After the Auto Accident - What Questions You Should Ask the Doctor
The immediate aftermath of an auto accident is a frenetic time for anyone but it’s important to keep your head upon arriving in the office of a medical professional. There are certain questions you should ask the doctor, regardless of how badly injured you may think you are (or are not).
What are my injuries and prognosis?This is especially relevant if you are in the emergency room or have sustained injuries you believe to be dire. While a quick guess from a doctor may turn out to over or underestimate your injuries, it is still a good idea to get a sense of where you stand at that moment. Being informed as to the extent of your injuries ensures you are able to monitor your own recovery. Car accidents often cause victims to go into a state of shock, and when someone is in shock they may be a poor judge of their own physical and mental state. Even if you do not feel as though you have sustained any serious injuries, it is suggested that you visit a doctor and speak with them, because having that belief on record may also play a role. If it turns out later that you were in fact injured more severely than you anticipated, it shows that you did not enter into the situation intending to seek medical treatment you did not need. It may also be advisable to inform the doctor of any previous significant injury. Pennsylvania law differentiates between pre-existing conditions and brand new injuries when dealing with the cost of compensation - aggravating a pre-existing condition and causing a new injury will be treated differently in terms of both bills paid and fault assessed.
What is your suggested treatment plan?It is important to ask your doctor what their suggestions would be, and to not deny them, at least not on record. Insurance companies will often take any refusal of treatment as a reason to deny that treatment later, if you change your mind or it becomes medically necessary to have it. You have the right to seek a second opinion, but it is generally not suggested to reject medical opinions out of hand, at least not without obtaining a clear picture of your injuries.
Can I return to work? If so, when?This is very important to ask because many try to return either too soon (causing setbacks in healing) or too late (causing suspicions of malfeasance or malingering). As a general rule, Pennsylvania law (*1) only permits recovery for injuries sustained in the car accident itself, not any injuries that are re-aggravated in the days that follow, or that develop due to taking too many chances during the healing process. This ties into point #1; understanding the extent and nature of your injuries is critical so as to avoid making them worse. If you have sustained injuries that are too severe to preclude a return to work for the foreseeable future, your doctor may be able to classify you as disabled (either fully or partially). If this occurs, it may result in an increased payout from your insurance company or in court (depending on which type of auto insurance you have, and which avenue you elect to pursue remedies).