If you’ve recently been in a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed by the things you need to do and process. Suddenly, calls to the insurance company, visits to the mechanic, and dealing with police may all be on your to-do list. In addition to these logistics, going to a clinic that specifically treats car accident injuries is an extremely important step to take as soon as possible. Even if you feel fine or brush off your symptoms, it is crucial to make this trip in a timely manner for the sake of your insurance claim and, most importantly, your health. So, how long is too long to wait?
Best Time to Visit a Clinic for Car Accident Injuries
You may feel lucky to have walked away from your accident with no injuries, or simple cuts and bruises as the worst of your problems. While this is certainly a good sign that you do not have any debilitating injuries, you are not in the clear in this window. As a reaction to the trauma of an accident, the body can go into shock or release hormones like adrenaline which cover up pain and allow you to keep going through the damage. Because some car accident injuries may be hidden, it is always recommended to visit a clinic immediately when possible. However, a general rule is that the first 72 hours are the most critical time to seek care.
The 72-hour time frame is important for a few reasons. It gives you time to make an appointment, as well as to decompress and let some of the initial stress wear off of your body. You may be caught up dealing with phone calls and paperwork, but three days gives you a reasonable amount of time to visit a clinic.
This window of a “reasonable” time will be important for your insurance claims. The closer to your accident that you visit a doctor, the easier it will be to link any injuries or conditions detected to the accident itself. They will be able to reflect this connection in your medical records that are sent to the insurance company.
Even if you are not feeling any symptoms, visiting a doctor quickly will allow you to identify any issues before they worsen or become too severe for simple outpatient treatment. More importantly than insurance definitions of reasonable, seeking care sooner will always benefit your health in the long run.
Common Injuries with Delayed Symptoms
Two of the most common car accident injuries also happen to be injuries that commonly have symptoms show up well after the original incident. Insurance companies often offer compensation for these conditions, making it important to get medical records as soon as possible. In addition, while these are not typically life-threatening, early treatment can prevent more serious issues from coming up in the future.
One of these injuries is whiplash, or damage to the soft tissue surrounding the neck. Upon impact to your car, your head will often quickly thrash backward and forward in an unnatural motion, causing tears and strains in the tissue. Whiplash usually leads to pain and stiffness in the neck, and can also cause headaches or trouble with arm mobility. These symptoms may appear soon after your accident, but can also take days or weeks to become obvious to you. In that time, you may worsen the damage to the tissue, making it harder to repair when you are finally able to seek treatment.
The same motion that causes whiplash also leads to the other common injury- a mild form of traumatic brain injury called a concussion. When your head moves suddenly, it may hit a hard surface nearby, or your brain itself can collide with your skull. This can be disorienting and lead to behavioral, mood, and sleep problems, as well as headaches or balance issues. Again, this is not typically apparent right away, and while concussions usually heal on their own, brain injuries should not be taken lightly.
Other injuries that may be delayed include internal bleeding and organ damage, herniated discs, fractures, and other spinal injuries.
Who to Visit
You may be wondering which doctor to visit after a car accident. If there are any immediate and obvious injuries after your accident, you may be taken or sent to the emergency room for care. But if you are able to walk away and wait for treatment, you likely do not need to visit the emergency room. A clinic that specializes in the types of car accident injuries you may have sustained will be able to identify your injuries and document them properly for your insurance company.