How to Find a Doctor After a Car Accident
No one plans to get into a car accident — but each year, 20-50 million Americans sustain injuries from car accidents. Whether you have a head injury, a broken bone, internal bleeding or soft tissue damage, you can be left with lingering injuries if you don’t seek medical care. At the scene of the accident, it can be challenging to know just how badly you’ve been hurt, so you may not even know what happened.
When you go through an experience as sudden and frightening as a car accident, your body will full of adrenaline. As a result, you may not immediately notice how much pain you’re feeling. If you can exit your car and talk to the other driver, exchanging contact information and insurance may be the first thing on your mind. That’s an important step to take, but you’re also likely asking yourself, “Should I see a doctor after a car accident?” The answer is always yes.
After a car accident, it’s necessary to seek medical attention. What kind of doctor should you see after a car accident and how do you find the right one?
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Find a Doctor
There are plenty of reasons people are hesitant to seek medical care, even if they’ve just been through a car accident. They may be worried about the cost of treatment. Will the doctor they find be in-network with their insurance plan? Will they lose even more valuable working hours if they take the time to see a doctor? There’s also a chance they think their injuries aren’t severe enough to make it worth a trip to a hospital or physician’s office.
If you’re thinking about skipping the doctor, consider these essential reasons you should make the trip to the emergency room or an auto accident doctor:
- You may not be able to see your injuries: You might imagine a graphic scene after a car accident — and that can certainly happen. But don’t think that no blood means no injuries. You can experience many injuries that may not be readily apparent right after an accident. You might experience whiplash, a head injury, a neck injury or a spinal injury. These injury symptoms can take hours or even days to surface.
- Medical attention can be necessary for insurance purposes: If you’ve been in a car accident, you’ll likely be spending some time communicating with your insurance company and the insurance company of anyone else involved in the accident. Depending on the car accident circumstances, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries through a personal injury case. To prepare for this possibility, you’ll need a timely medical evaluation. If you put off going to see the doctor, the insurance companies involved may use that against you in any personal injury claim.
The Importance of Finding an Orthopedic Doctor as Soon as Possible
Some people prefer to put off the doctor as long as possible, as they might feel they can tough it out. However, a car accident is one of those times when you don’t want to wait to find a doctor. Prompt medical treatment can help to ensure you receive the best care possible. The first stop after your car accident might be the emergency room, which is a helpful start — but don’t assume that’s the last visit you should make to a doctor.
Listen to the recommendations of the ER physician and consider your injuries. Following up with an orthopedic doctor after a car accident can be an important next step. An orthopedic doctor specializes in injuries and will conduct a thorough examination of you and your and medical history to determine the most appropriate course of action. If you delay seeing an orthopedic doctor, your injuries may go untreated for longer. As a result, you may have a lengthier road to recovery, which could also affect how insurance companies view your personal injury case.
Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Your Primary Care Doctor
If you’re wondering, “What doctor should I go to after a car accident?” you’re not alone. Many people default to visiting their primary care doctor, as they already have a relationship with this physician. That said, primary care doctors don’t specialize in injuries. They’re a valuable part of the health care team, providing wellness check-ups, preventative care and chronic health condition management.
While your primary care doctor may be able to order preliminary diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your symptoms, they likely won’t be the doctor to treat those post-accident injuries. Instead, they’ll have to refer you to an auto injury specialist, like an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon. Additionally, wait times can be an issue, as primary care doctors generally don’t work on an emergency basis.
Plus, your medical records will come into play. If you visit a specialist first, they’ll likely take a much more detailed report of your injuries. This information can be important when insurance companies are determining how to proceed with your personal injury claim. These notes are pertinent to how they treat your injuries, so you can rest assured they’ll be thorough from the start.
After a car accident, you can still communicate with your primary care doctor. If you do decide to start with a specialist, you can ask your primary doctor to recommend one. Your physician will usually have a few contacts in your area who can treat your specific condition and lead you to recovery.
Find a Specialist That Treats Your Specific Types of Injuries
It’s no secret that different doctors have different areas of expertise. Finding the correct car wreck doctor for your injuries will ensure you receive the right, targeted treatment from an orthopedic surgeon, who may recommend further treatment from another specialist like a physical therapist. A car accident can cause various injuries, such as the following:
Whiplash is a very common injury associated with rear-end car accidents, as the motion forces your body to snap forward and back quickly. The rapid movement caused by this accident jerks your neck, affecting the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the neck. This type of injury can cause pain and stiffness in the neck, leading to intense headaches. Someone who has experienced whiplash may also feel numbness or tingling in their extremities, blurred vision and difficulty sleeping.
