What to do after an auto accident?
by Dr. Cara Olsen
If you were recently involved in an auto accident, you are probably very confused and frustrated right now. You undoubtedly have many questions and perhaps you do not even know who to ask or where to get answers. Car accidents are a pain in more ways than one. Care repairs, transportation problems, injuries, doctor appointments, medications, insurance adjusters, time off of work, financial difficulties, attorneys, and yet you have a life to live. Because of the life changing issues that can arise after an accident such as long term health problems, I strongly suggest that you read this guide from start to finish. This report was specifically written to give you straight answers to common questions and clear away some of the confusion.
For example, were you aware that symptoms like headaches, neck pain, low back pain and soreness may not show up for days, weeks or possibly months after the accident? Additionally, most auto accidents sufferers are unaware of the long term damaging effects of these injuries. So they release the insurance company from liability by settling before getting their injuries checked out.
Settling prematurely can be a Gigantic Mistake! Please do not let this happen to you!
If you do, you may develop pain, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, and other bizarre and disabling problems months or years down the road.
“NOTHING is more important than your health!”
Here’s where the problems begin…
Most people who are involved in an auto accident have one thing on their mind: Their Automobile!
Common questions include:
- “Who is going to fix my car?”
- “What will I drive in the meantime?”
- “Will my insurance rates go up?”
- “Who is going to pay for it!?”
Did you notice that most of the concerns are centered around the car? Usually the last thing on your mind is… “Am I alright?”
“Are you Alright?”
You may have noticed that ever since the accident you may not have been feeling your normal self. You may be experiencing obvious pains and symptoms like headaches, neck pain, low back pain, muscle stiffness, blurred vision, difficulty sleeping, memory loss, confusion, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and many other problems.
Did you know that auto accidents can cause Post Traumatic Degenerative Osteoarthritis? Arthritis can ruin your posture, cause the discs in your spine to decay, and lead to the inability to move properly. When this happens, simple tasks like turning your head becomes much more difficult and painful.
So how are these injuries detected?
First, a very detailed history is obtained. Then a doctor trained in diagnosing and treating auto accident injuries can perform orthopedic, neurological, chiropractic, as well as other functional tests that assess soft tissues and or skeletal damage. Special diagnostic equipment can measure muscle strength, range of motion, and nerve function.
Specific x-rays can be taken and analyzed using examination techniques that are designed to find out if there has been any soft tissue injury or damage to your spine.
The whole process can take 1-2 hours.
If an emergency room doctor or your own medical doctor only briefly looked at you, told you that you had “whiplash,” gave you medication and released you saying “you’ll be fine in a few weeks” perhaps you may want to get a second opinion.
Many whiplash experts reported most auto accident sufferers not only suffer from sore muscles, but also headaches, neck and lower back pain, arm and leg pain, pain between the shoulder blades, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and/or visual problems within just one week. They also found that the patients who improved the best were the ones who were treated right after the accident with mobilization. Therefore, it is best to be treated as soon after the accident as possible.
It is my opinion that a combination of chiropractic adjustments, massage, acupuncture, exercise, and possible stretching offers my patients the best opportunity for maximum improvement in the shortest amount of time.
If you think the pain will go away by itself, think again!
Researchers Gargan and Bannister state in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery that: “After 10 years, of the patients they reviewed; only 12% had recovered completely and 40% still had intrusive to severe symptoms.” A follow up study on whiplash patients who underwent “standard medical treatment” showed that after 5 years, up to half the patients still had significant pain.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “80% of all accidents occur at less than 10 MPH.” Research shows that in a rear end collision at 8mph (parking lot speed) there is 5 G’s of force transferred to the occupant’s neck and head in about 1/4 of a second. At 10mph, a 3,500 pound vehicle transfers approximately 25 tons of force to the vehicle it hits. That is more than sufficient to produce injuries. Researchers Charles Carroll, M.D., Paul McActee, M.D., and Lee Riley, Jr., M.D. noted in their articles, “Objective Findings for Diagnosis of Whiplash” in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine that:
“The amount of damage to the automobile bears little relationship to the ultimate damage to the occupant’s body.”
The injury to the victim’s body depends upon the way the vehicle was struck, how fast it was moving, and the amount of crumpling of the vehicle.
This means that the worst damage to the victim can happen with the least amount of damage to the vehicle!
