How Soon Should I See a Doctor After a Personal Injury Accident?

If you’ve just been in a traffic accident, you should see a doctor within three days.

Ideally, you should postpone your scheduled activities and seek medical attention immediately.

Many folks decide to “tough it out”, and that their injuries aren’t serious enough to warrant medical examination. But there are a good reasons to seek medical care even if your injuries don’t seem severe.

Aside from the fact that serious, and even life-threatening injuries (such as head injuries & neck injuries or broken ribs) can often be hard to detect after an accident, you could also be in shock.

The Other Reason You Should Seek Medical Care Immediately after a Traffic Accident

Insurance companies are not eager to pay out large settlements in traffic accidents. That’s why an insurance adjuster’s job is to find ways to disqualify or minimize your claim. If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver in a traffic accident, your can strengthen your claim by having a medical examination immediately after the accident.

If you don’t, the insurance company will use your failure to seek medical attention as evidence that you were not severely injured. They will use that fact to argue that you are potentially exaggerating or falsely claiming your injuries.

Claim Settlement Payouts

Modern insurance companies use claims evaluation software to help them minimize claim settlement payouts. The insurance adjuster enters all the information they have about you and your accident into the program, which then produces a dollar amount for their settlement offer, which will generally be only a fraction of your demanded amount. An experienced personal injury lawyer will understand this number as merely the insurer’s opening offer in a negotiation for your final settlement amount.

One of the factors taken into consideration by the insurance adjuster’s software is how soon you received medical treatment after your traffic accident occurred, so failing to seek medical attention immediately could substantially reduce the insurance company’s offer.

Value Drivers in a Claims Adjuster’s Software

The amount of time it takes you to seek medical attention after an accident is what is known as a “value driver” in the lexicon of insurance adjusters. If you sought medical attention within three days of your accident, the value of your claim is likely to be higher. If you didn’t, that will drive down the value of your claim.

Although any delay in seeking medical treatment is potentially a more weighty factor than many others, there are actually hundreds or sometimes thousands of other factors. In fact, one of the most popular software packages for claims adjusters, called Colossus, uses over ten thousand value drivers. Major value drivers include:

  • Delay in treatment.
  • Diagnosis or location of injury.
  • Treatment for injury.
  • What kind of doctor did the diagnosing.
  • Duration of complaints.
  • Consistency in the reporting of pain.

Value drivers can have a positive or negative effect on your claim. They can make the insurance company’s offer either go up or down.

The 5 Elements in a Personal Injury Claim

Colossus evaluates five elements in a personal injury claim. Those are:

  1. Trauma:  Accident type, property damage, physical injuries, etc.
  2. Impairment: Does injury stop claimant from work or activities?
  3. Disability: Does injury result in permanent disability?
  4. Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Does injury stop claimant from enjoyment?
  5. Disfigurement: Does injury result in disfigurement?

Although claims software does provides insurers with a standardized method for evaluating claims, software doesn’t negotiate your final settlement.

Why You Should Let an Attorney Manage Your Serious Personal Injury Claim

In a traffic accident claim, the information from your medical examination should be provided to the at-fault driver’s insurance company with your initial demand letter. The insurance adjuster will enter this and other data into their claims software to inform their settlement offer, which you and your attorney are free to accept or reject.

Before you decide, it’s important to understand that there may be potential value drivers in your claim that are likely not contained in your medical report, and that the insurance company’s claims software hasn’t factored into their offer.

Entitled by Law to be Compensated

For example, let’s say that you were in a car accident. You injure your wrist in the accident, among other injuries. You are an avid tennis player. You cannot play tennis for six months while you’re rehabilitating your wrist. How likely is your doctor to include the fact that you are an avid tennis player in your medical report? Not very. So the claims adjuster will be unlikely to have factored that into the offer.

You are, however, entitled by law to be compensated for loss of enjoyment. Insurance adjusters know that if you have strong evidence that your injuries prevented the enjoyment of your regular activities, they could face a higher payout if negotiations don’t succeed and the case goes to court.

A skilled and focused personal injury attorney will help you get the full value of your claim, which will more than pay for their services, leaving you with more compensation than if you hadn’t hired an attorney, and none of the hard work of pursuing a claim on your own.

When to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for Your Traffic Accident Lawsuit

A person who is hit by a vehicle and sustains a concussion may not notice the effects for 72 hours after the accident. If on the fourth day, the person experiences symptoms, decides to seek medical care, and are then treated for a brain injury that could have long-term consequences, the final negotiated settlement in this serious injury claim may end up being lower than it might have been if they had sought medical treatment right away.

The insurance company will try to use the delay in seeking medical care as a negative value driver by offering a smaller settlement, regardless of the ultimate severity of injuries – even if the injured party made a doctor’s appointment the day of the accident, but weren’t seen till a few days later.

Your personal injury claim may be worth much more than the claims adjuster’s software says it is. A seasoned personal injury attorney will advocate on your behalf against potentially faulty assumptions that may be built into insurance claims software, and gather evidence of loss of enjoyment & emotional trauma that can substantially increase the value of your claim.


Andy K.

Bicycle Accident Client

“Sally Morin and her team were instrumental in resolving my personal injury case (doored by a car while biking, resulting in spine and elbow injuries that required two surgeries). They held my hand as I traversed car insurance and personal health insurance claims over the course of two years. The Sally Morin team worked tirelessly to resolve my case and protected my settlement to assure I recovered enough for future medical expenses related to my injury. Sally and her team will fight for your personal interests. I cannot recommend them enough.”

Experience a serious traffic accident?

Visit our How it Works Page to learn more about how the personal injury process works.