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Should I Go to the Hospital or Urgent Care for a Car Accident Injury?

A car accident is a frightening experience. Even if you do not experience pain right away, it is still a good idea to seek medical attention immediately. But should you go to the hospital after a car accident or an urgent care center? NST Law has the information to help you decide.

Car accidents are, unfortunately, not uncommon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that an average of almost 4 million people sought care at the emergency room between 2010 and 2011 due to motor vehicle traffic injuries. 

If you have been involved in a car accident, the first and most important step is to obtain the necessary medical treatment. Depending on the nature and severity of your injuries, this could involve visiting the emergency room or an urgent care center. Not only could seeking medical treatment save your life, but it may also increase your chance of obtaining compensation for the injuries you sustained. 

When you or someone you care about has been involved in a car accident, determining whether you need medical attention and where to go for treatment is a priority. Below are some of the key considerations when deciding if you should go to the hospital after a car accident.

The Difference Between Hospital Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centers

Both urgent care centers and emergency rooms provide patients with medical care, but these two facilities are not designed or equipped to handle the same situations. Emergency rooms can treat practically anything, but the main priority of an emergency room is dealing with major illnesses and injuries. 

By comparison, urgent care centers provide treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, including shallow wounds, fever, and coughs. Ultimately, the goal is for an urgent care center to treat less serious illnesses and injuries, preventing emergency rooms from being overwhelmed. Studies show that the presence of urgent care centers reduces emergency room visits

Urgent care centers can be convenient and provide easier access to treatment. But while it might be tempting to go to the nearest urgent care center after you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important to understand that urgent care centers don’t provide the same care as emergency rooms and may not be able to help with more severe injuries.

Urgent Care

The Difference in Care Received at a Hospital vs. Urgent Care

While it can be difficult to focus on much beyond the shock you are experiencing following a car accident, seeking care at the correct facility is important. If you or someone you care about is experiencing a life-threatening condition and you arrive at an urgent care facility, it may not have the staff or equipment to treat you properly. As a result, you may not be able to hold that facility accountable if you sustain any injuries during your treatment. 

Emergency rooms are the best option to provide care in emergencies, including:

  • Major broken bones
  • Severe burns
  • Severe trauma
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Uncontrollable bleeding

Urgent care facilities may be suitable for less severe symptoms and injuries sustained in a car accident, such as:

  • Minor cuts and bruises
  • Minor burns
  • Sprains

It is not uncommon for car accident victims to not even realize they have suffered injuries. This is because adrenaline may mask symptoms in the aftermath of a crash, and injuries may not be apparent for a few hours or even days.

Even if you do not feel like you have experienced car accident injuries, it’s still a good idea to visit an urgent care center. Medical documentation is critical if you have suffered injuries in the crash. This documentation can be important for insurance purposes and if you decide to file a personal injury claim later. 

What Is the Average Wait Time for Hospital Care vs. Urgent Care?

When you have experienced an injury, you may naturally wonder how long you can expect to wait to receive care. Urgent care facilities tend to provide care faster and have shorter average wait times than emergency rooms — usually fewer than 15 minutes. On the other hand, only about 50 percent of patients in emergency rooms are seen within 15 minutes. 

Emergency rooms tend to experience high levels of traffic, and patients needing more critical and immediate attention than others will be a priority. This can lead to longer wait times for other patients. If your situation isn’t critical, you may find that seeking care from an urgent care facility is the more convenient option. 

Consider the hours of operation when deciding if you should go to the hospital after a car accident. Usually, both emergency rooms and urgent care facilities are usually open on a 24-hour basis, which makes it possible to seek treatment and obtain prompt medical attention.

What Is the Cost Difference Between Hospitals vs. Urgent Care?

When you have been involved in a car accident, you may be hesitant to obtain proper medical attention because you are concerned about the price tag for treatment regardless of the facility. While this is understandable, seeking immediate treatment following a car accident could prevent health and economic issues.

Generally, reports indicate that obtaining treatment at an urgent care facility is less expensive than seeking treatment at an emergency room. Of course, an emergency room is the best course of action in a life-threatening situation, regardless of cost. 

Physicians in emergency rooms are required under law to evaluate patients regardless of their ability to pay. By comparison, urgent care facilities are under no such obligation and may require patients to pay up front. This can place a significant financial burden on patients who cannot pay that amount right away.

Photo of emergency signs at local hospital

What To Do If You Are Hospitalized After a Car Accident

If you are hospitalized following a car accident, it is important that you collect all relevant documentation regarding your car accident injuries and treatments. During this time, follow your doctor’s advice and not sign any documents, including releases, from insurance companies without seeking legal advice. 

You may be eligible for compensation for medical costs if you file a personal injury claim against the negligent party responsible, but you must demonstrate proof of injuries and have receipts for all related expenses. 

The aftermath of a car accident may leave you feeling confused, frightened, and not sure where to turn next. Once you have decided if you should go to the hospital after a car accident, the next step is to ensure you have experienced legal representation. You should not be responsible for paying for injuries and damages sustained in a car crash in which you were not at fault.

When To Contact an Attorney

If you are unsure about the best time to seek legal representation and an attorney for a car accident, the best time to speak to a lawyer is as soon as you have received medical care after the accident. NST Law is committed to working hard for our clients. Our team has recovered more than $2 billion in settlement and verdicts. We can help you obtain the compensation you deserve following an auto accident. 

Our experienced attorneys have the knowledge and expertise to represent you in any personal injury case. Call the Champs today and learn more about legal representation following a car accident.