When someone is injured in an accident, they often seek medical treatment for the injuries they can immediately see or feel. The severity of the injury or any pain they are experiencing will usually dictate what kind of attention they seek from medical providers.
There are medical and legal reasons why you should immediately get full medical attention after an accident, no matter what your level of pain may be.
Injuries and Pain May Arise Later
Many people have the misconception that the worst pain is the pain they have immediately after an accident. They may not realize how common it is for pain to arise hours, or even days later. They are often surprised when something starts hurting long after an accident.
Medically, many conditions, which may not be immediately apparent, could be life threatening. For example, many victims of head trauma speak and act normally immediately following an accident. Sadly, in many cases, they do not get treatment, and the brain swells, leading to death.
Of course, in most cases death will not occur from the failure to get treatment, but certainly injuries can be made worse by the failure to get treatment.
For example, following a car accident, many people may not feel shoulder pain, or it may seem so minor so as not to need medical treatment. Those people go home, engage in normal activities, only to tear the shoulder even more, now creating a condition that requires surgery.
After an accident, your body may be flowing with adrenaline, which can have the effect of numbing pain. This means that minor pain may actually indicate a very serious injury. Do not assume that the level of pain correlates with the severity of an injury.
Voicing Your Symptoms
Of course, a full medical examination is useless if you do not also voice all of your pain to the treating doctors. Many people tend to overlook minor pains, in favor of major pains. Compared to the splitting headache that you have, the back pain may seem trivial. It is easy to tell the doctors about one and not the other.
But days later, the headache may well subside and the back pain may well get worse. It is important that you describe each and every element of pain or discomfort you are having to your doctors.
Remember that while ERs can be life savers, they are not there to treat your injuries to resolution. They are there to make sure you are stable and get immediate critical attention. This means that you should not assume that after the ER, you have been fully treated and need no more medical attention.
An ER may not consider a specific pain as critical or urgent enough to conduct scans or examinations, whereas your own doctors would.
An ER is a snapshot; a one-time photograph of your medical condition on the day that you show up for treatment. The ER does not take a long term history of your injuries, the way your own medical providers do.
Legal Importance of Medical Treatment
This long term medical history can be vital to demonstrating your injuries to a jury in the event that your case goes to trial.
There is the perception (which is based on some truth) that the worse your injury is, and the more severe your pain, the more treatment you will seek out. Juries, which make decisions as normal rational people would, naturally come to the conclusion that someone who is in severe pain or who has severe injuries seeks out medical attention. Someone who has slight or insignificant injuries may visit the doctor once, and that is it.
To a jury, it tends to undermine a victim’s relaying of the severity of injuries, when there is little or no medical history treating the injury. This is particularly true with injuries that are not readily apparent to the senses.
For example, in many cases, there may be no x-ray or scan that can show the tear of a back muscle. A jury may be left to depend on an accident victim’s testimony of pain, discomfort, and hardship. A victim who has attended regular therapy, with regular and appropriate treatment with doctors, carries much more credibility to a jury in these kinds of cases, when the jury has no scan that shows broken bones or other damage.
You May Get Blamed for Not Treating
It is also worth mentioning that many defendants like to defend cases by blaming a victim who has not sought appropriate care for an injury. We all have an obligation to get whatever treatment we can to try to heal our injuries and minimize our pain. When treatment for injuries is not sought by victims, they often end up being questioned in trial as to their failure to do so. A jury can be led to believe that pain or disability is as much caused by the failure to get or follow up with medical care, as it is due to the initial injury itself.
This does not mean that you need to get therapy four times a week for months on end, or subject yourself to a surgery that you do not want. Surely, you always have a right to make common sense medical decisions. But ignoring medical care and treatment can have devastating medical and legal ramifications.
Proving pain and injury after an accident to a jury is an art form and requires attorneys who know how to do it the right way. Call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation about your injury case.