Can Delaying Medical Treatment Damage Your Case?
Posted in Personal Injury on November 6, 2018
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, it is imperative to seek medical care as soon as possible after the incident. Any delay in treatment will not only reflect poorly on you in a future lawsuit or insurance claim, but can also put you at risk by leaving serious injuries unchecked.
No matter how an accident happens, your first priority should be your personal health. Some accidents may cause injuries that do not show noticeable symptoms at first. It may take days or even weeks for discomfort to turn to pain or for mild symptoms to worsen. It is best to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, even if you think you only sustained mild injuries.
How a Delay in Treatment Can Harm You Physically
Some accidents, like motor vehicle crashes and sports accidents, can cause injuries that do not show symptoms at first. In some cases, symptoms are very mild. However, some internal injuries may take time to fully manifest symptoms. Without treatment, internal injuries can lead to severe and even life-threatening medical complications like organ failure, infections, neurological problems, and many more possibilities.
After a car accident, workplace injury, or sports-related mishap, the victim may feel dazed or only slightly injured at first. When he or she visits a doctor for a medical review and reports how the accident happened, the doctor should know the possible conditions that may affect the patient. Some conditions may be asymptomatic at first, but a good doctor will run a thorough series of tests to accurately diagnose the patient. Seeking prompt care after any type of accident, no matter how serious or minor it seems at first, is the best way to prevent surprise medical issues that may cause life-threatening damage.
Delays in Treatment Hurt Your Legal Standing
If you intend to file a lawsuit against another party who injured you, you will need to provide clear evidence that your injuries and other damages were the direct results of the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause. The jury will want to see medical records that show you sought prompt care and the findings from your doctor’s treatment. If you claim severe injuries in your lawsuit but the records indicate you didn’t seek medical care for a whole week after the date of your incident, the jury may have trouble believing your injuries were as severe as you claimed.
It’s also possible for a delay in treatment to lead to less compensation than you may have won otherwise. In states that follow comparative negligence laws, a plaintiff may lose a portion of his or her case award equal to his or her percentage of fault for causing an accident. For example, in a $100,000 claim in which the plaintiff is 20% at fault, the plaintiff loses 20% of the case award, for a net total of $80,000. If your delay in treatment causes additional medical issues or makes your initial injury worse, the jury may decide that your failure to seek treatment immediately after your accident makes you partially liable for your current condition.
Many situations that lead to claims also involve insurance companies in some capacity. An insurer may deny a claim or offer a much lower settlement than expected. In some cases, a delay in treatment may prevent you from claiming at all if your insurance policy requires you to seek treatment after an accident within a certain time. Ultimately, after any type of injury caused by negligence, seeking immediate medical care not only helps prevent serious medical complications from untreated injuries, but it also helps protect your legal rights and available recovery options.