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Should You Go to the ER After an Accident?

Posted on: June 16, 2022

Whether you are involved in a minor fender bender or a serious crash, being in a car accident can be a frightening experience. As you try to process what just happened, it may not be clear what to do first. If you have obvious potentially serious injuries, emergency services will likely transport you from the scene to the nearest hospital for urgent medical care.

But what about an accident that does not leave you with noticeable pain or injuries? Even without obvious signs, you can still be severely injured. In this article, we will help you determine when to go to the emergency room after an accident and why proper medical care is essential after a motor vehicle crash.

Why Do People Avoid the ER After an Accident?

There are many reasons why people say no to going to the emergency room after they have been in an accident.

They Feel Okay

Because they feel okay, some people assume nothing is wrong after an accident. That is not always the case. After a stressful, shocking, or painful event, the body may produce endorphins and adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone.

Together, these hormones reduce sensitivity to pain, masking it until the body and mind have time to recover from the trauma. If you have ever been around someone with a significant injury who says they have no pain, you have witnessed just how these chemical messengers can work in the body’s response to trauma.

When these hormones are released, someone with severe car accident injuries may not even realize they are hurt and choose to forego emergency care only to discover they are severely injured.

The Costs of Care

In other cases, an injured person refuses ambulance transport to the emergency room because they are concerned about how much it will cost. While this is certainly a valid concern, the costs of medical treatment should never discourage anyone from getting the care they need. Your health and well-being should always your top priority after a car accident. You may have grounds to file a claim against the negligent driver who caused your crash and recover compensation for your medical expenses including emergency treatment.

Also, car accident injuries that go untreated can get worse and lead to infection and other more serious complications that may require a higher level of care—which ultimately means more medical bills.

Deciding Whether to Go to the Emergency Room, Urgent Care, or Your Doctor

How do you know where to get treated after a car accident? The answer depends on several factors.

How Serious Is Your Injury?

Immediately after a motor vehicle accident, the first step is to assess the severity of your injuries. Obviously, if you have critical or life-threatening injuries, you need to go to the ER as quickly as possible.

Focus on staying calm and accept assistance from emergency responders. The same is true for particularly serious injuries, even if they do not appear to be critical. As mentioned above, some noncritical injuries can become permanent without timely treatment.

Differences Between the ER and Urgent Care

If your injuries are not critical, but still appear to be relatively serious, you can decide between the ER and your local urgent care clinic. Understanding the key differences between the two options will help you make an informed choice based on your situation.

Wait Times

Urgent cares tend to be much faster than emergency rooms with wait times averaging around 15–20 minutes. In the ER, it can take up to 1-2 hours to see a doctor (assuming your case is not critical.)

Type of Care

Urgent care is more likely to provide comprehensive care including tests and referrals, because providers tend to have more time to spend with each patient. In the ER, the goal is to address immediate, critical conditions including major broken bones, severe burns, breathing problems, and uncontrolled bleeding. In the ER, providers typically treat the most urgent concerns and refer patients to their primary physician for follow-up care.

Quality of Care

If you have a serious, potentially life-threatening injury from a car accident, your care is probably best left to the physicians in the ER. They tend to be among the best in the region. Now that is not to discount urgent care providers at all. But for severe injuries, you want a team treating you that has experience handling complex, critical cases.


While a trip to the ER generally runs more than a visit to urgent care, it is never a good idea to delay or avoid the care you need because of the costs involved. Remember that medical bills should eventually be covered by the negligent driver who caused your accident and your injuries.

Do Not Postpone Medical Treatment After a Crash

Even if you decide not to go to the ER after an accident, you should still make an appointment to see your doctor within a day or two. There are a few reasons why timely medical attention is important for anyone who experienced trauma to the body.

Invisible Injuries

As the term suggests, invisible injuries are injuries we can not see. There are no bandages, casts, or crutches to indicate someone has been hurt. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the more common invisible injuries that can happen after a forceful blow to the head.

While someone with a concussion or other type of TBI may not appear to have deficits, these injuries potentially impact memory, learning, concentration, and problem-solving, among other functions. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help TBI patients take appropriate steps to speed their recovery.

Delayed-Onset Injuries

Pain and other symptoms from a car accident injury can manifest hours, days, and even weeks after the initial impact. Although you may feel fine after a crash, you should be vigilant for signs of a problem.

Some of the most common types of delayed injuries include whiplash, concussion, sprains, strains, slipped or herniated discs, and other back injuries. Delayed-onset injuries can also be emotional. Depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder are not uncommon after any traumatic event, like a serious car accident.

Seek and Document Medical Treatment to Protect Your Claim

If you pursue compensation for your accident injuries and other losses, you need to show a causal connection between the crash and your condition. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the at-fault driver or their insurance company may argue that:

  • Since you waited to get medical care, your injuries must not be as serious as you claim.
  • Because you waited too long to see a doctor, you caused your injuries to worsen.
  • There was plenty of time for you to become injured after the accident. Your injuries may be caused by another event entirely.

We have explained why it is so important to get some type of medical care following a motor vehicle accident. It is equally important to document your care. Your medical records are the evidence that help prove your fault-based claim. The closer they are to the date of the accident, the stronger your case will be.

Make copies of every hospital bill, office visit, prescription, test, and diagnosis. Keep a copy for your records and submit medical documentation to the attorney managing your case. These medical records help tell the story of your accident and prove you deserve compensation for your losses.

Monmouth County Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Are Available to Assist Clients with Urgent Legal Matters

If you suffered injuries in an accident caused by a negligent driver, it is important to speak with a Monmouth County car accident lawyer at Ellis Law before you contact the insurance company. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free case review. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, Ellis Law serves clients across the Garden State including East Brunswick, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Toms River, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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