Injuries following a motor vehicle accident (MVA) can be scary. You may worry about the damage to your vehicle, the severity of your injuries, how much time off of work you will need, or how you will pay for the accident's various damages. The last thing you probably expect to hear is that your primary care physician is refusing to see you for a post-accident examination. As unbelievable as it may sound, many family doctors refuse to treat patients following an MVA. Here is why you need medical attention, why your doctor may refuse it, and what you can do to get the help you need following a traumatic accident.
Medical Attention After a Motor Vehicle Accident
A motor vehicle accident is never a welcome experience, although many Americans have experienced at least one. One of the first things you should do after an MVA is to seek medical attention from a qualified medical professional. Many people call their physician after a vehicular accident leaves them injured. However, sometimes that is not possible. Perhaps your doctor is busy, out of town, or booked up.
Why Should You Seek Medical Attention After An Accident?
So, why is seeing a doctor after a car crash important?
The obvious answer is to treat any serious injuries you may have sustained during the motor vehicle accident. However, this is just one reason to see your physician. Less obvious reasons include the following:
- It creates an official medical record. Visiting a qualified medical professional immediately following the accident creates an official record of your injuries. This medical record can be later used in court, if necessary, to prove the negligent driver was responsible for your injuries and other damages.
- Some injuries can lie latent. Not all injuries are immediately apparent. A car crash victim can often feel 100% fine and healthy after an accident. This happens when an MVA injury occurs but lies dormant for days, weeks, or even months before becoming problematic. If an MVA injury flares up weeks or months after your accident, it can be difficult to prove it was a result of the accident if you did not receive a thorough medical exam shortly after the crash.
- Some latent injuries may require immediate attention. A thorough medical exam can sometimes discover a serious injury that is not readily apparent, such as internal bleeding. While many latent injuries can result in mild or moderate health concerns, others can become life-threateningly serious. Even a small hemorrhage can become fatal. A comprehensive medical examination can catch these latent injuries and treat them before they become too serious.
Examples of Latent MVA Injuries
After a motor vehicle accident, you may feel completely fine and shrug off seeing your doctor because you are uninjured. However, several common injuries doctors see after car accidents can lie latent for some time before becoming apparent. These latent injuries include the following:
- Whiplash. The accident may cause your neck to suddenly jerk forward and back. This can result in pinched spinal discs or nerve damage, called whiplash.
- Soft-tissue damage. The force and motion of the car accident may result in soft tissue injuries to your soft or connective tissues. This often results in inflammation, soreness, and bruising one or two days after the MVA. Soft tissue injuries can be severe and even permanent.
- Dashboard knee. When your knee hits the dashboard or another solid surface, it can cause a rupture or tear to the knee's ligament when the force pushes the shinbone backward.
- Bone fractures. If the force of the crash causes too much physical stress on your bones, they can splinter or break.
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These brain injuries can be caused by force to the head, hitting the head on a hard object, something striking your head, or even the violent shaking from the impact of the motor vehicle. The same force that causes whiplash can result in a concussion or TBI.
- Organ damage. The MVA may roughly jostle your body around. This turbulent movement can cause your internal organs to be damaged or punctured, impairing their ability to function and potentially leaking blood or other fluids into the body.
- Internal bleeding. The force of the motor vehicle impact can cause your blood vessels to burst. If the blood vessels cannot quickly repair themselves, this can result in blood entering parts of the body in which it is not supposed to be. Internal bleeding can range from mild bruising to severe hemorrhaging, which can be fatal if untreated.
These latent motor vehicle injuries can appear days or months after your accident. Seeing a physician for a medical exam can eliminate surprise injuries from surfacing weeks after your crash.
Eight Reasons Your Physician May Not See You
Many people may be surprised to hear that their long-time physician may refuse to see them after a car accident. There are many reasons a doctor may have for this decision. Their reasons range from being incapable of adequately handling your request to altruistic motivations.
1. Your Doctor Does Not Feel Qualified To Deal With Motor Vehicle Injuries
Many primary care physicians do not regularly diagnose or treat motor vehicle injuries. Their expertise tends to focus on common types of illnesses and injuries. You may suffer from soft tissue injuries, bulging discs, traumatic brain injury, or whiplash. Meanwhile, your primary care physician may specialize in overall health and wellness, general health issues, annual health screenings and checkups, geriatrics, or pediatrics.
Your primary care doctor understands how important it is to get the proper diagnosis and prompt treatment from a qualified specialist to treat your specific injuries. Because of this, your regular doctor may rightly feel that they are not up to properly caring for your car accident injuries. In these cases, they may refer you to an auto accident specialist who works with your types of injuries.
