After a car accident, your injuries may be minor—like scrapes or bruises—or much more serious. Severe car accident injuries may even include brain or spinal cord injuries. These more acute and debilitating injuries often require the expertise of a medical specialist, while more moderate to minor injuries may be treated by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at the scene or by your own doctor later on.
The type of medical treatment you need after a car accident will depend on the type of injuries you suffered.
But knowing who should treat your injuries after an auto accident isn’t always easy to determine on your own. Keep reading to learn what to do after a car accident to maximize your chances of a full recovery.
Which Doctor Is Best for Car Accident Injuries?
Seeking medical attention after a motor vehicle crash is essential. Firstly, it allows you to treat any apparent injuries in a timely manner before your condition worsens or becomes irreversible.
Secondly, it eliminates the possibility that you suffered hidden injuries. These masked injuries—which can include critical injuries like head injuries, organ damage, and internal bleeding—do not always present immediately after a car crash. But they must be treated quickly, or they can become fatal.
A third reason you should seek immediate medical treatment is to make a record of your car accident injuries. If your accident was caused by another driver, the negligent motorist’s insurance company should pay for your medical bills. You’ll need documents to prove the cause, severity, and repercussions of your crash injuries, such as receipts for medical expenses, test results, doctor’s notes, and prescriptions for medication.
Depending on your injuries, you may need to see one or more of these doctors to treat your injuries after an auto accident:
Emergency Room Physician
If your condition is critical, you may be transported to the emergency room (ER) via ambulance. There, you will be attended to by a team of ER doctors, nurses, technicians, and attendants. They have the skill, experience, and resources to diagnose and treat life-threatening conditions. They will refer you to other departments in the hospital if needed.
If you or others were severely injured in a car crash, call 911 right away. EMTs can help make a judgment on the emergency treatment you’ll require. The ER can also be a good option if you are injured at night when other medical facilities are closed.
Urgent Care Doctor
If your injuries don’t require a trip to the ER, you may want to consider visiting an urgent care center to have your car accident injuries examined by a medical professional. Most of these clinic-type facilities have walk-in hours, which can be a good option if your primary care physician (PCP) doesn’t have immediate availability.
A doctor at an urgent care facility will be able to treat your immediate injuries and refer you to another physician or specialist who can treat more specialized cases. For example, if you have broken bones, the urgent care center can treat your wounds, prescribe medication, and refer you to an orthopedic surgeon who can provide more long-term care for your healing fractures.
Primary Care Physician
If your injuries are not critical or debilitating, schedule an appointment with your own doctor. When making your appointment, be sure to inform the office that you have been in a car accident and need a complete physical examination to rule out any serious injuries. Describe any symptoms in detail. Your doctor should be able to see you within the days following your accident. If not, seek care elsewhere.
It’s possible that your PCP will decline to examine you for car accident injuries. This sometimes happens because an office is not prepared to bill through auto insurance policies or because they want to avoid the legal ramifications of treating a car accident victim. Go to the ER or urgent care if you are not able to be seen by your doctor promptly (or at all).
Whether you start your medical treatment in an emergency department, urgent care facility, or your own doctor’s office, it’s possible that you will be referred to a specialist for further testing, treatment, and care. Many doctors will ask a specialist to perform a consultation that can eliminate a certain condition or set the car accident victim on the right path to the appropriate treatment. Seeing a specialist may be the best chance you have for making a full recovery or reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Some of the specialists who may be best suited to treat your injuries after an auto accident include:
- Trauma surgeons
- General surgeons
- Pain management specialists
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Neurologists and neurosurgeons
- Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
- Burn specialists
- Physical and rehabilitative therapists
- Occupational and vocational therapists
Mental Health Care Professional
Car accidents result in more than just physical injuries. Psychological injuries are a common outcome of traumatic car accidents, especially those involving severe injuries or death. Medical care from a mental health professional is often a necessary form of treatment for victims of auto accidents.
If you are experiencing symptoms like anxiety, depression, flashbacks of the accident, nightmares, insomnia, changes in appetite, or other indications of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), be sure to share them with your treating physician—or schedule an appointment with a trusted counselor, therapist, or psychologist.
Do I Need To See a Doctor After a Car Accident?
Yes, it is best to see a doctor after a car accident. If you believe your injuries are minor (or you’re not sure if you were injured at all), you should still allow a medical care provider to examine you after your motor vehicle crash. Even minor injuries like whiplash and mild concussions can cause ongoing problems if not addressed.
Common car accident injuries include:
- Head and neck injuries (including whiplash)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (including concussions and brain damage)
- Lacerations (cuts)
- Broken bones and fractures
- Organ damage and internal bleeding
- Soft tissue injuries (including strains, sprains, and tears)
- Knee and leg injuries
- Facial injuries
These injuries can range from catastrophic to minor. It can be difficult in the aftermath of an auto collision to know how severe your injuries really are. When adrenaline and other fight-or-flight hormones are pumping through your body, you may not be able to feel the full effects of your physical injury.
You should always call 911 or go to the ER right away if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Dizziness, weakness, or fatigue
- Trouble walking, standing, or moving parts of your body
- Vomiting and nausea
- Chronic pain
- Deep lacerations or severe burns
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Confusion or memory loss
- Difficulty staying awake
Get Medical and Legal Help After a Chicago Car Accident
If you were injured in a Chicago auto accident, don’t wait. Your first action should be to seek medical attention and get the help you need to make a full physical recovery. Once your health has been prioritized, make an appointment to speak with a legal professional.
At Thomas Law Offices, we provide 100% free case consultations to those seeking legal guidance following a Chicago car accident. Contact our Chicago, IL personal injury law office today to speak with a caring legal advocate about your options for financial and emotional recovery.