Do You Still Have An Injury Claim If You Wait To See A Doctor Or If You Don’t File A Timely Incident Report After A Car Accident Or Other Personal Injury?
Posted By Alan Sackrin on April 29, 2014
Last Update: 02/01/17
Can You Still Receive Compensation For Your Injuries?
Here in South Florida, people get hurt in all sorts of ways – car crashes, slip and falls, sporting accidents, injuries on a JetSki or at the water-park, maybe even falling down the stairs at a shopping mall.
When these events occur, sometimes it may seem logical to just go home, or back to your apartment, hotel or dorm room, and take care of things yourself. Maybe, you don’t feel hurt at the time of the accident or you’re not bleeding.
No matter what the circumstances are, you should always seek immediate medical attention when you are injured in a car accident or when you have a slip and fall in Florida or other personal injury. This is true even if you do not have automobile insurance or health insurance (there are plenty of doctors that will treat you even if you have no insurance, especially if you have a personal injury claim).
One reason for this recommendation is because waiting to see a doctor can negatively impact any benefits that you may be entitled to (see below) and impact the value of any injury claim you may have. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t recover compensation for your injuries, including your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.; it just makes things more difficult to get fair compensation.
Protecting Your Legal Rights After A Car Accident Or Other Personal Injury
One thing is clear: it is important at the time of your injury to immediately report the incident to the property operator or owner, store manager or to the police as wells as to file a police report (especially in a car crash) so as to document what happened to you.
Also, if you are hurt in a car accident, in order to preserve your rights under your PIP coverage, it is very important to notify your insurance company about your accident and to go see a doctor within two weeks (14 days) of the accident (see below).
1. What Happens When You Are Hurt And You Don’t Make a Report Immediately After a Car Accident, Slip and Fall Or Other Personal Injury?
Having a record of what happened, a record that is close in time to the date the accident or injury occurs, is extremely important in building and proving your case – especially, when you may need to prove months later, or years later, that you were not responsible for what happened and that the defendant, (i.e. property owner, driver of the other car, etc.), was the negligent party who should be legally responsible to cover your medical bills, lost wages and other damages.
Incident reports filed with mall management or with a grocery store manager after a slip and fall on their premises or a police report after a car accident are often the paperwork that are used to prove a case at a later date (they document the time of the incident, descriptions of conditions, locations, names of potential witnesses, and other important information). Smartphone? It should be used to take photos at the scene, too. Those images can be key to your case where improper conditions have caused your accident.
However, failing to get this documentation timely does not mean that you don’t have a case; all it means is that you have made it much harder to prove your case. Luckily, most experienced injury lawyers know how to jump this hurdle.
2. Is There A Deadline to See a Doctor After You Are Injured In A Car Accident?
Florida is one of the minority states in this country that has mandatory $10,000.00 Personal Injury Protection (PIP or No-Fault) coverage requirements for all cars registered in Florida. This is injury coverage contained within your own car insurance policy. It covers lost wages, and provides you with up to $10,000 no fault coverage after an auto accident.
However, as of 2015, if you don’t go see a doctor and get medical care for your injuries within 14 days of the event, then under Florida law your car insurance policy will not provide PIP coverage and you will not receive any of the $10,000.00 PIP benefit for medical care.
That’s the law right now. You wait, you lose. Understand that PIP/no-fault insurance is first party insurance that protects you to a limited extent for your medical bills and lost wages resulting from an automobile accident.
So, if you fail to get medical treatment within two weeks of your Florida car accident, then you you will have waived your PIP claim; but this does not mean you may receive compensation or damages from the defendant for pain and suffering, lost wages and other economic losses.
How Will An Insurance Company React If You Wait to See a Doctor After A Car Accident Or Other Personal Injury?
The bottom line is if you don’t act timely, you’ll probably hurt your claim. However, have you blocked all your remedies under Florida law? The answer is no. By waiting, you are simply providing the negligent party, via their insurance company, with a defense to use against you. The insurance company will likely deny the claim or make a low ball offer based upon their assertion that your injuries are not related to your accident.
How Do You Overcome The Insurance Company’s Claim Your Injury Isn’t Related Because You Delayed Treatment?
If you are in some type of accident caused by another person’s negligence and you are hurt, the decision to seek medical attention is not always an easy one to make, especially if you have no insurance or your insurance is subject to a large deductible.
Many times a person will not seek medical attention for days or weeks after a trauma. It is extremely important in those circumstances that you provide your doctor with an accurate history of what transpired and when you felt injured as well as the affected areas.
In these circumstances, often times you will see in a doctor’s initial entry in the victim’s medical chart something to the effect: “Patient is a ___ year old man who was involved in a slip and fall at a grocery store two weeks ago. At the time, he felt that he twisted his ankle and he was also in discomfort. He decided to go home and ice his ankle. He had considerable problems ambulating. After three days, he did not feel improvement and he was still swollen. Additionally, about three days after the accident he felt pain in his low back. He then decided that he needed medical assessment and has come to this office.”
Furthermore, accident victims sometimes do not seek immediate medical help either on account of believing the injury will go away on its own or that the injuries did not produce pain symptoms until days after the incident. That is a fairly common occurrence, especially in strain and sprain soft tissue injuries and other delayed injuries (back, shoulder or neck pain, nausea, or symptoms like a headache or dizziness from a concussion, which may never go away – often times, these injuries don’t show up for weeks or even months after a car accident).
Overcoming the insurance company’s contention that an injury either could not have been related to the accident due to a delay in treatment or that an injury could not have been bad as there were no symptoms at the scene of the accident are difficult arguments to overcome.
It is necessary to educate an insurance adjuster or a jury that severe injuries could occur from an accident even though there were few, if any, symptoms immediately after the accident.
An experienced Florida personal injury lawyer will know how to minimize the risk of losing the case by preparing the client and the doctors to testify in a logical fashion that will make sense to an ordinary juror who might very well have done the same thing in the same situation.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn what you should tell your doctor and to get an idea of how your delay in seeking medical treatment may impact your personal injury claim. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
- 5 Things You Should Know About Car Insurance Adjusters When You Have A Car Accident Claim
- Settling A Florida Personal Injury Claim Without A Lawyer
- Did You Delay Seeing a Doctor Because it Didn’t Hurt That Bad At First?: The Case of the 5 Month Back Surgery Delay
- How does waiting to see a doctor impact your Florida car accident claim? (Video)
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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