Is it too late for you to claim an injury for your car accident case? The general rule is: the longer you wait to seek medical treatment after a car accident, the more difficult it will be to prove your injuries. The rationale for this view is twofold: (1) if you’re really hurt, why didn’t you see a doctor immediately; and (2) how do we know that your injury was caused by the accident since so much time has passed.
There are four main reasons why you want to seek medical treatment as soon as possible following a car accident:
- Document your injury: When presenting to a healthcare provider soon after an accident, they will document your injury with what you tell them; they will perform diagnostic testing such as x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, or labs; and all this information will be put into your medical records. This will act as objective proof that an injury exists and the likely cause of that injury.
- Causation: As mentioned above, seeking medical treatment temporally as close to the accident as possible will help to overcome questions of causation in your case. In car accident injury cases, you must prove “negligence.” To prove “negligence,” you must show: (1) “the existence of a legal duty, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) and damages, (4) proximately caused by the breach.” Rodriguez–Escobar v. Goss, 392 S.W.3d 109, 113 (Tex. 2013). This basically means you need to prove that the responsible driver’s carelessness caused your injuries. When you don’t quickly seek medical treatment, insurance adjusters and juries begin to doubt the source of the injury was related to the accident.
- Mitigate your damages: the law bestows a duty on all aggrieved parties—the duty to mitigate your damages—to avoid making your injuries worse by neglecting your injuries. The responsible party will not be liable for any harm that you caused yourself by avoiding seeking medical attention.
- Validity: Seeking medical care immediately after an accident bolsters your injury claim and substantiates its validity. In other words, it makes it seem less likely that you may be “faking” it.
Of course, there are several reasons people don’t see a doctor immediately following a car accident, all of which are reasonable. You may not immediately feel that you are injured or injured enough to go to the emergency room. You may not have health insurance or any money to pay for healthcare. Indeed, these are all valid reasons. However, it’s best to get advice from a car accident lawyer prior to communicating with the insurance company, especially if you’ve failed to get little or any medical treatment since the accident.
We’ve had clients not seek treatment for months after a car accident and still received compensation. But, it will definitely present significant challenges in your case and your compensation will likely be greatly reduced. You can typically justify days or even weeks why you never sought medical treatment after your accident, but months become increasingly more difficult to explain away. Do yourself a favor—if you think you may be injured, seek medical treatment immediately and avoid any problems with your health and your case!