With over 20 years of experience in treating personal injury patients, we understand the importance of choosing the right doctors for your injuries and avoiding the expensive, time-consuming pitfalls along the way. This guide will help you find the right doctor after a car accident.
To begin, IF YOU ARE SERIOUSLY INJURED, PLEASE CALL 911! If you have already been treated at a hospital or Urgent Care, or if you would simply like a check-up after an accident, then there are a few important things that you should know before choosing a doctor.
First, YOUR HEALTH IS THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY! If you feel pain or discomfort after an accident then you need to seek medical attention. There is a very good chance that your pain will get worse if left untreated, and possibly lead to chronic medical conditions that can last a lifetime. Don’t be a victim. You did not choose this situation but you can choose to take control of your recovery.
Choosing the Best Doctor after a Car Accident
MOST Primary Care Doctors will NOT treat car accident injuries. Find an Accident Doctor as soon as possible.
Third party billing is used specifically for auto accidents and includes: Letter of Protection (LOP), Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and auto insurance (Geico, Progressive, USAA). You should NEVER pay out of pocket for ANY treatment after a car accident.
Step 3 – Make sure the Doctor knows how to treat and document personal injury cases.
Documentation is key when treating auto accident injuries and insurance companies will rely on your medical records when determining the value of your claim.
Don’t worry about pre-existing conditions! For your claim to be valid, you must document any pre-existing conditions. You will NOT weaken your claim by exposing pre-existing conditions.
You should receive a detailed breakdown of all needed treatments on your first visit to the Doctor. This checklist should include all needed medications, treatments, imaging, and/or specialists (Orthopedic Surgeons, Neurologists, Physical Therapy, Chiropractic). Follow all of the recommendations from your Doctor and NEVER allow gaps in treatment.
In catastrophic cases, where extensive treatment is needed, most clinics can, and will recommend an Attorney. Attorneys can help document future medical needs, and will work directly with the insurance company so you don’t have to! However, there is no law that says you must hire an Attorney after an accident, and most patients do NOT have an Attorney before their initial visit. By getting a check-up first, you can evaluate your injuries and the estimated treatment needed in the future. This will give you a better idea of whether an Attorney is right for your case.
By following these five simple steps, you can take control of your recovery after a car accident and avoid the pit-falls along the way. Below is a detailed description of each step, including a list of commonly asked questions and answers. We talk to personal injury patients every single day and the first place to start is to ASK FOR HELP. Find the right personal injury Doctor today!
Step 1 – DO NOT Wait and DO NOT rely on your Primary Care Doctor!
Most people think that their primary care doctor is the same as an accident doctor. This is the number one misconception/question we get when dealing with personal injury patients. Most primary care Doctors are excellent physicians but there are two main reasons why you should NOT rely on them for car accidents.
To begin with, most primary care clinics DO NOT accept third party billing. You could be spending your own money if you visit your primary care Doctor, instead of the person responsible for the accident. I want to repeat this, YOU COULD BE CHARGED OUT OF POCKET FOR A VISIT TO YOUR PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR.
Primary care Doctors specialize in patients who have internal medical conditions. They can generally prescribe medications and refer out to other Clinics but they do not focus on spinal injuries, concussions, broken bones, whiplash, and soft tissue damage. Your primary care will most likely deny the third-party billing and refer you out to an Accident Doctor.
Car accident cause soft tissue injuries
Soft tissue damage is one of the leading causes of pain in car accidents. Muscle tissue, subcutaneous tissue, and skin tissue can tear during an accident causing major pain or discomfort. These minor or major tears are not easily detected using X-Rays or imaging, and can only be detected and treated using hands on manipulation of the tissue.
However, we do recommend that you call your primary care Doctor after an accident. Explain your accident and injuries to see if they will treat you using third party billing. They will most likely refer you to an accident Doctor or a specialist to treat your specific needs.
Step 2 – Find a Doctor that treats auto accident injuries and accepts third party billing.
