Car Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents can be a terrifying experience, and account for a large percentage of preventable injuries in the U.S. every year.

If you do a google search “When to go to the ER for a care accident” you will find dozens of web pages that tell you to go to the ER IMMEDIATELY following ANY/EVERY car accident.  You will also notice that none of these websites are medical, they are all lawyer sponsored sites.  That brings us to difference between legal necessity and medical emergency.

Think for a moment, what does a lawyer lose by telling you to go to the ER when you don’t need to?  Nothing.  If a lawyer sends 1000 people to the ER, and 999 of them go needlessly, what happens?  The 999 pay out of their own pocket for any co-pay, or for the entire visit if they are uninsured, while the one person who had an actual emergency  becomes a potential client of the lawyer and potentially sues someone else for their medical expenses.  This is a win-win situation for the lawyer, and a lose-lose situation for everyone else, the patient, the hospital, and the other driver.

The most important medical question you can ask yourself after an accident is, where do I hurt?  If you hurt somewhere, then you need to come and see me so I can evaluate you.  Nothing is more frustrating to me as a provider than when a patient comes to me after an MVC and tells me that they have no focal complaint or concern, and says “I just thought I better get checked out”.  I don’t have a test for that.  I cannot cat-scan every person from head to toe, it is wasteful and dangerous (radiation!).  The lawyer will say that you MUST get “checked out” right away in order to establish a relationship between  the accident and your injuries.  But, think for a moment, if you don’t have an injury, then I can’t diagnose one.

Here are some general guidelines, you should go to the ER following a car accident if:

The vehicle rolled over

The accident occurred at 35 miles per hour or greater

You were ejected from the vehicle

You were unrestrained and were hurt when you struck the inside of the vehicle

Airbags deployed in either vehicle

Anyone died in the accident

EMS had to extract you from the vehicle, or you were “pinned”

The vehicle is “totaled”

The car was damaged to the point that doors, dashboard, roof, etc. bent into the passenger compartment

Extensive glass breakage

You were knocked unconscious

You have extensive bruising, pain, an open wound, vomiting of blood, or any of the injuries I describe in my “Trauma” blog

You have fuel or glass in the eyes

If you have any FOCAL injury, especially neck pain, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, or an obvious deformity

Generally speaking, you do not need to go to the ER if:

The accident is a minor “Fender-bender” with no airbag deployment and both vehicles are drivable

Police arrive and cancel the ambulance

You want to drive yourself to the ER, but first go home to shower or go out and get a pizza (this is only half joking)

Bottom line, I do not want you to suffer, and I want to identify and treat your injuries right away.  You are your own best doctor, so ask yourself if you feel you are hurt.  If in doubt, come see me so I can examine you and reassure you.

Remember, injuries aren’t like a fine pinot noir, they do not get better with age!


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