It happens often: an individual is involved in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence. When asked if they’re injured, they say they aren’t. Within hours or days, however, they begin feeling pain. They attempt to treat it at home, only to find that they need to be seen by a doctor, or they continue experiencing pain but attempt to continue with their normal activities.
At some point, they discover that the personal injury claims process can be used to obtain compensation for the medical expenses, wage loss, lost earning capacity, property damage, and psychological impacts they incurred due to their injury. Are they still eligible to file a claim if they didn’t visit a doctor after the accident?
- Yes, You Can Still File a Claim
- Reasons Why an At-Fault Partyâs Insurer Would Deny Your Claim
- An Attorney Can Help You if You Delayed Treatment for Your Injuries
- Why Do People Fail to Obtain Medical Treatment for Their Injuries?
- Besides Obtaining Prompt Medical Treatment, What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Case?
- Consult an Attorney to Determine If You Can File a Car Accident Claim
Yes, You Can Still File a Claim
Car accidents in the U.S. are expensive propositions, particularly when an injury is involved. According to the National Safety Council, the average economic cost associated with an accident in which there were no observed injuries is around $12,800. However, accidents in which someone was possibly injured come with an average price tag of $23,900. The cost of an accident with evident injuries jumps up another $6,000, and an accident resulting in disabling injuries is more than $100,000.
Failing to be treated by a doctor after a car accident does not bar you from filing a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy or even a lawsuit to seek compensation for other expenses associated with the accident, such as damage to your vehicle. However, it can make the ability to receive compensation for the expenses and impacts of an injury a lot more complex. Here is a look at the reasons why.
Insurance Providers Will Question the Severity of Your Injury
The personal injury claims process involves filing a claim against the liability insurance policy of the driver who was at fault for the accident. The claim is assigned to a claims adjuster, which is an employee of the insurance company who is tasked with evaluating the claim, examining the details of the accident and the injuries sustained, and determining whether their insured was liable, and if so, how much money the insurance company is required to pay on the claim.
It is important to understand that the insurance company—and their claims adjusters—are not focused on fully or even fairly compensating claims for those injured by their insured; they’re focused on collecting premiums on the insurance policies they sell. Because of this focus, they will generally use any information they can find as an excuse to deny or devalue the claim.
If you’re seeking compensation for an injury incurred in an accident that you did not immediately seek medical treatment for, you can expect that the claims adjuster evaluating the claim will doubt the severity of the injury. They can even cast doubt over whether the injury occurred due to the crash. They can also argue that you neglected your health by failing to seek immediate medical treatment and using it to reduce their settlement offer.
It Is Difficult to Value a Claim Without Documentation of Your Injury
The claims process requires a claimant and their attorney not only to produce evidence that proves that the at-fault party was responsible for causing the accident but also requires a level of documentation to prove the severity and cost of the injuries. While the most important reason for seeking immediate medical attention after a car accident is to protect your health, the second-most important reason is to begin creating the paper trail needed to prove your claim and justify its value.
Reasons Why an At-Fault Party’s Insurer Would Deny Your Claim
Failing to provide evidence of an injury is one reason why an insurer would deny your third-party injury claim. The claim can also be denied for other reasons, such as the at-fault driver’s policy excluding coverage for certain types of claims.
Additionally, the claim can be denied if there is a dispute over fault or liability. The latter reason can also arise in a case involving delayed medical treatment. The insurance company can state that there is no proof that the injuries you sustained resulted from the accident you were in with their insured.
Some insurance companies deny claims for illegitimate reasons, known as bad faith insurance practices. Bad faith insurance practices include refusing to investigate a claim or delaying the investigation of a claim without cause.
An Attorney Can Help You if You Delayed Treatment for Your Injuries
If you’ve delayed medical treatment of injuries sustained in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, having an attorney to help you navigate the personal injury claims process becomes even more important. One of the skills that attorneys develop and hone to help their clients is the ability to communicate.
They will communicate with you about the personal injury claims process and the services they can offer to help you with your claim. They will communicate with their legal team about the evidence necessary to prove the claim. And they will communicate with insurance providers and the court to tell your story, explain your needs, and help you get the compensation you need. This includes providing a well-reasoned explanation about why you did not seek immediate treatment for your injuries.
Other services that an attorney can provide to assist you in obtaining the compensation you need after an accident include:
- Using their extensive network to help you locate a physician who will evaluate you and provide treatment for your injury.
