When you are hurt in a traffic accident, your number-one priority should be getting medical care for your injuries. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible after a wreck helps you both protect your health and protect your legal rights. Here is an overview of some of the most important things for accident victims to know about receiving medical treatment for injuries that happened in a wreck.
Which Doctor Should I See for Accident Injuries?
Although you may not have a lot of choice in where you’re treated initially or who you see in the emergency room immediately after you’re hurt, the choice is completely yours when it comes to follow-up care of your accident injuries. While an attorney may be able to take a look at your potential choices and offer helpful input, you absolutely have free choice when it comes to any of the providers you need to see during your recovery, including:
- Your main doctor
- Specialist doctors
- Mental health providers
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
Although you can choose to see anyone, you should keep in mind that not every doctor is willing or prepared to work with a patient through the process of resolving an injury claim. Because the doctor’s records are key evidence in accident cases, it can be helpful to look for a doctor who:
- Makes you feel comfortable and well cared for
- Carefully listens to you and all your concerns
- Knows how to handle and document accident injuries
If you’re having trouble finding the right doctor for you, don’t be afraid to reach out to an attorney for help. At VB Attorneys, our team has worked with numerous accident victims over the years, and while we’ll never take the power of choice away from you, we can help connect you with the resources you need to make an informed choice about your care.
Get the Most Out of Your Medical Care After an Accident
While your medical care after a serious accident is between you, your family, and your doctor, there are some ways that accident-related medical visits can be a little different than your usual medical care. Insurance companies, trucking companies, drivers, manufacturers, and others sometimes stand to lose a lot when something goes wrong on the road and someone gets hurt. As a result, victims can find themselves thrust into a fight to “prove” even the most basic facts of their injuries.
Although you may still be unsure what your rights are or if you plan to file an injury claim with the insurance company, it’s important that you understand how to work and communicate with your doctor from the start:
- Keep your doctor informed. If you aren’t keeping your doctors in the loop after an accident, you may not be getting the most out of your medical visits. Your doctor can only document and treat you for the issues that are known to him or her, and you can play a big part in making sure every doctor you see has the details needed to give you the care you deserve for the full picture of your injuries in a wreck.
- Make a list of the basics. Especially if you are seeing multiple doctors for your care or have several different injuries from the same accident, it can be helpful to make a list of every care provider you see, your diagnoses, allergies, the medication you take, and other relevant information. You can print this out and give it to your doctors at your initial visit and at follow-up appointments, including any changes. It can also be helpful to date these lists and save the old ones for your own records. Keeping a record of the procedures you’ve had or different medications you’ve tried can be valuable when that information is needed months or years later during an injury claim.
- Write down your questions ahead of time. How many times have you thought of something you want to mention to the doctor at the next appointment, but you forget it by the time the appointment rolls around? As you think about questions for your doctors between appointments, write them down. This can help you address all your concerns at the appointment and keep your doctors better updated on how you’re really doing.
- Have a friend or family member there to help. Arrange for a family member to come with you. Having someone with you at each appointment can help you stay organized and help the doctor get the “outside” view of the course of your recovery from an accident. It’s hard to listen and absorb information when you’re being poked, prodded, and tested at an appointment. If you can enlist a family member or friend to come with you, you’ll have an extra set of ears to hear and remember details or help write down new instructions from the doctor.
- Keep old prescription bottles, even if you are no longer taking the medication. If you’re on a number of medications or have changed prescriptions, consider keeping your pill bottles. The labels contain important information—such as date, dosage, and doctor—that can help you establish what you were taking and when. Just be sure to keep them somewhere where you can’t confuse them with your current medications.
Follow Up and Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Following up with your doctor or doctors is just as important as seeing a doctor in the first place. Even minor injuries can turn into major problems if you don’t get appropriate medical care, and a failure to follow up with recommended medical care can be used against you to wreck your insurance claim against the responsible driver—no matter how legitimate your claim may be.
Following the treatment plan helps you reach the best possible physical recovery, and it will help prove your case to the insurance adjuster later on. It’s important to understand that the adjuster is going to base any settlement offered to you on the medical care you've received. It provides a way to measure your injuries and resulting pain, and it provides evidence that you are being honest about your injuries and symptoms. To make a full recovery, you must follow the treatment plans that your doctors or physical therapists have set up for you.