An emergency room’s main concern is that you do not have a life threading injury, not the type of soft tissue and/or skeletal injury we are talking about. Most auto accident sufferers who go to the emergency room may be in pain, but generally do not have true life threatening emergencies. The emergency room doctors will check your vital signs, make sure you do not have any threading injuries and if everything checks out OK, they will usually just give you pain medication and release you.
If you are in ENOUGH PAIN to take medication–then, chances are you have suffered a soft tissue injury.
Pain medication may hide the pain for a while but research shows that it does nothing to help heal the injury. In fact, some medications may actually prolong your recovery. There are special therapies designed to assist in healing the injured area and we offer these at our clinic. I will take whatever time necessary to do the detailed examination that is required to detect the type of soft tissue and or skeletal injury we are discussing.
There are many risk factors that contribute to an injury. For example, a woman is more susceptible to an injury than a man. An older person is more prone to injury than a younger one. If your head was turned at the time of impact, your injuries could be more severe. If you were taken by surprise by the impact, your injuries could be more severe.
Children get injured in car accidents too! You may have noticed a behavioral change in your child after the accident. Your child may be complaining about pain, exhibiting pain postures or just crankier. These could all be signs of an injury and you should get your child examined immediately.
Most car insurance policies have what is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This means that, your medical bills will be paid at 100% up to a certain limit by your own insurance company. No matter who was at fault in the accident, you are still entitled to benefits under your car insurance policy.
Also, it is important for you to understand that in most cases, using your PIP benefits will in no way raise your insurance rates, regardless of who was at fault.
It is important to get checked out by the doctor first. The findings will allow you the information you need in order to decide if an attorney is necessary. It is my opinion that at least consulting with a lawyer is a wise choice since lawyers can assist their clients to know all their legal rights and/or all the benefits they are entitled to under an insurance policy.
This is a personal decision that must be taken into consideration under your own circumstances. However, if you do have an injury, wouldn’t you want to know that before you settle your claim and wouldn’t you like to fully heal your injury first? You should know that if you settle your claim before your injury is fully identified and/or treated, you are completely on your own for any future care and any pending bills that have not been billed to your insurance company at the time of settlement unless you specify that in the settlement agreement. If, after you have been examined, the insurance carrier has questions about your injury, I will inform them of the results of the examination and furnish them with any necessary reports.
Have you suffered from any of the following typical whiplash symptoms since your accident?
- Headaches / Migraines
- Neck Pain / Stiffness
- Mid Back Pain / Stiffness
- Low Back Pain / Stiffness
- Difficulty turning your head
- Difficulty sitting for a long period
- Difficulty swallowing / lump in throat
- Jaw Pain (TMJ)
- Dizziness / Spinning / Moving back and fourth
- Poor Memory
- Ringing / Buzzing in the ears / Hearing loss / Pain in ear
- Fatigue / Drowsiness
- Limb Weakness
- Depression / Crying Spells
- Extremely unusual menstrual bleeding
- Lack of sensation to urinate / Over Sensation
- Fainting / Near Fainting
- Loss of balance
- Loss of smell / taste
- Hypersensitive to smell / taste / taste metal
- Sleeping problems
- Pain behind the eyes
- Eyes sensitive to light / no reaction to light
- Blurred Vision
- Numbness in fingers
- Numbness in toes
- Pins and needles in arms / legs
- Cold hands / feet
If any of these problems start after your accident, you may have suffered a soft tissue/skeletal injury, and/or concussions. You should be examined immediately.
Remember, whiplash experts say that it may be weeks or months before symptoms such as numbness or arms and/or legs or nerve problems show up. Some experts say that you are 6 1/2 times more likely to develop degenerative osteoarthritis in your back within the next 7 years.
The quality of your future wellbeing may depend upon your health decisions you make today.
To my new MVA patients,
Wouldn’t you rather trust your care to a doctor who emphasizes treating your automobile injuries and wants to get you feeling better and out of pain?
I believe that every motor vehicle accident victim should at least be examined for possible soft tissue injuries. Your Health is just too important!
Perhaps some of you are the types of people who get hurt but say that you really are not hurt. Maybe so… But you should at least be evaluated. If you are not really hurt, then you can be released from care. But if you are hurt, wouldn’t you really want to know and get it all taken care of?
I have helped a lot of auto accident sufferers restore their health. I hope I can help you as well.
Yours in Good Health,
Dr. Cara Olsen