What Tests Are Done After a Car Accident?

Snapshot

Car accident victims should seek immediate medical attention to safeguard their health and to protect the claims they file with insurance companies. Three medical tests are particularly important to that end.

The car accident that ruins your day may also leave you feeling like you were involved in a demolition derby at the local speedway.

Car accident injuries can be easy to detect, and the medical treatment required can consequently be obvious to all involved.

But not always.

Injuries might also go undetected when a rush of adrenaline is masking pain, or they may show up later during a visit to your family physician after the car accident.

That’s why it’s important to know what tests you should seek in the aftermath of an accident as a medical safeguard and as a precaution against the accident later costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical bills.

You try your best to avoid accidents and injury by wearing seat belts and paying attention to automobile safety warning systems. Think of undergoing the appropriate medical tests as another important step post-accident.

Why You Should Get Medical Tests After a Car Accident

Quite possibly, the only thing racing more than your heart at an accident scene is your mind. Trying to assess fault, damage, medical concerns, not just for others involved in the accident but for yourself, is a challenging proposition that can tax even the calmest person.

Injuries related to a car accident don’t always show up immediately. Sometimes you might even try to wish them away to simplify the complications that arise and can multiply as insurance claims proceed.

Vital Record, a news publication of Texas A&M Health, asked emergency room physician and clinical assistant professor Aaron Buzzard, MD, for his advice for car accident victims. In short, he said, feeling stiff and sore is expected following an accident, but pain should not be ignored.

“An accident can be stressful or scary,” Buzzard told the publication. “If you’re caught up in the moment, but then go home and a few hours later feel significant pain or discomfort, you should go to seek emergency care. There are physicians there who have more experience dealing with trauma-related injuries who can tend to your needs.”

Don’t take chances. Waiting to undergo the proper tests to assess injuries related to car accidents can exacerbate your pain and suffering. What’s more, waiting for days, weeks, months to get important medical screenings can end up hurting your compensation claim.

Who’s to say that the injury you delayed getting checked out, happened as you claim it did and not in the weeks after an accident? Very likely, the insurance company (yours or the other drivers) might say exactly that.

Medical tests in the immediate aftermath of an accident can be a strong counter to an insurance company’s argument that you are exaggerating or fabricating an injury for financial gain (something we highly recommend you don’t attempt.)

Three Tests Done after a Car Accident

Determining what tests you might need obviously will be done in conjunction with an attending physician. Ensuring proper care is a shared responsibility that starts with your own clear and honest assessment of how you feel post-accident.

Don’t ignore headaches or back pain. Don’t assume they’re just by-products of a car accident and that they’ll go away in time. They may not, and the longer you wait, the more doubt might be raised about the legitimacy of your claim.

Remember, receiving immediate medical attention is smart even if you think your pain will subside. Make sure you’re not postponing care for reasons of expediency (to avoid a long wait in the ER, or you had plans that day that you’d rather not change).

Proper medical tests can give you peace of mind, or provide injury information that can bolster an insurance claim, should you seek compensation for medical bills or pain and suffering.

The most common tests administered following an accident are X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. Sometimes, all three are necessary to understand the scope of injury and to initiate a proper treatment plan.

X-Rays

X-Rays are typically ordered to check for fractures and broken bones but can sometimes reveal evidence of dislocations and other issues.

This is probably the first test you’ll get following an accident. Depending on the results, and the doctor’s diagnosis of injury based on your best assessment of the pain you’re feeling and how it is affecting your everyday routines, you might require further tests.

CT Scans

CT stands for “computerized tomography.”  It combines a series of X-Ray images using computer processing to provide more detailed information about the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body.

A CT scan is an important tool used to quickly examine people who may have suffered internal bleeding, damage to ligaments and tendons and soft tissue injuries.

It is often quicker and less expensive than a MRI. Its many uses include the diagnosis and treatment of disease but can be especially helpful in a timely assessment of car accident victims.

MRI Scans

MRI stands for “magnetic resonance imaging.” An MRI provides a deeper look at a body’s internal system and is particularly useful in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of spinal cord injuries and nerve damage.

MRIs can also be used to study and treat abnormal brain activity. They can provide a more detailed assessment of injury and trauma than typically shown in X-Rays and CT scans. MRIs are the most expensive of the three tests but can reveal medical issues that might go undetected by the other two.

How to Pay for Hospital Tests

Speaking of headaches … trying to decipher hospital billing is stressful in the most predictable circumstances, let alone in the hours or days following a car accident.

The recommendation is for accident victims to insist the medical care provider bill the costs of post-accident tests and other treatment to their medical insurance, not their car insurance company.

Why? Your medical insurance coverage carries discounts from negotiated rates (even if they don’t seem like discounts).  Also, while the at-fault driver’s insurance company is ultimately responsible to pay medical bills resulting from an accident he or she caused, that payment isn’t made directly to hospitals or physicians.

And that process can sometimes feel like it’s taking from here to eternity to complete. Your medical provider won’t wait months (or certainly years) to be paid. After the billing goes to your health insurance provider, you may have a provision in your car insurance policy that helps you cover the costs of deductibles and co-pays.

» More about: How Medical Bills Are Paid After a Car Accident

A skilled accident attorney can help you navigate what can be a confusing and anxiety-ridden process, especially as it pertains to bodily injury.

The most important first step you can take is to undergo thorough medical tests as protection against prolonged pain and – in the absence of a well-documented insurance claim – financial suffering.

Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw is a writer based in Ohio who brings decades of newspaper experience as a reporter, columnist and editor to his freelance work. Shaw has written on topics as diverse as the city of Atlanta's successful bid to secure the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, to the educational challenges faced by an urban Cleveland school during the Covid-19 pandemic, to federal home buying loan programs designed to help teachers, firefighters, police and emergency personnel get a foothold in the housing market. Whatever the topic, Shaw strives to bring a sharp focus and clear understanding to the issues affecting people's everyday lives.

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Sources:

  1. N.A. (2017, June 5) You Asked: To Go To The ER Or Not? What To Do After A Car Accident. Retrieved from: https://vitalrecord.tamhsc.edu/you-asked-to-go-to-the-er-or-not-what-to-do-after-a-car-accident/
  2. N.A. (ND) Which Diagnostic Scans Should You Get After a Car Accident? Retrieved from: https://www.independentimaging.com/diagnostic-scans-get-car-accident/
  3. N.A. (2020, May 20) The #1 Test You Need if You are Involved in an Auto Accident. Retrieved from: http://www.synergychiropractichouston.com/2020/auto-accident/the-1-test-you-need-if-you-are-involved-in-an-auto-accident/