Soft Tissue Damage
A typical car accident injury is soft tissue damage, which causes muscle strains and sprains. If soft tissue damage is severe enough, it can grow worse without proper medical treatment. Unfortunately, you may not know you even have these injuries because you can’t see them. An orthopedic surgeon can help you determine whether you need extensive treatment.
Specifically, orthopedic surgeons are trained to evaluate sprains and strains, which is particularly helpful for soft tissue damage. These experts can see if conservative treatment like icing and stretching is sufficient, or if the injury requires surgical intervention.
If a car accident causes a broken bone, your first stop is likely going to be the emergency room. The ER doctors will be able to determine the severity of the break. Some breaks only require you to wear a cast, while others will require surgical intervention. If the break or breaks are serious enough, you may need to go through multiple procedures. After those procedures, you may need to work on your recovery through physical therapy.
After visiting the emergency room, you can find an accident injury doctor to follow up on recommendations like further procedures or physical therapy.
Whiplash affects the upper part of your spine, but it’s not the only spinal injury associated with car accidents. Car accidents can also result in fractures to the vertebrae and damage to the discs of your spine. These types of injuries can cause pain, muscle weakness and tingling in your arms or legs. A neurosurgeon or orthopedic spinal surgeon will be able to determine the extent of the injury and the best approach to treating it.
If you suspect you’ve had a head injury, don’t spend time worrying about what doctor to see after a car accident. Instead, go straight to the emergency room. Some head injuries can become fatal if a doctor doesn’t treat them immediately. After being evaluated and treated at the emergency room, the team of doctors there can make recommendations for any follow-up care with a neurosurgeon.
Types of Treatment You Should Get Right After a Car Accident
After you’ve been in a car accident, you should almost always seek medical care from a car injury doctor. Precisely the type of medical attention and how much care you’ll need will depend on the severity of the car accident and your injuries. How long do you have to see a doctor after an auto accident? The sooner you seek treatment, the better for your health and any potential personal injury case.
After being in a car accident, you may need:
- Emergency treatment: How long after a car accident can you go to the hospital? If your injuries are severe, you should seek treatment at a hospital as soon as possible. The emergency room is often the first line of treatment for people who have been through a car crash. Many people want to avoid a trip to the ER because it can be costly, but it’s important to know when the emergency room is the right choice.
When a car accident is more serious, you need to think more seriously about emergency treatment. Are you experiencing pain? Does your head hurt? Are you dizzy? Does your back or neck hurt? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, a trip to the ER is warranted. If you don’t immediately feel pain, you aren’t necessarily injury-free. Think about the severity of the car accident. Did the car flip? Was it run off of the road? Were you jerked back and forth suddenly upon impact? If so, a trip to the ER is still a good idea even if you don’t think you’re injured.
If you’re unsure whether emergency treatment is necessary, you also have the option of visiting an urgent care center. Urgent care doctors will still be able to evaluate you and determine if you should go to the hospital. Either way, you may have to pursue the following types of specialists for your injuries:
- Primary care: You know your primary care doctor likely isn’t the only doctor you should see after a car accident, but they’re an essential part of your care team. You can send them a message to know about the accident and any instructions you received from the ER care team. Keeping your primary care doctor in the loop can help to coordinate your post-accident care.
- Orthopedic surgeon: Car accidents can be incredibly rough on the body. The trauma of the accident can damage your bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Orthopedic surgeons specialize in these types of injuries. A doctor in this specialty can evaluate your symptoms, order additional diagnostic tests that may have not been done in the emergency room and recommend treatment, whether that’s surgery or another route.
- Neurologist: Neurologists specialize in treating injuries and diseases of the nervous symptom. After being in a car accident, you may experience injury to the neck or spine due to whiplash. That injury may not necessarily require surgery, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need treatment. An auto accident neurosurgeon can help evaluate your symptoms. When to see a neurosurgeon after a car accident can depend on the circumstances of the crash. If you’re struggling with post-accident symptoms like headaches, migraines, tingling in your extremities, light sensitivity or nausea, these experts can be a good place to start.
