Human nature is a strange force. It can compel you to say things you don’t mean, or to make statements against your own interest. Take a car accident, for example. Many people’s first instinct is to say, “I’m sorry” or “It was my fault” right after the crash, even if they didn’t do anything wrong. That instinct comes from a good place — you want to console the others at the scene and diffuse a tense situation. It seems like the polite thing to do. But statements like those can come back to bite you later, as defense attorneys and insurance companies will attempt to spin them as “admissions of fault.”
There’s another kind of statement you should avoid after an accident: “I’m not hurt,” “I feel fine,” or “I’m okay.” In the moment, they might seem like the right things to say, relatively harmless. But here again, those statements can be used against you later if you end up needing to file a claim for compensation. For that matter, declining medical treatment at the scene of the accident is a mistake too.
If there is even the slightest chance of injury, the police officer or emergency responders will likely ask if you need medical treatment, or if you want to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Many people turn that offer down, only to regret it later. In the sections to follow, we explain why it’s almost always a mistake to refuse medical treatment at the scene of an accident — and how seeking prompt medical treatment can help your White Plains personal injury lawyers maximize your compensation later down the line.
The truth is that, even though you may feel fine, you really don’t know if you’re okay or not.
Auto accidents are notoriously disorienting. The same goes for most other unexpected injuries. There is a physical reaction that happens in the body after an accident or injury. It’s called the “fight or flight response” (essentially a massive release of various chemicals throughout your body, including adrenaline), and it dulls many of your senses. Your brain narrows its focus to what it perceives as an emergency, effectively “tuning out” all other data. Unfortunately, people often aren’t aware of the “fight or flight response” until after it wears off. This is how people can be injured after an accident and truly have no idea. It takes a while for the pain to cut through the confusion.
Alternatively, you might have injuries that aren’t causing any symptoms just yet. Many accident-related injuries develop slowly, and the signs may take weeks or months to manifest — sometimes longer.
Doctors are frequently able to identify these “latent” or “hidden” injuries long before you recognize them yourself.
So why can’t you just wait and see if symptoms pop up and then seek treatment if necessary? There are three good answers to that:
Civil defense lawyers are trained to use several classic defenses against a personal injury claim. Among these are:
Refusing medical treatment at the scene of an accident makes all of these arguments easier for the defense. In other words, your delay in seeing a doctor allows them to question the validity of your injury.
Likewise, making statements along the lines of “I feel fine” can later be used as evidence that your injury was caused by something else after the fact.
But if you seek medical attention right away, just the opposite is true — it becomes very hard for the insurance companies or defense lawyers to deny your claim. Since little to no time passed between your accident and your medically documented injury, many of the insurer’s go-to defenses are weakened or taken off the table.
This is the #1 reason accident victims give for refusing or delaying medical treatment after an accident. There is a widespread perception that going to the hospital — especially by ambulance — is too expensive to even consider.
But in many cases, you won’t be the one who has to pay for the ambulance (or any of the other medical treatment you receive as a result of the accident).
If the other party as at fault, they and their insurance company will have the duty to pay for your medical care.
It would be a shame to miss out on the vital care you need and impair your chance of getting the compensation you deserve all because of a false assumption about the cost of accepting medical treatment at the scene of the crash.
We encourage you to seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident. Even if you refused medical treatment at the scene, or if some time has passed and you are only now beginning to notice symptoms, you should still see a doctor right away.
If your symptoms are urgent, go to an Emergency Room or dial 911.
Please never assume that you don’t have a case or can’t file a claim. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer in White Plains or Manhattan, NYC first. The team at Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help you determine what your options might be.
Strict time limits do apply to personal injury claims in New York, however, so if you wait too long, you could lose your opportunity at financial justice forever. So please call our office to talk about your situation right away.
If you are able to, it’s helpful to gather as much information as possible before leaving the scene of an accident. This includes:
If you are injured and unable to get this information, ask if an uninjured passenger can assist you. Or call a nearby friend or family member if one is available to meet you at the scene. Finally, contact a personal injury lawyer in White Plains or Manhattan as early as possible.