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WARNING: It is natural to think “My insurance company will take care of all this.”

But the process can be complex and can lead to severe frustration for you in the weeks and even months to come.

INJURIES CAUSED BY A CAR ACCIDENT

Soft tissue injuries are the most common people experience after a car accident. This means that muscles, tendons and ligaments get strained.

These types of injuries may or may not result in immediate pain.

• You may experience pain in the hours or days after the car accident happened
• You may think that you are “fine” until the pain and symptoms begin

Common symptoms experienced in the hours and days following a car accident include:

• Feeling achy all over
• Headache
• Tossing and turning at night – having difficulty sleeping
• Suffering from anxiety
• Neck and/or back aches and pains
• Feeling fatigued and weak
• Stiffness – limited movements (i.e. bending over, turning your head)

All of these can be signs of soft tissue injury.

For a few lucky people who were only VERY slightly injured and who are in good physical shape, the aches and pains may go away after a few days. For others, especially those who go without treatment, the problems can stick around (or get worse) for months and months.

In severe cases the injuries may be more obvious. Things like broken bones, being knocked unconscious or severe neck and/or back pain are common and show up immediately. People with these injuries are usually taken to the hospital in an ambulance and treatment begins immediately.

In a worst case scenario (where you either didn’t get treatment or your care stopped too soon), your injuries can leave permanent damage!

That’s why it’s important that you go see a medical professional when you are recovering from a car accident. Unless you are absolutely certain you have no injuries – you should go get examined.

At the very least, a qualified professional can let you know if you are really okay. If, however, it turns out that you are injured, you can begin care immediately and get on the road to recovery.

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Did you know that your auto insurance has medical coverage included in your policy?
The following comes directly from the Colorado Division of Insurance Website:
“As of January 1, 2009, insurance companies are required to include a minimum amount of medical payment coverage on all automobile insurance policies issued in the state. The purpose of this coverage is to provide insurance for the first $5,000 of medical expenses following an automobile accident, including significant costs associated with emergency services, such as ambulances, doctors, and trauma care.”
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3 ESSENTIAL TIPS TO CONTROL PAIN & PREVENT LONG-TERM DAMAGE

Tip #1: Do What You Can Do

There may be a lot you cannot do – but there is certainly a lot that you CAN do.

• You CAN seek help from a healthcare professional
• You CAN learn about treatment options that will help you feel better

Tip #2: Be Consistent

The single biggest mistake people in pain make is doing something that causes a flare up.

The secret to getting well is to do specific activities a little at a time, day after day – consistently.

In other words, to decrease car accident aches and pains,
find a good plan and stick to it.

Tip #3: Think Good Thoughts

This might sound simple or silly, but research shows that it’s true!

One study (CLICK HERE) showed “that people who ruminate (think deeply about) about their pain and have more negative thoughts about their pain don’t sleep as well, and the result is they feel more pain.”

So what you think about really matters when it comes to pain.

If you spend a lot of energy thinking about the bad stuff and concentrating on the pain you end up hurting more. Your sleep is even affected by this!

The solution is simple: Think about what you are thankful for and about what you have (versus what you do not).

EXPECTATIONS ABOUT HEALING

The Trauma Recovery Timeline

The “Trauma Recovery Timeline” graph gives an example of how the body heals.

As you can see, the first 6 months are critical.

The sooner you can begin treatment, the sooner you will start feeling better and the sooner healing begins.

Typical Expectations for Healing: Months 1 to 6

If your injuries are not severe, you’ll likely experience significant improvements in the months following the car accident. Just as a bad bruise heals over weeks, so can the soft tissue injuries you may have gotten in a car accident.

The challenge for many people is that you can’t see many of the “bruises” or injuries you suffered in the car accident. Without a specialist to guide you, it’s easy to make poor choices that will lead to slow healing. Doing too much can be just as bad as doing too little.

When you are getting expert care you can expect significant improvement in the first six months, including:

• Fast pain relief
• Decreased muscle stiffness and soreness
• Able to sleep through the night
• Return to most (if not all) daily activities
• Gradual (or full) return to recreational and work activities

Recovering From a Car Accident: 6 months and Beyond

For those with mild or even moderate soft tissue injuries, recovery should be almost complete by about 6 months.

However, for those who suffered from severe soft tissue or bony injuries, or injuries that may have required a procedure (i.e. surgery), treatment and healing may take a year or more.