Third party billing is used specifically for auto and slip-and-fall accidents. Third party billing does not include personal health insurance or money out of pocket. MOST ALL CAR ACCIDENT DOCTORS ACCEPT THIRD PARTY BILLING! Do not accept treatment from any Doctor that does not accept third party billing.
Third party billing refers to payments made to a Doctor for treatment of auto accident injuries. Most accident Doctors will treat personal injury patients with a Letter of Protection (LOP) from an attorney, Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Med Pay, and auto insurance (Geico, Progressive, USAA). You should NEVER pay out of pocket for ANY treatment after a car accident.
It is helpful to have all of your paperwork and a list of questions ready when you first make contact with your potential Doctor. A good Doctor will want to know:
- Date of the accident (DOA)?
- Were you at fault and/or cited?
- Did you go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?
- Have you been treated by another Doctor?
- Who is the insurance carrier?
- Do you have a claim number from the insurance carrier?
- Do you have an attorney?
How to find the right doctor to handle your car accident injury
Now comes your turn. First, check the doctor out online and read reviews from past patients. How long has the practice been in business, how does the website look, do they have pictures of the facility, what are people saying about the Doctor, is the Doctor an age that makes you comfortable? This is your chance to find out if this is the best Doctor to treat your specific needs.
Once you find a good potential Doctor, a good list of possible questions includes:
- Do you accept third party billing?
- Can you treat my specific injuries?
- Do you understand Medical Documentation with auto accidents? (More on this later)
- Can you offer pick up and drop off services? (If needed)
- Have the ability refer out to other specialists if needed? (Orthopedic Surgeons, Neurologists, Physical Therapy)
Step 3 – Find a Doctor who knows how to document your injuries.
Your medical records are the single most important factor when it comes to determining the value of your claim. Let me say that again. Your medical records determine the value of your claim. A demand for payment from the insurance company is made when you have completed all of your medical treatment after an accident. The insurance company will then review your medical records to determine the value of your claim. Better documentation means a better settlement for you.
Documentation of your injury is key to a personal injury case
So, what makes a medical record strong or weak? Well, the answer is a lot of things and we provide an extensive list below, but let’s step back and look at this through the eyes of the insurance company first. If you have ever glanced over at your medical records you probably noticed one or two things the doctor wrote by hand and possibly a number of standard looking check marks. Nothing special.
A standard note from your primary care Doctor may read “patient is experiencing shoulder pain, headaches, and neck stiffness. Prescribed Flexeril and rest.” This of course is correct information and touches on the noticeable conditions, but what does this say to the insurance company? How can any insurance carrier make an educated decision about your claim based on such limited information?
Specialist in Auto type cases
Next, imagine that you were treated by a doctor and possibly a specialist or two, and your medical records contained the following information:
- Detailed history of what happened to in the accident
- List of all injuries and conditions resulting from the accident
- Any pre-existing injuries or conditions you may have
- List of all medical tests performed such as range-of-motion, nerve compression tests, etc.
- If they ordered specialized MRI’s, X-rays, digital motion X-rays, etc.
- Prescriptions to physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational rehabilitation, etc.
- If they sent you to other specialists who may evaluate you for surgery, or pain management
- Key information about what caused your injuries and if it aggravated your pre-existing injuries
- Whether your injuries are temporary or “permanent”
- What your future medical needs will be for the rest of your life
- Impairment ratings: What affect your injuries will have on your ability to work, enjoy life, or perform daily activities.
What will the Insurance Company be thinking when they go to evaluate your claim NOW? You need to help the insurance company understand the pain, suffering, injuries and losses you have experienced from your accident. This will justify the insurance company paying much more for your injuries and you will have detailed medical records for the future.
Choosing a good accident Doctor who can accurately document your case is key to the value of your claim. And unfortunately, no matter how great your primary care Doctor might be, they are not educated in the needed documentation for auto accidents. Accident Doctors are equipped to handle the specific documentation required and the possible litigation that may follow.
