Unfortunately, it’s the time of year where weather can be unpredictable and ice happens. As such, we get an influx of clients wondering what they should do when they’ve been in a car crash? Well, truthfully, I don’t know! When my clients call me with these questions I send them to one of the wonderful personal injury attorneys I know. But, it’s always helpful to know what to do, so one of those wonderful attorneys was kind enough to share his experience with us. A word of advice from Chris Finney with Mutrux Finney, P.C.
Bam! You’re hit. It’s miserable. You’re in a car crash and your car is damaged. You’ve got aches and pains. It is incredibly inconvenient and disruptive. Thankfully, you are not catastrophically injured.
Over the days, the aches and pains get worse. So what do you do? Start with these 5 steps and you’re on your way to getting yourself healed up and cared for.
- See a doctor.
Yes, it seems clear enough but you must see a doctor. If you don’t have a primary care, go to urgent care. You absolutely must make sure any potentially life altering injury is diagnosed and/or ruled out. Just a headache that’s bothering you? May be an arterial dissection that could result in a stroke. Don’t think it will happen to you? Ask our client who had headaches post-crash (one he walked away from) that caused a stroke within 18 hours because he suffered a tear in an artery running to his brain. This is a risk in whiplash cases. He can’t see in his left eye anymore. Stomach pain that just won’t go away or hard to breathe? Could very well be a non-displaced rib fracture that didn’t present on the initial x-ray that may show up due to post-crash calcification. Unsure as to what all this means? That’s why you should see the doctor within 24 hours post-crash.
- Be honest.
It is incredibly important that you are completely and utterly honest with the doctor about the car crash and your injuries. If you are not feeling pain, then say so. If you can’t remember what happened, then say so. You will likely be up against a multi-billion dollar insurance company after your crash. They have Special Investigative Units (S.I.V.) specifically designed to root out fraud and malingering. They are more sophisticated than you and have much more experience than you. You cannot trick them so start off on the right foot and be honest. Tell your doctor the truth. Do not exaggerate. Ever.
- Be assertive.
You absolutely must advocate for yourself. If you do not assert yourself in your medical care, you will be stuck with chronic pain and issues down the road. Doctors are busy. Nurses are busy. Focus on what you can do to help yourself and get their attention. Make eye contact with them and inform them of the issues you are having and ask them what the treatment plan is and the reasoning behind it. Far too often, patients just accept what they are told and don’t understand why they didn’t get the treatment they needed or why they were sent to this physical therapist or chiropractor. As the injured party, you must ask why you only got an x-ray and no MRI. Why are you being prescribed these pills? What are trigger point injections? You should be asking these questions. We consistently see clients needing MRIs to diagnose their back and neck injuries but are only being told the x-ray is fine and then 8 weeks later getting an MRI showing a huge herniation. Patients do not know the difference between the two and it can cause an injury to persist undiagnosed for much longer that needed. Assert yourself with you medical care. No one else is going to do it for you.
- Be Clear.
It is not your doctor’s job to read your mind about the car crash and your injuries. We see medical records on a daily basis that do not reflect what the client/patient reports. This is not always the patient’s fault, but you need to do what you can to minimize this risk. So you must be very clear with the doctor about your symptoms. Do not rush through filling out your paperwork in the waiting room. This will become part of your medical records on which your doctor will rely on and the auto insurance company will scrutinize for any discrepancy. The best way to address this is to take your time on the intake forms. If something doesn’t accurately describe how you feel, write in the answer. You are not confined to the pain meter or the a-f answers on the page. Be clear and write in what and how you feel. Also, clearly let the doctor know, both in person and on the intake forms, when, where and how this injury occurred. Failing to mention a crash is a case killer. You must take your time and be clear. This is your physical health we are talking about here.
- Follow through.
This one may be the most frustrating for everyone—the patient, the doctors, the rehab team, the lawyers, etc… When an injured party fails to follow through with the prescribed care, it is nearly impossible to get the person back to pre-injury status. Small injuries that are not taken care of become large injuries over time. It is like a small leak in your basement—if you don’t take care of it early and completely, it will turn into a massive foundational problem. It is the same with smaller back and shoulder problems. If you don’t follow through on the care, they become chronic issues. Doctors are not prescribing treatment for the fun of it—it has a purpose to get your up and running again. Make sure you follow through on your treatment. Undoubtedly, things come up and appointments must be cancelled. That is understandable. But reschedule them. The typical scenario is when someone begins to feel a little better, they stop getting therapy for a couple weeks and then go cut the grass and BAM! The pain is back. You’ve just made it that much harder to get you what you deserve. That insurance company will be all over you, calling you a liar, a cheat and a fraud. So follow through.
These are just the 5 most important steps we’ve come up with through our experience. The overarching theme is that you absolutely must take ownership for you and your health. Following these 5 steps will help you do that and get you on the road to a proper, healthy and quick recovery.