Typical Expectations for Healing: Month 6 and beyond

• Visit frequency to the doctor and/or therapist should be decreasing
• The major focus should be on returning to normal daily activities
• You may be referred to specialists
• You must be patient – healing takes time
• You must be consistently doing your home exercises to help with healing
• You will need strong support system from family, friends and providers

The Key Is To Be Consistent With Your Care And Your Care Plan. This Will Help Ensure The Best Possible Outcome For You

While your short and long term health is the main thing to focus on after an accident, you need to understand how what you do in the days and weeks following the crash can have an effect on your life in many areas, but one of the most important and least thought of is that of your time.

When you are in pain, you may not be able to work, play or even perform the basics of everyday life without serious limitation. This can last for several weeks. But with proper treatment, your symptoms and function will eventually improve until you are doing much better than you were in the early days following the car crash.

Without proper treatment your pain may last for months, years, or even for the rest of your life!

MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICES THROUGHOUT YOUR CASE

Questions You May Have Immediately After Your Accident

Should I call the police?
Yes, the police should be called to the scene so that an accident report can be created listing the facts of the case in an official capacity.

Do I need witnesses?
You should look around the scene as soon as soon as you get out of the car to find people who may have witnessed what happened. Take their name and number so that you can contact them in the future for a statement as to what happened at the scene.

Should I get checked out at the hospital?
If you have any symptoms immediately at the scene, if you feel dizzy, or if you lost consciousness during the accident, call an ambulance and go to the hospital right away so you can get checked out and begin treatment.

How long should I wait before seeking care if I don’t go to the hospital?
After an accident, you should seek medical attention AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

There are 2 reasons for this:

(1) The longer you wait to begin treatment, the more the damage from the impact sets in. This can result in the formation of damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons that result in a less favorable result. In fact, the more time that passes after the impact, the more likely that the results of the injury can become long-standing or even permanent!

(2) If you don’t seek treatment following an auto accident, you send a message to the insurance company that you were not injured during the accident. From an insurance company perspective, the failure to seek treatment is known as a “Gap in Treatment”. When this is seen, the insurance carrier takes the position that they are not responsible for medical bills that are not “medically necessary”.

When should I contact my insurance company about my car and the accident?
Following the accident, once you have made sure that your medical needs are attended to, call your insurance carrier to report the accident. According to Colorado law, your insurance rates cannot increase because you decide to seek medical treatment following an accident.

Should I go to my medical doctor following the accident?
While your first instinct is to go to your family doctor for treatment of your accident related injuries, that may not be the best idea. Your family doctor is highly trained on “family medicine” issues, but many family practitioners do not focus on traumatic injuries and can therefore minimize the injuries, under-document what was found, or create a gap in care by telling patients to “take some pain killers and muscle relaxers for a month or so, and come back if it isn’t better”.

How do I find a doctor’s office that specializes in trauma?
Medical offices that specialize in trauma based care are specialty facilities. There are relatively few in any given city, and most of them will designate that they focus on the treatment of these types of cases. PT Professionals has a wide network of both general care providers as well as other professionals that specialize in accident cases. If you have a question on where to go for treatment, call 866-343-5264 and you will be assisted in finding the best place for you.

What do I do if an insurance agent calls me and asks me to settle my claim within the first few weeks following the accident?
While PT Professionals is not a legal firm and does not offer any legal advice, because of the length of time required for a complete recovery, it is not recommended that you accept any settlement offer from an insurance agent until you know the extent of your injuries.

Do I need to call an attorney?
The first most important thing you can do is to seek care for your injuries. You can contact and hire an attorney at any time within the 3 years following the date of your accident. If your claim is being contested by the auto insurance company (i.e. if they are not willing to pay for 100% of the claim), it is usually a good idea to find a competent, ethical, experienced personal injury attorney to help you. Most firms offer free consultations and, if you decide to hire them, can help you understand the claim process and how they get paid. If you would like assistance choosing a Denver car accident attorney, call us at 866-343-5264 and we can help (we have worked with over 75 local law firms and know who the best-of-the-best are).

Questions In the Weeks Following Your Accident

If there has been a gap in treatment, what should I do?
If you have not received care over a period of weeks following the incident, write down anything that you did at home to help your symptoms (ice, heat, rest, medication, vitamins, herbs, stretches, etc.) in the form of a journal. When you begin treatment, give a copy of the home treatment to the doctor so it can be included in your records.

