The moments after a car accident are disorienting. It can be difficult to think clearly as you react to the situation. If the crash was severe, you might be treated at the scene and even taken away by ambulance. If this isn't necessary, you should focus on moving to a safe place, calling the police, and gathering insurance and contact information. Your next step should be to see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident, even if you don’t think you're seriously hurt.
We offer some tips to make the most of that visit so that you can support your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Who to See and What to Ask for
If you can get an appointment to see your primary care physician within a few days of the accident, this is a good idea. Your doctor understands your conditions and has easy access to your medical records. However, if that’s not possible, you can see another doctor in the practice, or be transported to an urgent care center that can exam you more quickly.
Regardless of who your first visit is with, you should:
- Tell the physician about the car accident. It’s important that your doctor knows what happened in the crash so they can thoroughly assess you. Was your car hit from behind? Did you hit your head? Was there flying glass or debris? Giving as many details as possible ensures your doctor knows what to look for.
- Request x-rays or other scans to diagnose hidden conditions. Some car accident injuries are harder to diagnose than others. Concussion, whiplash, internal bleeding, organ damage, and other conditions aren't externally visible, and the onset of symptoms may be delayed. In a thorough exam, the doctor may order scans to get a look at what’s going on inside.
- Ask for and follow a recovery plan. Not only do you want to get over the pain or disability caused by the injury, but by getting and following a treatment plan from a doctor, you can demonstrate how you're impacted by the injury and that you're committed to overcoming it. Ignoring a doctor’s orders makes it look like you're not really injured.
- Ask for copies of your medical records. You need to present medical records to the insurance company for reimbursement or as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. Keeping these documents accessible and organized will help.
- Refuse to sign a medical release. While the insurance company needs a record of your injuries and treatment related to this car accident, it doesn't need access to all of your medical records. If an adjuster asks you to sign a release, speak to an attorney before you do anything.
If you fail to see a doctor within a week of the accident, it will be much harder to get an insurance company to take your claim seriously. Establishing care with a physician immediately after the accident is the best way to document your injury.
How Do You Pay Those First Medical Bills?
You might put off seeing a doctor because you expect your car insurance—or the insurer for the other driver—to pay for it. However, without establishing that the crash caused your injuries and resulting medical bills, your claim for medical coverage will likely be denied.
It’s a bit of a catch-22, but you can use your health insurance or personal injury protection coverage on your auto insurance to pay your bills. If you're later compensated for injuries, these claims can be paid back.
Contact an Attorney When You Are Seriously Injured
As a no-fault state for auto accidents, Massachusetts law requires you to file claims with your own insurer for medical bills and property damages, unless you incurred at least $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, and/or your injuries resulted in permanent and serious disfigurement, fractured bones, or substantial loss of hearing or sight.
In case of serious injury, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver. Either way, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer first. Mahaney & Pappas, LLP offers free consultations, and we don’t get paid unless we secure the compensation you deserve.