Visiting a doctor immediately after a traumatic brain injury, serious burn, broken bones, or other catastrophic injury isn’t just a common-sense step to protect your own health, it can also protect any legal claims you may have. However, over the 34 years that I have practiced, I have unfortunately seen too many well-intentioned, but misinformed, people mishandle the situation following a serious accident. This post is intended to examine some of the reasons why people delay seeking medical treatment or fail to consult with an experienced lawyer following a serious injury.
Why don’t people seek medical treatment after an injury?
Perhaps one of the most common reasons people fail to seek out treatment is that they do not consider the injury they suffered to be severe. There can be many reasons for this, but adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is usually secreted during and after a traumatic event and signals through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – the system that mediates the sensation of pain. The release of this stress hormone can result in an increased heart rate and a constriction of blood vessels and it also has an analgesic effect. This pain reduction effect that epinephrine provides may cause the injured individual to underestimate the extent of his or her injuries and fail to seek medical care. However there are many reasons why people do not seek a doctor. Other reasons why people fail to seek treatment include:
- They don’t think they can afford it
- They don’t think that treatment for their injury or condition is available
- They don’t think the treatment their injury or condition will be effective
- They think that it will not make a difference whether they see a doctor
Unfortunately, more often than not, these reasons end up being rather short-sighted and people find themselves in situations that are less favorable than they should be.
Why is it Important to Seek a Doctor After an Injury?
Seeking medical attention after a serious accident or a catastrophic injury can be an essential step in successfully pursuing a legal claim. Furthermore and most importantly, it can also help ensure that you do not have a life-threatening underlying condition. Prompt medical attention and treatment can:
- Establish medically documented proof – To prove that the negligence, recklessness or an intentional act of another injured you, you must some form of proof. You certainly know the extent of the pain caused by your injuries and you can describe that to others. But while patient reports of symptoms can be useful to a medical professional who is diagnosing a condition, observable signs of the injury as described by a doctor can be more persuasive to a skeptical juror.
- Rule out or minimize pre-existing conditions – Many times defense counsel may raise the possibility that the injured party had a pre-existing condition and therefore the injury was not caused by the accident or the extent of injury is less than what the plaintiff alleges. A longitudinal medical history can help to rebut these claims.
- Ensure that you do not have a serious condition – Many people complain of heightened anxiety following an accident. Seeing a qualified physician or medical professional can give you peace of mind knowing that, despite your injuries, you do not have any underlying life-threatening conditions.
- Increase your chances of recovery – Getting appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitative therapy early can improve your likelihood of making a full recovery. In any case, appropriate medical care can improve the injured individual’s quality of life and allow them to do more things despite their catastrophic injuries.
- Establish a medical relationship – Establishing a medical relationship early in the process can provide a doctor with the information and perspective required to speak from personal knowledge regarding your serious condition or injury.
In short, seeking medical attention immediately after an accident can result in improved medical and legal outcomes. Having medical proof can be the foundation for a favorable settlement or jury verdict.
What Consequences can follow a Failure to Seek Medical Attention or Legal Representation?
Many times people will attempt negotiate with the insurance company or the individual that caused the injury because they “are not the type of person to sue.” It is fairly common for the injured person’s offer to arrange an informal work-out to be met with promises that the other party will “take care of everything”. However that person may not be the one who makes decisions for their organization or insurance company. Alternatively they may not fully consider the full-extent of the obligations their promise entails. In any case, informal deals can fall through for a myriad of reasons.
In the meantime evidence is likely to have been lost or destroyed. Those who may have witnessed the accident have likely had their memories of the event fade. Furthermore, your current condition may no longer reflect the full-extent of your pain, suffering or injuries. Proving the elements of your personal injury case will be made much more difficult by the spoliation of potentially essential evidence.
In other instances the other party may string the injured individual along regarding the informal deal for months or years. However because claims for personal injury must be filed within 2 years of the injury, your claim could end up being time-barred. This means that compensation will not be available and you may be on the hook for the medical bills and damages you experienced.
If you have suffered a serious injury, don’t delay in seeking medical treatment. Once your condition has been diagnosed and stabilized, then contact an experience personal injury attorney like those at The Reiff Law Firm. For your free and confidential personal injury consultation or to discuss a failure to diagnose lawsuit, call our firm at (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.