If you get into a car accident, especially if you are rear-ended and don’t see it coming, it’s not uncommon to feel mostly OK immediately after it happens. If your buddy is unexpectedly whipped around, it will usually create a rush of adrenaline in your system. This often will prevent you from noticing any pain.
It’s not uncommon at all to wake up a day or two after an accident and then have back or neck pain. In fact, we probably see that more than we do see people have back and neck pain right away unless they hit their head on the window or have an airbag injury.
In these situations, you likely would not have received medical care right after the accident. So the question we get a lot is, “When is too late to go see a doctor.”
The correct answer is never. Your health is most important so whenever you start feeling poorly you should see a doctor whether it’s related to an accident or not.
But as far as the case itself goes, the correct answer is that the longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your injuries are related to the accident. I’ve noticed in uptick of people who have tried to “tough it out” and end up going months without getting any medical care beyond taking Advil.
If you were hit by a car in June and don’t see a doctor for back pain until October, it’s really hard to prove that your back problems are related to that accident. At the very least it creates a really good defense for the insurance company. I say that, because during the time in between the accident and the first appointment, you are living life, working, walking around, etc. It’s assumed that if you are able to do those things that you are fine. And it indicates that something else might have happened to cause you to seek care.
For us, we encourage people to get treatment ASAP and if anyone goes more than a month without doing that after the accident, we would be hesitant to get involved. On the other hand, if you went a doctor a couple of days after an accident and don’t return for 4-6 weeks, we can make a better argument that your need for treatment is still related to getting hit.
The bottom line is that the sooner you treat the better. I hate going to the doctor too and the US health care system is kind of a joke. But if you create a gap in treatment you are also creating a defense for the insurance company. And they love to deny cases for any reason they can.