You're in a car accident. You don't remember losing conscious, but your memories leading up to, and including, the accident are very foggy. You have a terrible headache and feel very confused. You're dizzy, and you're having a very difficult time focusing your vision.
At the scene of the accident, you get a quick once-over by police. Maybe they ask you if they should call EMS personnel (many won’t even ask, unless there is visible sign of injury).
While you still have a headache, you don't believe that you require more attention. You are told to seek medical attention if your symptoms get worse.
Once home, you might begin to get slightly blurred vision. You are very tired. You also just can't seem to get that ringing out of your ears. In the days and weeks following your car accident, you are feeling tired and lethargic. You're having a hard time concentrating at work and you notice that you've been more irritable with those around you.
Unfortunately, you are experiencing almost classic symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and you, like hundreds of thousands of people every year, don’t even realize it. Even worse, if left untreated, the symptoms of this TBI – of this very real injury to your brain – may get worse, and left untreated may have a permanent impact on your life. Even so-called mild TBI can be devastating. “Mild” in this case is used as part of a medical classification for TBI based upon loss of consciousness, it is not based upon the severity and impact a brain injury can have on your life. In fact, in rare instances, it may even cost you your life.
Far too many people ignore the symptoms of hidden car accident injuries until it's too late.
Many hidden injuries, like TBI, arising from a car accident can get significantly worse over time without proper medical treatment. And to compound the problem, many insurance companies will refuse to pay for the treatment of these injuries if they are not identified early-on after a car accident has occurred. By the time the doctors begin treating you many months later, many insurance companies will deny coverage, saying these symptoms are unrelated to your accident because the time gap is too great between when the car accident occurred and the first time it is identified in a doctor’s chart note.
The lawyers in my law firm assist people injured in a car accident like the one I described above quite often. And one thing that has always resonated with me is the dramatic difference in outcomes that exists between people who are able to receive medical care for these injuries soon after a car accident and those who wait until many months later to seek medical care. The other difference is the battle that almost always ensues with the insurance companies of this second group, even though the medicine is very clear that you do not need to lose consciousness to suffer a brain injury (you may remember the old story of Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who survived severe brain damage when a 3 foot iron rod went through his head and brain, but who never even lost consciousness?).
I’ve been helping people injured in serious car accidents for almost 20 years. I’ve seen people killed in crashes where there was little to no damage to the car, and I’ve seen cars totaled but where people walked away. There are serious forces involved in car accidents and these forces can be multiplied upon the occupant based upon so many different factors: age, gender, previous injuries, the health of their spine, height and weight, where they were sitting, whether the head was turned, the position of the headrest and seat, and on and on.
So the message here should be loud and clear – even if you are hoping those headaches are going to go away, and even if you don’t believe the injuries you’ve suffered are “really serious,” you still should seek medical attention. Even if you think that pain in your neck is minor, document it so if it becomes something far worse, such as a tear in your annulus that over the next few days or weeks extrudes disc material and suddenly you need expensive neck surgery, you can get it paid for and get better!
Named a “Leader in the Law” and “Lawyer of the Year” by Michigan’s largest legal newspaper for his record-breaking auto accident verdicts, settlements and advocacy work in preventing wrecks, Steven Gursten heads Michigan Auto Law—a firm dedicated to serious motor vehicle accident injury and wrongful death cases.