Being able to successfully pursue your car accident case means being able to prove the full extent of your injuries. This may sound simple enough, but unfortunately, when dealing with car insurance companies, nothing is that simple. That is why it is important not to delay getting treatment immediately following the car accident or have gaps in treatment. It is also why it is important to obtain the appropriate type of treatment.
What you have to remember is that the insurance claims adjuster for the at-fault driver is not interested in making you whole or ensuring that you are properly compensated for all of your injuries. Their job is to limit the compensation they pay. They often receive extensive training on critically reviewing every angle of your car accident looking for weaknesses they can exploit. They will comb through your medical file to look for inconsistencies, prior injuries, pre-existing conditions and, as mentioned above, “red flags” such as delay in obtaining treatment or gaps in treatment.
Often, clients will want to know what can be done to protect against such abuse or manipulation by the insurance adjuster on the other side. The advice is tailored to each case, but in general we always tell our clients to seek immediate treatment for any symptoms following the car accident. If necessary, always consider taking the ambulance to the emergency room to get checked out. Of course, not every accident is serious enough for first responders to respond. If an ambulance is not called out but you are hurt following the auto accident, drive yourself to the ER or an urgent care facility. If driving yourself is not an option or safe, try to get a family member or friend to drive you. If you try to “tough it out” for a few days or weeks thinking the pain will go away only to discover that the condition has only worsened, you will not only delay getting better sooner, but you will also give the insurance adjuster the opportunity to question the extent of your injury. They will say things like: “if you were really hurt how come you didn’t seek immediate treatment?” Or, “how can we be sure that when you went to urgent care two weeks after the accident it wasn’t because you injured yourself at some point after the accident?” Or other variations of these type of cynical questions criticizing your decision not to get treatment immediately after the accident.
The same is true for gaps in treatment. If you receive regular treatment for your back injury for three months and then stop for two months before resuming treatment, the adjuster will argue that you healed after three months and didn’t require any more treatment. They will suggest that the reason you went back to treat two months later was unrelated to the accident. If the injury from the accident was ongoing, why did you stop treatment for two months, the adjuster will argue. You may have very good reasons for delaying treatment or taking a break from treatment, but those decisions will make proving the full extent of your injuries much more difficult and will force you to be on the defensive.
Finally, getting the appropriate treatment is also important. If you sustain a shoulder injury in a car crash and your doctor recommends an MRI, but you fail to follow through, it may hinder your ability to prove the full extent of your shoulder injury. Or if instead the doctor recommends physical therapy and you decide to pursue alternative or naturapathic care, it might be used by the adjuster to show that you failed to get appropriate care since it was not the kind of care prescribed by your doctor. This is not a criticism of naturapathic or alternative care*, but you should be prepared for the insurance adjuster to use these types of arguments in critiquing your path to recovery. Since you have a duty to mitigate your damages, they may also posit that had you followed your doctor’s prescribed course of treatment you would have healed sooner.
Remember, when you make a claim for injuries sustained after a car accident, the burden shifts to you to prove the elements of that claim. As a plaintiff in a car accident it must necessarily become your objective to heal while simultaneously taking all reasonable steps to properly document your healing process. For more guidance on how to do that feel free to give us a call for a free consultation.
*Many victims of car accidents will seek treatment from alternative care providers such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. These medical care providers often offer excellent and appropriate care in helping car accident victims on the road to recovery.