- Neurosurgeon: If any of the neurological damage done during the car accident requires surgery, you’ll need to see a neurosurgeon. For example, some injuries to the brain and spine may require intervention by a neurosurgeon. If this kind of injury is severe enough, it can require immediate attention. If there’s any concern you hit your head or hurt your back, you should go to the emergency room for evaluation.
While there are steps to take immediately after a car accident, your post-accident care may be ongoing. Your orthopedic surgeon — or whichever doctor is taking charge of your care — may recommend you also see a physical therapist or chiropractor to help you strengthen areas affected by the accident. You may also need to see a physical therapist to address painful symptoms or to recover from surgery. If you need to see a different kind of doctor or chiropractor after a car accident, your orthopedic surgeon will be able to make a recommendation.
Make Sure Your Doctor Knows How Personal Injury Cases Work
If you’re pursuing a personal injury case following your car accident, your doctor will be an essential part of the process. A doctor who isn’t familiar with car accident injuries could potentially negatively impact the case. Your medical records will be vital to the case, which means you need thorough, expert documentation to help set you up for success.
If you’re involved in a personal injury case following a car accident, consider looking for a doctor who:
- Specializes in treating your injuries: Choosing to see a physician who doesn’t focus on your particular injuries can impact your personal injury case.
- Is familiar with personal injury cases: Doctors who don’t understand personal injury cases may not know how to help you throughout this process.
- Is willing to communicate with your lawyer: The quality of your medical records is crucial, but your lawyer may also need to ask your doctor follow-up questions about your condition and your treatment.
All in all, your current primary care physician should be able to help with your case, as long as they’re informed about what’s happening.
Tell Your Doctors About All of Your Current and Previous Injuries
What should you say to a doctor after a car accident? Details are important, as you want to be as clear and accurate as possible. When you see a doctor following a car accident, they’ll want to take a comprehensive medical history. Tell them about the details of the car accident, how you feel post-accident and about any other conditions or injuries that existed prior to the accident. It can be helpful to take notes before your doctor’s appointment so you don’t forget anything.
The more details you provide, the easier it’ll be for your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan. Plus, those details help your doctor make thorough notes in your medical records, which are vital for the insurance and personal injury claim process. If someone else was with you in the car when the accident happened, you should ask them for details from their perspective. This information could help you remember something you forgot in the moment.
Car Accident Injury Recommendations
Getting into a car accident is stressful, unexpected and even traumatic. It can be hard to think straight after that impact. Try to stay calm and remember you need to take care of yourself. After an accident, you’ll want to take the following steps to ensure you put your physical and mental health first:
- Evaluate your injuries: The first thing you feel immediately after a car accident will likely be a huge surge of adrenaline. You might not notice you’re in pain. Before rushing to get out of the car, take some time to check yourself over. Does your head hurt? Are you bleeding? Does anything feel broken? If so, having the police call an ambulance is crucial.
- Consider the emergency room: “When should I go to the doctor after a car accident?” The answer to this question depends on the severity of your injuries. If you can walk away from the accident without serious pain, you may not need to immediately go to the emergency room. After exchanging insurance information and calling the police, stop to consider your next steps. When in doubt, it’s smart to take a trip to the ER just in case.
- Explore visiting a specialist: How to find a doctor after a car accident depends on your preferences. If you need to go to the emergency room, you can ask the ER doctor for recommendations on what kind of doctor to see after a car accident. You also have the option of asking your primary care doctor for specialist recommendations. Know your injuries — you can also do your own online research to find a specialist near you.
How New York Spine Institute Can Help With Car Wreck Injuries
New York Spine Institute is a multispecialty practice on Long Island, New York, that focuses on spine and orthopedic care. Our team of experts includes orthopedic spine surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, pain management doctors and physical therapists. If you’ve been in a car accident, we’re here to help evaluate your symptoms, make a diagnosis and build a comprehensive treatment plan for your recovery.
Seeing a doctor after a car accident can be stressful. You may not know what to expect or if the doctor will be an auto injury specialist. Our physicians are well-versed in car accident treatment, and we can help you to decide what makes the most sense for your recovery plan.
If you’re looking for a car accident doctor, we’re here to help. Fill out a new patient form to request an appointment and we’ll work with you to figure out the next steps.