2. Insurance Companies Complicate Your Doctor's Work
Auto insurance and health insurance can complicate your primary care physician's work. This can cause many doctors to avoid seeing MVA victims. Billing can become complicated and troublesome once a third-party insurance company is brought into the mix. If your doctor does treat you and the negligent party's car insurance is picking up the tab, your physician has no way of knowing what they will pay for, so billing could get dicey. Car insurance companies enjoy negotiating bills, which your doctor almost certainly wants to avoid.
Even if your doctor can technically work around this issue, they may choose not to. If seeing you causes complications that cost your doctor an extra hour of paperwork, they could potentially treat another patient in that time. Your physician could argue that the ethical and economical solution would be to refer you to a doctor who regularly deals with motor vehicle accident victims and insurance companies.
3. Your Doctor Can't Bill for Your Visit
Some doctors simply do not have their practice set up to bill you properly for your visit. If your visit relies on the negligent driver's auto insurance, your doctor must do third-party billing to recover payment. Most primary care physicians want to limit or entirely avoid third-party claims, even if their billing system will handle them.
Most primary care physicians do not have anyone in their office who understands how to bill third-party auto insurance companies. Doctors' offices generally do not welcome the hassle of dealing with insurance companies on the phone when there are other practitioners better suited to bill these parties and care for any potential car crash injuries.
4. Your Doctor May See You but Require Up-Front Payment
Related to the previous reasons your doctor may be hesitant to see you, it is possible that your doctor agrees to see you but requests cash payment up-front. If your doctor does not refuse to see you flat out, then requesting up-front payment is another likely result once they learn you have been in a car accident.
The problem with requesting up-front payment is that your medical bills could potentially escalate into thousands of dollars. If you need to take your case to court to secure monetary awards to cover your damages, it could be months or even years before you get your money back in an up-front payment situation. Many MVA victims cannot afford to cover these costs over the long term.
5. Your Doctor Has Contracts With Health Insurance Companies
Many primary care physicians and family doctors have signed contracts with various insurance companies. As part of the medical network, one requirement may be for your doctor not to bill the health insurance company after a car accident. Instead, they may demand up-front payment. Unfortunately, up-front payment may not be your best option following an MVA accident.
6. Your Physician Won't Bill on a Medical or Attorney Lien
A lien states that your physician will be paid once your legal case settles. Unfortunately, your primary care physician probably expects to be paid now, not in several months or years, once your legal case concludes. Many primary care doctors would refuse to bill on a lien, as they are accustomed upon rendering services to immediately receive payment via standard health insurance remittance or cash up-front.
7. Your Doctor Wants To Avoid Potential Legal Involvement
Unfortunately, in many states, simply seeing you after your motor vehicle accident, documenting your injuries, and treating you can open your doctor up to additional unwanted obligations. Many physicians understand that seeing you after the accident can involve them with any claims and lawsuits that may arise. Chances are, your primary care doctor is a busy person with an active professional and home life. The last thing they want is to get subpoenaed, forced to attend depositions, or have any other legal dealings with your case. This involvement may cause them to take time off their practice, causing economic losses or requiring them to sacrifice much-needed vacation time later in the year.
While your case is of the utmost importance to you, and you deserve to be treated by a medical professional, it frequently makes more sense to seek out a physician specializing in car accident injuries and all of the additional baggage that may accompany their patients.
8. Your Doctor Understands the Importance of Documentation for Legal Cases
Even if they are willing to deal with the hassle of third-party billing and the potential to be dragged into a legal case, they might still refuse to treat you. If they understand the importance of medical documentation in legal cases, they may insist you see a specialist. For example, soft tissue injuries, which are common among MVA victims, will not show up on your X-ray.
If you do take your claim to court, your lawyer will need to be able to prove the motor vehicle accident caused your injuries. They will also need to prove the extent of your injuries. To do this, your lawyer will need to show documentation of these injuries. This documentation can come in the form of an X-ray for bone damage. Documentation may come from medical reports and doctors' notes for soft tissue damage. Having documentation of your soft tissue injury from a doctor who specializes in these injuries is significantly more substantial than a diagnosis from your family doctor.
My Physician Won't See Me — What Should I Do Next?
If your doctor refuses to treat your MVA injuries, request a referral to see a motor vehicle accident specialist who is better suited to examine your injuries, treat you, and render appropriate bills. Although you may be understandably disappointed to be referred to a stranger during this traumatic time, it may be for the best. If your regular doctor refuses to see you, they almost certainly have a very good reason.
Another excellent option is to contact your personal injury lawyer. Your attorney may reach out to your preferred physician to explain payment options. Otherwise, your lawyer may know of doctors who frequently work with car accident victims based on previous cases. Regardless, your MVA lawyer is an excellent person to turn to in the traumatic aftermath of a motor vehicle accident.