If I need to find an attorney after a few weeks, what do I look for?
Attorneys are well educated and many of them specialize in one area of the law. For those who have been involved in an injury case, the type of attorney who specializes in law for injured people is known as a Personal Injury attorney. Look for a personal injury attorney who has experience with cases such as yours and who has a good rapport with you after talking with or meeting them.

What if I’m starting to feel better and my doctor/therapist still wants me to come in for treatment?
There is a difference between feeling better and being well. When a doctor is supervising your treatment, he or she is making sure that you not only feel better, but that you are back to the way you were prior to the accident. This is known as getting to a “Pre-accident” or “Pre-injury” status. Stick to your treatment plan until your doctor tells you that you are clear of all injuries that you suffered in the accident.

Questions In the Months Following Your Accident

If I don’t feel better after 90 days, what should I do?
First and most importantly, talk with your doctors and therapists to determine the best course of action. Injuries from traumatic accidents can take months or even longer to completely heal. Your doctor will document his/her findings along the way, and will write reports that substantiate the seriousness of your injuries. If you have done your part and completed all recommended treatment, you have rights to continue to receive treatment until you are back to a pre-accident status, or to receive compensation for your injuries.

If I have an attorney and I don’t feel better, what should I do?
If you have an attorney, let him or her know that you are not feeling better, and that you want them to let the insurance company know of your lack of healing.

What if I have not been able to work due to my injuries?
If you are not able to work due to your injuries, you may be eligible for compensation of that lost time from work. That will be very important for you to discuss with an attorney.

COMMON MISTAKES THAT COULD COST YOU YOUR HEALTH, TIME AND MONEY

MISTAKE 1: Avoid Getting Care Immediately Following The Accident Because You Hope Your Pain Will Go Away On Its Own

Why it is a Mistake: Hoping that your pain will go away on its own is a HUGE mistake because it creates a gap in care which is considered by insurance companies to be a sign that you had no injuries or that they are so minor that they did not require care.

MISTAKE 2: Ignoring The Treatment Plan Created For You By Your Health Care Providers

Why it is a Mistake: When undergoing treatment, it is critical that you stick to the program recommended for you. If your injuries require care for several weeks or even months, it is CRITICAL that you attend all of the treatment sessions and participate fully in your recovery. Failing to do so will likely lead to your symptoms lingering for months or years into the future. Economically, you could suffer as well because the insurance carrier will see that you did not follow the recommendations set for you and will make a determination that your case is worth less, probably much less.

MISTAKE 3: “Doctor-Hopping” and/or “Attorney-Hopping”

Why it is a Mistake: If you change doctors and/or attorneys multiple times during your case, it is viewed by the insurance carrier as an attempt to “work the system” with the expectation to get an undeserved settlement. It is important to choose your providers and your attorney carefully at the beginning of your case. That is not to say that if a provider or an attorney is the wrong fit for you that you should stay there, but rather to be wary of jumping from doctor to doctor for reasons that are not based on the quality of care that you are receiving.

MISTAKE 4: Withholding Information From Your Providers

Why it is a Mistake: It is important that you tell your health care providers how you are feeling each and every time that you visit them. When communicating what you are feeling, it is vital that you report your symptoms accurately and completely. Just as it serves no purpose for you to withhold that fact that you may be hurting, it also is a HUGE mistake to always report that your symptoms are the same or worse than at your last visit. When you do not improve, the insurance carrier will believe that the treatment was not effective and should not be paid for, or they may feel that you are not accurately reporting your injuries so that you can obtain a larger settlement. Either way, it never serves anyone for inaccurate reporting of your symptoms.

MISTAKE 5: Agreeing To A Settlement (Or Even Talking With An Insurance Adjuster) Without Your Attorney

Why it is a Mistake: If you have an attorney, let them do all the communicating between you and the insurance company. If you do not have an attorney, be careful about what you say to any insurance agent as your conversations will be recorded and can be used at any time during future dealings.

Car Accident Injury Care Specialists

We know how important it is that people involved in accidents understand what they will encounter as they move through their case. It is our sincere hope that the information you received in this Special Report helps you or someone you know who has been involved in a car accident. For a consultation about any aspect of your case, we would invite you to call our office directly at (720) 222-9669 .

About 

David Berman is a nationally recognized and highly sought after expert and educator in outpatient physical therapy. He currently practices in Arvada, CO.