If you ignore your doctors’ orders, stop treatment and start back up later, or stop seeing your doctor before you are medically released, you run the risk of not fully recovering—both physically and legally. Although it can be tempting, don’t give in to these common reasons accident victims walk away from medical care:
- Feeling better. Even though you are feeling better, cutting your medical care short can stall or negate the improvement you have experienced. Keep following your doctor’s orders until he or she decides you can be safely released.
- Worrying about expenses. If your financial worries are keeping you from getting the medical care you need, it is of utmost importance that you speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. In many cases, accident victims can recoup their financial losses for medical care.
- Being unhappy with the care provided. If you are unhappy with the care you are receiving, you do have the power to get a second opinion or choose a different care provider. If you’re not sure how to switch doctors or when a change might affect your injury case, don’t be afraid to discuss it with an attorney.
How Is a Doctor Visit Different After I’ve Been Hurt in a Wreck?
After you’ve been hurt by another driver, you have to be a little more proactive when you visit with your doctors. Accident injuries are often medically complicated and may require care from several doctors and specialists. Additionally, each visit must be carefully documented to recover compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. While the care you receive might not be any different, there are some ways that medical appointments after an accident can differ from a routine visit:
- Your medical records may become important evidence to support your claim. Even if you’re unsure about the legal action you may take, keep in mind that the details of your care for accident injuries could come up in a legal setting later on. Make sure that you let your doctor know you are there because of an accident, and make sure that you are honest about the full extent of your injuries.
- You will need to clearly communicate with your doctor. Don’t be tempted to guess at your doctor’s orders for your recovery. If you have questions or complications, communicate with your doctor—and don’t be afraid to ask about specific activities or limitations in your daily life. It’s harder to go back and document issues if you forget about something. While more minor injuries or symptoms can be easy to overlook when you have more pressing medical issues, it’s still important to let your doctor know everything that’s going on with you since the accident.
- You may need to protect your medical privacy. Your medical privacy matters, and you shouldn’t be tricked or bullied into signing away your rights or giving the insurance companies more fuel to potentially minimize your claims of injury. Before you sign a medical release or any other document from the insurance company, read it carefully and talk it over with an experienced attorney.
Keep Track of the Expenses Related to Your Accident Injuries
The financial strain of a major accident is made up of more than just hospital bills. For seriously injured victims, recovery from an accident can entail long-term medication therapy, short-term pain management, and other care needs that don’t show up on bills sent from your doctor’s office or the hospital’s billing department. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your attorney to carefully account for the full costs of your injury and make sure that the price tags on your full medical care don’t get overlooked or explained away when you’re fighting for your rights in an injury claim.
Here are a few things you can do that will help you make sure these expenses are accounted for in your claim:
- Save all your receipts. Keep your receipts and bills for all the medical visits, procedures, and treatments related to your injury. Keep this information in a safe place along with your other paperwork related to the accident.
- Keep track of pharmacy costs. It can be very easy to lose track of every medication you’ve taken, every prescription you’ve tried, and every over-the-counter remedy recommended by your doctor’s office. However, the costs can sometimes add up to thousands of dollars over time. The good news is that prescription costs are generally compensable under the law if it can be proven that someone else was responsible for the wreck and the medication was needed for the treatment of the injuries—so make sure you save your pharmacy receipts, too.
- Talk with an attorney. Speaking with an attorney can help you understand what might be covered in your injury claim, and he or she can offer more specific guidance on the kinds of medical evidence and documentation you will need to prove your costs related to the injury.
You May Have the Right to Seek Compensation for Your Medical Costs
Most accident victims don’t really understand what they will face as they negotiate an insurance claim against the other driver’s insurance company, and that lack of understanding can lead to serious mistakes. For vital—and sometimes surprising—information about what to expect, request your free copy of our book, How to Win Your Injury Case.
If you have questions about a traffic accident or need help right now, you can also start investigating your rights by contacting our experienced attorneys at 877-724-7800 or speaking with one of our Live Chat operators right now.