- Establishing a value to your claim that includes not only the cost of medical treatment but also wage loss, lost earning capacity, property damage, physical pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
- Communicating with the claims adjuster from the at-fault party’s insurance company to protect your claim’s value and negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates you.
- Helping you understand how your claim is valued, how much compensation is needed to fairly settle the claim, and the various steps in the process so that you can make informed decisions about your claim.
- Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations and performing litigation-related services, such as deposing witnesses, preserving evidence, preparing evidence exhibits, filing and responding to filed motions, jury selection, and presenting your case in court.
- Helping you to receive the compensation garnered from a settlement or verdict.
Insurance providers frequently take advantage of claimants who attempt to navigate the process independently, assuming (and rightly so) that the claimant does not have the legal background and understanding to know what an insurance provider can and can’t do regarding their claim.
Additionally, a layperson is not likely to understand how the claim is valued or the legal obligation that insurance providers have to act in good faith. Some of the common schemes they use to avoid paying on claims include offering low settlements with arbitrary deadlines that pressure the claimant into a quick decision or they will lose the ability to receive compensation or telling a claimant that non-economic damages (compensation for the psychological impacts of the injury) are not available.
However, with an attorney involved, these schemes are less likely to be used because an attorney knows the insurance company’s legal obligations.
If You Can’t Afford Medical Services, Can You Afford an Attorney?
Yes, you can afford an attorney. Contrary to popular belief, not all attorneys charge an upfront retainer to take a case, and not all attorneys bill their clients by the hour. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. This means payment for their services is contingent on their client’s claim being compensated.
When you hire a car accident lawyer to help you with your claim, you will be asked to sign a contingent fee agreement. This agreement specifies a percentage of the compensation you receive to be paid to the attorney at the conclusion of your claim.
Why Do People Fail to Obtain Medical Treatment for Their Injuries?
People fail to obtain medical treatment after an accident injured them because:
- They don’t realize that the accident injured them. Some injuries have a delayed presentation of symptoms, including severe and costly traumatic brain injuries and internal injuries. Additionally, as explained by Jacksonville-based Reid Physicians Group, after a traumatic event such as a car accident, individuals also often experience a surge of adrenaline, which is the hormone responsible for the body’s fight or flight response. This adrenaline rush typically causes increased energy, a reduction in the ability to sense physical pain, and increased strength resulting from the dilation of blood vessels supplying blood to the muscles. In response to the adrenaline surge, the body releases endorphins to self-calm and provide a feeling of control, which can also impact the ability to feel pain.
- They ambulance offers them transport to the hospital from the scene, but they are afraid they can’t afford the ride or the treatment. Little wonder this is a concern, considering the costs of ambulance transport and hospitalization. According to GoodRx Health, an ambulance ride can cost more than $1,200. PeopleKeep, Inc. notes that the an overnight hospital stay can cost about $11,700, and that’s just for the bed. The costs of medical staff, surgery, diagnostic testing, and prescriptions can lead to astronomical invoices.
- They know they’re injured but don’t realize the extent of the injury. Without the ability to be evaluated by a medical professional and have diagnostic tests performed, it is impossible to detect issues such as internal bleeding that can result in permanent organ damage or even dangerous blood loss.
- Their primary care provider refuses to treat them because the injury is beyond their professional capabilities.
Besides Obtaining Prompt Medical Treatment, What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Case?
Obtaining prompt medical treatment helps your case by creating documentation to prove that you were injured.
You can take to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome to your car accident claim by:
- Talking with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible about your case. You are not under any deadline to seek medical treatment. However, seeking treatment promptly can help you avoid having your claim denied by the insurance company over lack of proof that you were injured. You are, however, under a deadline for filing a legal claim to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury, known as the statute of limitations. This deadline controls the amount of time you have to file the claim as a lawsuit in court. Allowing the statute of limitations to expire will almost always result in losing your ability to sue if the insurance provider fails to compensate the claim. Without the ability to sue, you generally will not find the insurance company amenable to settling the claim either.
- Gathering evidence, such as a crash report, photos of your injury, documentation of your treatments and expenses, wage loss information from your employer, and journal entries about the impacts of your injury on your quality of life.
Following your doctor’s orders and attending all injury-related medical appointments. This provides the opportunity for better healing and a continuation of the paper trail needed to show the expenses you have incurred.
Consult an Attorney to Determine If You Can File a Car Accident Claim
Getting legal guidance can help you determine the steps to take to file a claim even if you did not seek medical attention. At Dolman Law Group, we can analyze details about your crash and injuries to help you determine the next steps. Contact us today to get a free case review.