Should I Go to the Hospital after a Car Accident?

Reviewed by Louis Patino, JD, DC

Louis Patino, JD, DC
A former U.S. Army Combat Medic, Dr. Louis Patino is a distinguished attorney recognised by Top Attorneys of America, Expertise, and the American Institute of Trial Lawyers. He has a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Southern University and a Doctor of Chiropractic from Parker College of Chiropractic.

car accident should i go to hospital

If you’ve read any advice on what to do after a car accident, whether from our personal injury law firm or elsewhere, you’ve likely been told that one of your first steps should be to seek medical treatment.

But do you need to go to the emergency room after an accident?

In this blog, we explain whether you should go to the hospital after a car accident and the cost of emergency room treatment.

Do You Need to Seek Medical Treatment after a Car Accident?

In a nutshell, no. You’re not breaking any law if you fail to go to the hospital after a car accident.

Every car accident is different, and while they can cause severe — if not fatal — injuries like internal bleeding, head injuries, and burns, many people in car accidents walk away with minor or no injuries.

If you’re in a fender bender because a driver backs up and nudges the front of your vehicle, you might be a little shaken and even annoyed, but you likely won’t want to rush to the emergency room. If you sustain minor injuries, such as bumps or bruises, you might prefer to treat them at home, thinking it’s nothing that a couple of days’ rest and some ice can’t remedy.

Why Many Don’t Go to the Hospital after a Car Accident

There are many reasons people choose not going to the hospital after a car accident.

We touched on the first above. We lead busy lives, and the last thing many of us need is to go to the hospital for a minor injury only to be told you can treat it with painkillers, rest, and ice.

Another common reason many don’t go to the ER is pride. You might not want to kick up a fuss over nothing — it’s called the emergency room for a reason — so you soldier on through your injury, even if you are in a bit of pain.

The final — and most common — reason people don’t seek treatment is cost.

The cost of an emergency room visit after a car accident is significant enough, but add on ambulance rides and medical treatment, and it can increase quickly.

An ER visit after a car accident is rarely a case of seeing a doctor and being sent on your way, free to recover at home. Your doctor will likely want to conduct additional tests and scans (for example, to rule out or confirm a traumatic brain injury), and you may need prescription medication to manage pain and inflammation.

Then, days or weeks later, you might be asked to return for a follow-up appointment, where you’ll need to pay fees again. That’s without considering potential costs for surgery, hospitalization, and rehabilitation.

Those who can’t afford such costs may feel they have little choice but to battle through, even if it might be detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

Fortunately, even for those who can’t afford treatment, there are ways you can get the medical care you need.

Why You Should Go to the Emergency Room after an Accident

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t hesitate to go to the hospital if you sustain severe injuries in a car accident, such as burns, broken bones, or facial injuries. Your health must be the priority.

However, even if you sustain minor injuries, you should still seek medical attention.

After an accident, adrenaline kicks in and might mask the pain that could indicate a severe injury. It might not be until later that you realize your injuries are worse than you initially thought, and this could impact your recovery. The sooner your injuries are diagnosed and you begin treatment, the better your shot at a full and relatively fast recovery.

Some injuries also don’t appear straight away, or they worsen over time.

What you might think is a headache a few days after your car accident could be a symptom of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion. If you’d gone to the hospital after your accident, a doctor would have likely advised avoiding specific tasks — such as exercise or work — that could hinder your recovery or worsen your injury.

You might think you’ve sustained a sprained ankle, so you avoid going to the hospital. But later, you discover that you broke your ankle and now need surgery because it hasn’t healed properly. On top of that, you need regular physical therapy to build strength, but you may never recover full mobility.

Ultimately, a split-second decision not to go to the hospital after a car accident can result in months, years, or even a lifetime of pain that you could have prevented.

What Is the Cost of Emergency Room Treatment after a Car Accident?

The cost of emergency room treatment after a car accident can be extensive. It’s impossible to give an accurate figure because every car accident is unique — two near-identical accidents could result in a broken bone that heals without complications in one person and a life-changing traumatic brain injury in another. 

