Broken glass and twisted metal surround you. Your head spins. What just happened? You’ve been in a car accident. You check yourself for injuries. Everything seems fine. Nothing hurts. No blood. The cars are mangled, though, so you dial 911. An ambulance arrives and an EMT comes over to check you out. You feel fine and don’t really want to bother with an exam. Should you let the EMT give you a once-over? In this blog post, we explain the reasons why the answer to that question, always, is “yes,” and why you should also go along with any recommendation the EMT makes for taking you to the emergency department at the local hospital.
Why People Refuse the Emergency Medical AttentionAfter a serious accident, many victims refuse emergency medical treatment. There are several lines of thinking that tend to influence this decision:
- “I feel fine.” In the stressful moments after a motor vehicle accident, adrenaline and cortisol course through victims’ bodies. These powerful, natural chemicals associated with humans’ primal survival instincts heighten situational awareness and mask pain. In the short-term, they can trick accident victims into thinking “I feel fine.”
- Fears about the cost of emergency medical treatment. Some people refuse care at the scene and/or an ambulance ride to the emergency department because they worry about the cost of emergency care. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that is not an unreasonable concern—although it’s pennywise and pound-foolish.
- Emergency medical treatment is a hassle. Some victims think a car accident is inconvenience enough. They do not want to take even more time out of their lives to sit for an examination by an EMT or an emergency medicine doctor. They would rather go home and begin addressing the immediate problems an accident creates, like how they are going to commute to work the next day, or how they will afford car repairs.
- Pride and a desire to tough it out. Many people have a mindset biased toward toughness. They figure it’s normal to feel a few aches and pains after an accident, and that seeking emergency medical attention constitutes a sign of weakness or that it’s unnecessary for someone with a high pain threshold like theirs.
The Importance of Emergency Medical TreatmentAll of the reasons above are perfectly normal and understandable. But at Emroch & Kilduff we counsel our clients that even when refusing EMT and/or emergency medical care seems totally logical and reasonable, they should say “yes” to it instead. Here’s why.
- A stress response masks injury. That stress response we mentioned above that makes accident victims feel fine in the short-term tends to wear off. When it does, victims often discover they feel far worse than they initially thought. An EMT can spot immediate signs of injury that a victim may not yet feel (including evidence of traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and shock). An emergency department doctor can take immediate steps to stabilize and minimize the consequences of an injury. To stay safe, victims should err on the side of not believing their bodies when they think they feel fine after an accident.
- Some injuries don’t show symptoms immediately. This goes along with how stress responses mask symptoms. Even if a victim feels perfectly calm and mellow after an accident, that does not mean an injury hasn’t occurred. Some injuries—particularly head injuries—can take hours to manifest symptoms noticeable to the victim. But they may present telltale signs EMTs and emergency medicine docs can spot immediately.
- Emergency medical treatment can help prevent you from making injuries worse. Walking around on broken bones, for example, may add additional soft tissue damage to your injuries. Better to remain safe about the possibility of an injury than sorry to have made it worse.
- Medical treatment provides proof of your injuries. When you seek emergency medical treatment, your providers create records of your condition that may prove critical in legal action down the road. Don’t miss a chance to document your health in those critical moments after an accident.