Each year, almost forty million people1 visit emergency departments around the country for accident–related injuries, but less than 10% of these visits actually result in hospital admission. When asked whether you should go to an emergency department after a car accident, sometimes the answer is obvious: broken bones, head trauma, bleeding, etc., but other times the answer is not so clear. Soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash and bruising, may not manifest until you’ve returned home and you may question whether it’s worth the E.R. wait.
Emergency Department v. Clinical Treatment
In the greater Tampa Bay area, you are going to have access to a plethora of treatment options immediately following a car accident, including emergency rooms, 24/7 walk-in clinics, and the chiropractor down the street. Each option has its own benefits and shortcomings, but emergency rooms can provide the following benefits:
- Ambulance and helicopter services;
- Same day, on-site MRI, CT, and Radiology studies;
- In-facility pharmacy;
- Access to specialists as needed;
- You cannot be turned away, and
- Full–service diagnostic tests and treatment.
The problem with emergency rooms is often the wait time and price of services. For this reason, you may have noticed an increase in 24/7 emergency clinics, which are private facilities that offer many of the same services as an emergency room. In these facilities doctors remain on-call, there is likely less of a wait, and more individualized care is provided. Further, many of these clinics provide radiological services and have in-facility pharmacies. Such clinics are a great alternative option if you begin to develop pain and soreness in the hours following your accident and you are not sure if emergency treatment is needed.
Common Delayed Onset Injuries
Immediately following a car accident your body will often enter a type of survival mode, which causes a release of adrenaline and epinephrine. During an “adrenaline rush”2 as it is often referred, your body releases hormones that help focus your attention on survival and increase blood flow to vital organs. This causes your body not to focus on any pain it might be feeling, which can mask the severity of your injuries at the scene. Further, there are certain injuries that may not manifest until a few days after an accident even though the injury itself occurred during the crash. The following is a list of commonly delayed onset injuries experienced after a car accident:
- “Whiplash,” a type of neck/shoulder stiffness and pain;
- Back pain caused by damage to ligaments and nerves;
- Abdominal pain, including deep bruising, which is a sign of internal bleeding and should be treated at an emergency room immediately;
- Confusion and loss of motor skills, which is a sign of traumatic brain injury and should also be treated immediately at an emergency room, and
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Accordingly, even if you do not believe you have been severely injured as the result of a car accident, if your car was damaged, it’s likely you were too. It is always wise to seek medical treatment immediately following even a seemingly minor accident, and an emergency room is the best choice if you are experiencing any head or abdominal pain.
Florida No-Fault Insurance Law
Florida is known as a “no-fault” state, which means that state law requires Florida drivers to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury coverage3 to pay for medical expenses that arise out of car accidents. This coverage is “primary” regardless of who is at-fault for the accident, hence the term “no-fault.”
The purpose of instituting a mandatory no-fault law is to encourage injured drivers to seek immediate medical treatment, as a no-fault insurer is required to cover all your medical expenses up to the limits of your selected policy. This helps you avoid the hassle of having a medical lien attached to your personal injury case or waiting on another driver’s liability insurance to pay your expenses.
Even if you do not have medical insurance, no-fault insurance will act in its place after a car accident. However, because Florida has a low no-fault minimum of $10,000, if you do not have sufficient health insurance coverage going to an emergency room for treatment may drain the majority of your benefits. If your injuries are minor, it may be in your best interest to seek clinical treatment prior to going to the emergency room.
Medical Treatment and Your Legal Case
Ultimately, the answer to the question of whether you should go to an emergency room after a car accident is “it depends.” However, if you believe you have a claim for personal injuries as the result of a car accident, you should always seek immediate medical attention at an emergency room, walk-in clinic, or your physician’s office. If you wait until your symptoms manifest before seeking treatment, which can be hours, days, or even weeks after the accident, you may be reducing your chance of recovery for the late onset injuries you sustained. The less of a gap between the time of the accident and the time you seek treatment, the stronger your case will be, as it is less likely an insurance company can argue that your injuries were not due to the accident. Further, if you fail to seek treatment for injuries and they worsen as a result, this may reduce the amount you can recover in a successful legal action.
Contact a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been involved in a Florida car accident, even if you do not believe emergency treatment is necessary, it is still essential that you seek medical treatment immediately following the accident. This may not only save your life if internal bleeding, nerve damage, or cracked vertebrae are discovered, it will also help increase your chance of recovering compensation for your injuries. Remember the rule, if your two-ton car sustained damage in the accident, it is likely your body did too. Although car accidents are a drastic inconvenience, litigating your case doesn’t have to be. The Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you select a doctor, apply for no-fault benefits, and help you get the compensation you deserve after a car accident. Their attorneys are your premier personal injury lawyers in the greater St. Petersburg area, and they are here to fight for your rights. Contact them today at (727) 222-6922 for a free, no-risk consultation.
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712