However, we can look at the specific treatments you might need and the average cost of emergency room treatment in Texas.

According to a report on CBS News on the most expensive states for ER visits, Texas came in at the unenviable position of sixth. In the Lone Star State, the average cost of ER treatment is a whopping $2,318 per visit, although severe injuries will often incur much higher costs.

To put this into perspective, ER visitors can expect to pay as much as $1,000 in triage (registration and initial assessment) fees. Then, you’ll incur a facility charge to cover your time in the room and nurse checks — and that’s without including your assessment from a physician and any scans or medications you need.

When you attend an ER, you will be assigned a number between one and five. This represents the severity of your injuries, with one being a life-threatening injury and five being a minor problem that will resolve on its own. This also impacts the cost of emergency room treatment. For a level-one injury requiring transportation to the hospital via an ambulance, the average cost across all states is $1,450.

Even severe but non-life-threatening injuries can result in massive costs. For injuries requiring stitches, you’re looking at an average cost of $500. X-rays can also cost close to $500, and if you have a broken bone, you can expect to pay around $10,000 for surgery.

Are There Any Alternatives?

If your main reason for not going to the hospital after your car accident is the cost of emergency room treatment, you have an alternative.

There’s no substitute for going to the ER if you have severe or life-threatening injuries, but for minor injuries, it’s worth at least heading to your local urgent care clinic. This gives you a professional opinion on whether you need to go to the hospital or you can safely treat your injuries at home. Urgent care is also generally less expensive than going to the emergency room.

Paying for Treatment

You have several options when it comes to paying for treatment for urgent care or going to the hospital after a car accident.

If you have health insurance, you should check your policy to see what it includes. Your insurance may cover your immediate costs, such as emergency room fees. If the accident wasn’t your fault, your insurance provider might authorize a subrogation claim, where they will cover your medical bills and recover the cost from the liable driver’s insurance company.

You should also check your auto insurance policy. In Texas, insurance companies automatically include a type of insurance called personal injury protection (PIP) in their policies. You can only opt out of this in writing when you take out your insurance, so unless you explicitly did so, you likely have this coverage. PIP is typically more comprehensive than health insurance and may cover more severe accidents and a percentage of your lost income.

Your third option is to file a personal injury claim.

Filing a Compensation Claim

You can claim compensation if your accident wasn’t your fault — or if the accident was partially but less than 51% your fault.

This allows you to recover the costs of your past and future medical bills — including the cost of emergency room treatment — lost wages, and additional damages for pain and suffering or mental anguish.

For example, suppose you need extensive physical therapy to recover from a leg injury. In that case, a fair personal injury settlement will comprise the costs you’ve already incurred and the costs of any future treatment you need, even if you’ll need treatment for years or even the rest of your life.

However, claiming compensation is a complex process, part of which involves proving how your injuries occurred.

This is why going to the hospital after a car accident is vital.

If you have minor injuries and choose not to seek treatment, and they later get worse, you might struggle to get the amount you deserve in a compensation claim.

The other party’s insurance company may claim that your injuries didn’t happen during the accident but were due to an isolated incident that happened later. Since you don’t have medical records that prove you sustained injuries after your car accident, it’s your word against theirs.

However, if you break your wrist in a car accident and you go to the hospital, your medical records will show when you sought treatment. If your injury causes permanent weakness that prevents you from holding your young children or makes it difficult for you to carry groceries or move furniture, you may be entitled to significant damages for the long-term impact of your injuries.

If you’re considering filing compensation, time is of the essence. You may be tempted to wait to see how your injuries play out, but you must claim within the two-year personal injury statute of limitations.

Our car accident lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio can advise you on whether you have a claim, negotiate a fair settlement, and seek expert advice from medical professionals to support your case. If covering the immediate costs of your treatment is a concern, we may be able to help you postpone payment until you receive a settlement.

When you claim compensation with the Patino Law Firm, you won’t pay any legal fees unless we win your case, so you don’t have to worry about any upfront costs of hiring our attorneys. To find out if you have a claim, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio today.

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