Do I Need to See a Doctor After a Minor Car Accident?

A chest-level image of a doctor checking a patient's blood pressure, with a clipboard and patient sheet in the foreground.

Yes, it’s a good idea to get checked out for several reasons:

  • Minor injuries can be more severe than they seem. The release of adrenaline during a scary situation like a car accident sometimes suppresses or distracts from the sensation of pain. We’ve met many people who initially felt fine after an accident or believed their injuries were only minor “bumps and bruises.” Yet some of these people later experienced serious pain or were diagnosed with a significant injury.
  • Your doctor can check for signs of serious conditions that require immediate treatment. For instance, some types of closed-head injuries can be life-threatening, but the patient may experience few or no symptoms at first.
  • Sometimes seemingly minor injuries don’t heal as quickly as you’d expect. While most people eventually make a full recovery, some develop chronic pain from their injuries and need continued care. Seeing a doctor right away allows you to establish a record of your injuries and initial treatment that healthcare providers can refer to later.

How Long After an Accident Should You See a Doctor?

Ideally, you should see a doctor sooner rather than later. However, if you decide not to see a doctor at first but find you are still in pain or have new symptoms a few days or even weeks later, you should see one as soon as possible.

Sometimes people don’t think their injuries justify using an ambulance or don’t want to pay the bill for an ambulance trip. If the paramedics agree that you don’t need an ambulance ride to the hospital, you can have a friend or family member drive you to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic. Alternatively, you can make an appointment with your family doctor.

Sometimes, your doctor may examine you and diagnose a minor-to-moderate problem like whiplash or a soft tissue injury. They often recommend rest, over-the-counter medication, and ice and assure you the symptoms should subside in a few days to weeks. For most people, this is the case. However, if your symptoms persist and don’t seem to be improving, you shouldn’t hesitate to go back to the doctor or even seek a second opinion.

Who’s Going to Pay for All These Medical Bills Just to Make Sure It’s Nothing Serious?

We hear this question frequently and understand that medical care can be expensive, even with health insurance. However, that shouldn’t stop you from getting the care you need.

The answer is that the at-fault driver’s liability insurance should cover medical bills related to the accident. For instance, getting an X-ray to ensure you don’t have a broken bone after a car crash is a valid medical expense – and if the insurance company adjuster disagrees, let us know. We’ll be happy to provide the documentation they need to demonstrate your medical bills were necessary.

If you have health insurance, this may cover some or all of your medical bills initially, and then the insurer will be paid back out of your car accident settlement.

What Are Some Common Injuries After a Car Accident?

Depending on the type of accident, you could experience various injuries. Here are some common problems people may have after a car crash:

Whiplash and Neck Injuries

Car accidents often result in both vehicles coming to an abrupt halt or slowing down considerably. This sudden change in speed is hard on passengers. Inertia causes a human body to continue moving forward even when the car itself has stopped – this is one reason why seatbelts are so important in preventing injuries.

But while a seatbelt can stop you from going through the windshield, it won’t prevent your head from snapping forward and backward sharply. This motion often causes small tears in the muscles and ligaments, or soft tissues, of the neck. As a result, you may have inflammation and pain – whiplash, also called a neck strain or sprain. Pain and stiffness in the neck are the most common symptoms, but some people have less common presentations, such as headaches, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, or tingling in the arms. If you have these or any of the other symptoms of whiplash, please see a doctor right away.

Aside from creating a record of your injuries, your doctor’s visit will help rule out any severe problems. While neck pain after an accident is frequently caused by whiplash, there are occasionally situations where the patient has a potentially severe neck fracture or another issue. If a neck fracture isn’t treated, it could lead to spinal cord damage and permanent difficulties like paralysis.

Back Injuries

Damage to the spinal cord in your back can also cause permanent paralysis. Or, you might suffer nerve damage that leads to chronic pain. Both situations can leave you unable to work or enjoy your life.

Additionally, some people have post-car accident pain that is challenging to diagnose. Sometimes misaligned vertebrae can cause you pain weeks or even months after an accident, and these subluxations are challenging to diagnose from X-rays. Soft tissue injuries can also happen in the back and shoulders, adding to your pain. It’s not uncommon for car accident victims to seek help from a chiropractor at some point after their accident.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

During a car accident, it’s possible to suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in multiple ways. Some people hit their head on the roof or another part of the car, while others can have a head injury without ever hitting their head. In the latter situation, the brain is usually injured by a quick back-and-forth motion – similar to how the neck is injured in whiplash. But with a brain injury, the TBI can occur from the brain impacting the inside of the skull. A concussion is a mild TBI that usually heals with time and rest, but more severe TBIs could require medication, surgery, or other treatments.

Unfortunately, some people with TBIs suffer permanent damage, affecting nearly any area of the body depending on what part of the brain was hurt. Some patients have cognitive injuries, such as problems with memory, language or speech issues, difficulty concentrating, trouble making decisions, and other complications. Other people might experience motor problems – difficulty walking or moving. Challenges with balance and coordination can also happen.

If you have damage from a TBI, getting therapy for your particular symptoms right away can help improve your chances of recovering at least some functions. For example, many people benefit from physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy after a brain injury. Your health insurance may cover these sessions, but if not, you can make a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance.

Broken Bones

Broken arms and legs are common in car accidents, especially T-bone crashes where one car strikes the side of the other, pushing the door into the driver or passenger. We’ve also seen people with broken ribs, hips, or a broken clavicle. A broken bone can interfere in many aspects of your life for a minimum of six to eight weeks – and in some cases, you may have pain and difficulty moving the affected limb even months later. Worse, if you have a physically demanding job, you might be out of work until the bone heals. Additionally, some patients have recurring pain in the break area, even after the bone has healed.

Internal Injuries

Car crashes can also result in internal injuries, such as internal bleeding or bruising, or lacerations to the spleen, liver, or other organs. Sometimes milder internal injuries only require a few days of observation at the hospital, but more advanced injuries may necessitate surgery to stop the bleeding or repair damage.

How to Get Help with Your Car Accident in Colorado or Wyoming

If you or a loved one have suffered a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, you could be dealing with a number of problems. You might have medical bills, a loss of income if you can’t work, car repair bills, and creditors badgering you to make a payment. At the same time, you could be in physical pain, or you might be prescribed strong pain medication that makes it hard to think clearly. You might also experience a downturn in mental health, such as symptoms of anxiety, depression, or PTSD stemming from the car crash.

When these things happen, it can be hard to know where to turn, but you need help seeking compensation for your losses. Please contact the Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™ for a free consultation about your options.  We’ll review your case, answer any questions you have, and help you calculate what your claim is worth. If we take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it for you. Call us today at 720-410-6188.

Attorney Sean Olson founded Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™ to help people who were injured in car accidents or other situations of negligence. He personally talks to every new client, learns about their life and goals, and works to help find the best solutions for pursuing compensation.