Step 4 – Tell your Doctor about ALL of your current and previous medical conditions and injuries.
It is very important to tell your Doctor about ALL of your previous medical conditions and injuries from the past. Don’t worry about pre-existing conditions! Any attempt to hide pre-existing conditions will hurt your claim and your credibility. But most importantly, the treatment of your injuries could be compromised without knowledge of prior conditions.
Imagine having a fused disc in your back from a previous back surgery before re injuring your back in an auto accident. Failure to disclose that information to your Doctor or Chiropractor could result in severe injury and pain with any type of joint manipulation. Your Doctor needs to know all of your current and previous medical conditions before he can help you recover.
Pre Existing conditions: Make sure your doctor knows
Pre-existing conditions will not hurt your case; in fact they may even HELP it! It is a well-known fact among clinics, Attorneys and Insurance Companies that people with pre-existing injuries are easier to hurt and harder to help. This means that your pre-existing conditions will most likely entitle you to more treatment and recovery, not less.
For your insurance claim to be valid, you must document all pre-existing conditions before treatment of your auto injuries. Failure to disclose all prior conditions makes you look dishonest and gives the insurance company reason to doubt your claim. They may say that you were trying to manipulate the doctor for treatment of past conditions and discount the value of your claim.
Step 5 – Continue treating with your Doctor until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
You should receive a detailed breakdown of all needed treatments on your first visit to the Doctor. This checklist should include all needed medications, treatments, imaging, and/or specialists (Orthopedic Surgeons, Neurologists, Physical Therapy, and Chiropractic). The insurance company will review this document to verify that you followed and completed all recommended treatments.
People who are truly injured in a car accident seek medical attention right away and follow all of the recommendations from their Doctor. If you are not treating, then you must not be hurt. Why would any insurance company give you money to continue treatment in the future if you are not going now?
Gaps in Medical Treatment is a big no no
Don’t allow any gaps in your treatment. Gaps in your treatment lower the value of your claim and decreases the chances that you will fully recover from your injuries. Insurance companies know that gaps in treatment will cause gaps in your settlement and weaken your case. Follow all of the recommendations from your Doctor and NEVER allow gaps in treatment.
With the proper treatment, you can also greatly reduce internal scar tissue and pressure from building around your injuries. Most auto injuries cause internal scarring or damage to ligaments, muscles and fascia tissue. If your injuries go untreated, you may experience long term damage to your nerves or joints that can last a lifetime.
Step 6 – Can an Attorney help my case?
In catastrophic cases, where extensive treatment is needed, most clinics will recommend that you work with a Personal Injury Attorney. These Attorneys can help document and quantify future medical needs, and will deal directly with the insurance company so you don’t have to! Most importantly, Attorneys will represent you if your case goes to court.
Attorneys may hire Medical Experts if your case goes to court. These experts work directly with you and your Doctors to determine how your injuries have affected your life and your ability to function normally in the future. Another important function is determining your capacity to work. A Medical Expert will explain how your injuries may make it harder to work, get hired, obtain raises or promotions or shorten your total work life.
Attorneys will also help in the documentation of your case by creating a Care Plan. A Care Plan is a detailed and quantifiable list of all current and future medical needs. This list includes medicine, equipment, treatment, surgeries, home care, rehabilitation, preventative and any other special needs. Attorneys work with patients and Doctors to make sure that nothing is forgotten.
But what if my injuries are minor; do I have to get an Attorney? No, there is nothing that says you must hire an Attorney, and most of our patients do not have an Attorney before their initial visit. By getting a check-up first, you can find out the severity of your injuries and estimate the treatment needed. This will give you a better idea of whether an Attorney right for your case.
Most car accident doctors work with a variety of great personal injury Attorneys, and most clinics will provide free advice. Your Doctor is a great resource when determining whether an Attorney is right for you. He understands your injuries better than anyone and the care that will be needed in the future. Your Doctor can also make recommendations to Attorneys that handles similar cases.
How to find an accident doctor Q and A.
