical injury, and can inhibit your recovery progress as a result. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, sleep disorders and anxiety are just a few examples of the psychological outcomes that go undetected by victims and doctors. If you experience any of the below symptoms it is important to reach out to a medical professional for treatment:
- Difficulty sleeping/fatigue
- Problems concentrating
- Rapid and/or drastic changes in mood
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Lack of interest or motivation
- Panic attacks (brought on by flashbacks or otherwise)
- Intense feelings of negative emotions, e.g. anger or sadness
This list is not exhaustive, but rather, a compilation of some of the injuries and symptoms that are most commonly left untreated for some time after an accident. If you experience any of the above, or any other pain or changes in your daily functioning then you should consult a medical professional for an experts’ evaluation. The sooner you receive treatment, the sooner you will recover and can return to life after an accident.
One of the most important things to remember is that you have nothing to lose by going and seeing a doctor, but a lot to gain. It is important not to assume that what you’re feeling is a result of accident-induced stress or is common and inconsequential and can thus be overlooked. Some symptoms you experience may not even register as symptoms for you, and may require a professional assessment and subsequent treatment. Please seek medical attention as soon as possible following an accident for the sake of your health, and, as will be mentioned below, for the sake of your case as well.
Your Legal Case
An important aspect of your legal case is the injuries you’ve sustained as a result of your accident. When victims go to the hospital following an accident, their injuries will be assessed and recorded in medical reports and documents. These medical records serve as evidence of injuries sustained during the accident by outlining said injuries and are important to have when making an insurance claim. An ambulance report can be the first document that outlines your story and where you were injured as well as your initial assessment on the way to a hospital. These documents are often compiled and given to an insurance company when your lawyer makes a claim for compensation for any expenses, pain and suffering, or lost wages that have come as a result of your accident. It is, therefore, useful to have these documents to support your claim.
Receiving medical attention is important for your case. Medical records describe the injuries you sustained and support that the accident is the explanation for these injuries. The longer you wait before seeing a professional after an accident, the more likely an insurance company will argue that your injuries are not a result of the accident, but rather, a result of some other event that transpired between the date of your accident and when you saw a doctor. Insurance companies seek small payouts and settlements to those injured; by waiting to seek medical attention you give them an opportunity to argue that if your injuries had been a result of the accident you would have sought help sooner. They then may argue that you’re exaggerating or falsifying your symptoms to receive more compensation. For this reason, it is important to be seen by a doctor within 72 hours of an accident, if possible. While this timeframe does not make-or-break your case, it is short enough to support your claim that your injuries and symptoms arose from the accident.
What happens with your claim if you don’t go to the hospital or see a doctor immediately after an accident? In short, it’s not the end of your case. Even if you delay in receiving medical attention beyond the 72-hour timeframe, it is still possible to argue your case to receive a proper resolution. For example, there may be police reports that state where on your body you were injured; there may also be witnesses who saw you get injured. You may have even taken leave from work to recover on your own and your supervisor has documentation of this. All of these may be relevant to have if there is a gap between the time of your accident and any doctors’ records.
Any medical records, whether immediately after an accident, or after some time, can provide information on treatment required to alleviate your symptoms or help recover from your injuries, such as physiotherapy, massage therapy or counseling. In this way, not only is seeing a doctor beneficial for your health and recovery, but it aids in your ability to calculate the costs of these treatments for insurance purposes.
Symptoms that present themselves, or receive assessments from doctor’s days or weeks after an accident are more likely to be scrutinized by insurance adjusters. This can lead to lower settlement offers or a denial of your claim by insurance companies.
If you are considering making a claim for your injuries or are not sure what you should do, it is always a good idea to meet with a lawyer to discuss your legal case. A lawyer will want to see you as soon as possible after you have been in an accident. Lawyers are trained to assess all of the factors of your case to determine the appropriate compensation based on your pain and suffering, income loss, damages to your possessions, such as your car, and your costs of treatment. They can fight for a larger settlement and take on the burden of corresponding with the insurance company so you can focus your energy on receiving whatever treatment you require to recover from your accident.
If you’ve suffered an accident, it’s important to seek medical attention through your family doctor, emergency room, walk-in clinic, chiropractor, or other specialist.