How to Approach Initial Medical Treatment
After an accident, your first priority should be to recover your health as soon as possible. Take great care to secure proper diagnosis of all injuries and thorough medical care from the very best physicians.
Collision Scene and First Responder Treatment
More serious collisions typically involve EMS, police, and fire-rescue response to the accident scene. The victim has little choice regarding care, but this first phase of medical care is vital. Victims and attorneys often overlook the details involved in collision scene care. You should carefully revisit the ambulance call report, the police report, and the hospital records to highlight compelling injury evidence and to fully understand the initial course of trauma care.
Failure to report injury to police will not bar future injury claims. Honest accident victims who do not have obvious cuts or injury often will report that they are doing well. Adrenaline may overshadow symptoms. Also, many types of injuries (especially soft-tissue injuries) typically first produce the full measure of symptoms during the twenty-four- to forty-eight-hour period following the initial trauma. Thus, it is medically appropriate to experience an onset or progression of symptoms after you have returned home.
The police report and the ambulance call report are the two primary documents evidencing injury at the collision scene. The police report will document your subjective report of injury to the officer at the bottom of page one. This is a coded response, and the notation simply shows the officer’s recollection of your experience. The officer will also indicate whether EMS was called to the scene and list all parties who were taken from the scene by ambulance.
The ambulance call report is a combined bill and medical report. This document should be carefully read and interpreted. Emergency medical technicians will document all symptoms, describe the extent of damage to the vehicles involved, note relevant medical history, describe patient appearance, and outline all medical care provided and all injuries managed during ambulance transport. The names of each emergency medical technician (EMT) will also be identified.
Consider follow-up communication with EMTs, especially in serious or catastrophic injury cases. They can be wonderful, helpful witnesses whenever insurance adjusters seek to trivialize the accident or your injury experience. In a trial setting, the EMT who comforted you and stabilized you through transport is a primary witness to the fear, pain, and complications you experienced immediately after the collision.
Some victims refuse ambulance transport and instead travel to the hospital by private vehicle. Ambulance transport is not required to establish a right to fair compensation for personal injury. It is wise to seek medical evaluation as soon as possible following an accident. Further, hospital care is preferred because they have access to lab testing, blood testing, CT and MRI scanning, X-rays, and a battery of specialized physicians, including trauma surgeons and orthopedic surgeons.
In less serious injury cases, ongoing hospitalization will not be required. In fact, many victims feel that their treatment is not sufficiently thorough in hospital emergency departments. The hospital is typically trying to rule out fracture, head and brain injury, or internal organ damage. They are seeking to determine whether ongoing hospitalization is necessary. If not, they will discharge the patient the same day.
Be mindful of all hospital discharge instructions. Hospitals always instruct the patient to secure further evaluation and treatment through family doctors, specialists, or your primary-care physician. Written discharge instructions typically state “patient advised to return to emergency department or seek further care through his or her primary care physician if symptoms persist or worsen.” If no follow-up care occurs, insurance adjusters use the discharge instructions as proof that no symptoms continued after the hospital visit.
Hospital records should be scrutinized page by page to isolate all medical notations that support the claim of traumatic injury. Nurses’ notes, lab reports, and detailed physician reports should be integrated for later presentation in the injury case. These records should not simply be turned over to the insurance adjuster for review. Adjusters will not help you to unearth the medical details that support higher case value. The victim should carefully interpret hospital records and highlight the record so the adjuster is forced to consider case-supportive details.
If you choose not to go to a hospital, this is absolutely your right and this approach should not devalue the injury case. Many people have established relationships with family doctors, and turning toward a familiar medical provider may be your best option. Be certain that you report every area of injury and every symptom you are dealing with. A family physician can then order X-rays and other diagnostic testing. Whenever necessary, he or she will also refer you to specialists for appropriate evaluation and follow-up treatment.