We talk to hundreds of personal injury victims every month and know what it takes to find a good car accident Doctor. Below is a list of commonly asked questions and answers from people who have been injured in an accident.
Q: What kind of Doctor should I go see?
A: You need to see a Doctor who specializes in your injuries and accepts third party billing. With most auto accidents, we suggest that you see a Doctor who specializes in physical therapy, muscle manipulation and soft tissue damage. At that time, you will know if you need to see a specialist for additional treatment.
Q: Should I go see a Medical Doctor (MD)?
A: Most medical clinics can prescribe medications and offer general screening. However, most are also primary care physicians and do not accept third party billing. We recommend finding a location that has medical clinics, physical therapists and chiropractors on staff. This gives patient’s optimal care for soft tissue damage not detectable using X-ray, joint manipulation and medication if needed.
Q: How long after an accident can I see a doctor?
A: Well, it depends on the state. Most states require you to see the doctor within 3 months of the accident but others are within two weeks. Bottom line, if you are in pain from an accident then you should absolutely go see a doctor.
Q: What if I told the insurance adjuster that I was not injured or didn’t need to see a doctor, can I still go see a doctor or is it too late?
A: If you are hurting, or in pain, then you should absolutely go see a doctor. Your health is the most important factor. Don’t delay! Getting proper treatment right away is the first step you should take after a car accident.
Q: What if I already received a check for my car repairs from the insurance adjuster, is it too late to see a doctor?
A: There is an injury claim and a property damage claim, but they are separate. You may have settled your property damage claim but if you are hurt then you need to make sure that you do not sign anything that will settle your injury claim.
Q: I have started having headaches, should I go see a doctor?
A: Headaches are common after an accident and many times you do not start having headaches right away. Sometimes it takes a few days and even up to a week or more. Headaches may also be an indication of more severe muscle or joint damage.
Q: I don’t feel much pain but wonder if I should get checked out just in case?
A: The number one cause of pain after a car accident comes from soft tissue damage. Soft tissue damage happens when the layers of your skin and muscle tissue stretch, causing massive pain and possible bleeding or bruising. Soft tissue damage cannot be detected using X-ray or CT scans and usually will not be felt for the several days after an accident. Don’t put your health at risk. You should always go see a Doctor after an accident.
Q: Should I be documenting my pain and the medications that I take at home?
A: Yes, yes and yes! The more documentation you have the stronger your claim. You can also assist your attorney by documenting and saving evidence for the jury in case you go to trial. Save all empty medication bottles and document any over the counter medication taken such as Tylenol or Advil. This will show the jury how the accident affected your overall well-being.
Q: What if I was already treating with a Doctor from a previous injury, should I still go see an accident Doctor?
A: Yes. You should notify your Doctor about the accident and report all pre-existing conditions to your accident Doctor. Do not delay. Insurance companies love to point out prior conditions and claim that “this must have been an injury from before the accident.” This is why it is important to seek treatment right away and be 100% honest about all pre-existing conditions.
Q: Do I qualify for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance?
A: If you live in a state that offers PIP insurance then you need to ask your car accident Doctor if you qualify. Your Doctor will be able to help you with the process, or recommend an Attorney who can help. You must also check the maximum time for treatment after an accident. Many states require treatment within 14 days of the accident or you waive your PIP benefits.
Q: What if I can’t afford a Doctor?
A: If you are seriously injured in an auto accident GO TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY! And if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP), then the hospital will simply bill your car insurance directly. You may also be entitled to PIP or Med Pay benefits from the car you were either riding in as a passenger or hit by as a pedestrian.
In states that do not carry PIP benefits, most car accident clinics will treat you with a Letter of Protection (LOP) or Lien from an Attorney. An LOP is an agreement between you, your Doctor and your Attorney. This agreement is a form of promissory note to the Doctor that guarantees that they will receive compensation for your treatment when your claim is settled.
W hope you find this guide very informative. We are in the business of finding people doctors after a car accident.