What Do You Need to Report in the Emergency Room following a bicycle or pedestrian accident?
There exists a wealth of advice on the internet describing what a person should do if they’ve been hit by a car – but the immediate aftermath of an accident, when you’re on your way to the emergency room after being struck by a vehicle while walking or cycling, is not the time for extensive checklists. When you are struggling with the stress, pain, trauma, and disorientation of a serious accident, the way forward needs to be simple and clear. So here it is. The first time you see a doctor for your injuries, whether it’s in the emergency room, at an urgent-care center, or with your family physician, there are really only two things you need to remember to communicate in order to protect your rights in any eventual injury claim:
1. Make it clear that a motor vehicle was involved in your accident. Because New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state, every accident victim’s first recourse for the coverage of their medical expenses is the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage on their own insurance policy – or on the policy belonging to a member of their household, if the accident victim does not have their own vehicle to insure. Obviously, if you were in a motor vehicle at the time of your accident, it’s clear that your automotive PIP coverage would apply to your injury treatment, regardless of what any other parties involved in the accident were doing. When you are injured as a pedestrian or cyclist, however, coverage under your car insurance policy is not assumed by default; you need to make it clear that the incident that injured you was specifically an automotive accident in order to trigger your PIP coverage. If that information isn’t included in the record of your initial medical visit, you may have a more difficult time getting the insurance company to cover your treatment.
2. Discuss all of your injuries and symptoms with your medical provider. Especially in an emergency room context, there is a tendency for doctors to focus on the most dangerous or obviously severe injuries that a patient displays. Because pedestrians and cyclists hit by automobiles often suffer particularly severe and numerous injuries, their initial treatment in an emergency room will most likely focus on stabilizing the patient’s condition, stopping any bleeding, immobilizing injured areas to prevent further damage, and pain relief. This makes a certain degree of sense from the perspective of triage, but it’s important to make sure that your less dramatic injuries are not overlooked completely by the medical staff. Even if most of your initial medical care focuses on your most serious injuries, try to ensure that all the injuries you are aware of are at least noted in the record of your visit. Insurance companies will always look for an excuse to minimize the amount they have to pay for a claimant’s injuries, and if you seek compensation for an injury that was not mentioned in your initial medical report, the insurer will probably try to argue that the injury didn’t come from your accident, and thus they don’t have to pay for it.
Due to the severity of the injuries that usually result when a cyclist or pedestrian is struck by a car, the first medical treatment the accident victim receives is often in the ER. However, this isn’t always the case; the shock and adrenaline from the accident might numb the accident victim against the pain of their injuries, making them think they’re not badly hurt until they wake up the next day in agony. An injured cyclist might be more worried about the consequences for missing work or class than about getting checked out by a doctor. Regardless, some accident victims end up seeing their own primary care physician or a doctor at an urgent care center, rather than going to the emergency room, for their initial medical care after being hit by a car. In all cases, the same two priorities hold true: tell them that a motor vehicle was involved in your accident, and make sure they write down every injury symptom you have experienced.
Not all injuries are obvious right away. Once the shock wears off and your body attempts to return to normal, damage that was initially overlooked may become more apparent. This is particularly common with damage to the back, neck, and spine; some patients don’t experience pain associated with these injuries until a few days after the initial damage is sustained. If you notice any new symptoms after your initial medical visit, or if you discover that the doctor who treated you didn’t make note of some of the injuries you described, schedule a follow-up visit with your doctor as promptly as possible, so you can make a more complete account of your injuries.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a serious accident, please contact me or call me at (800) 934-3140 for a free consultation.