Guest Blog Alert! Topic: How Long is Too Long to Seek Medical Treatment?

I'm excited to announce that today's article features a guest writer! Our contributor is Martin Ginsburg, R.N., a paralegal nurse consultant with MarGin Consulting here in Raleigh. Mr. Ginsburg has a unique and highly specialized background; he boasts a wealth of experience and expertise from years spent as a full-time nurse, and he now spends his time operating from the legal perspective. Being able to look at an injury and its resulting treatment both from the medical side and the legal side is a rare ability indeed, and we're very grateful that Mr. Ginsburg has agreed to contribute to our blog here at Felton Banks.

For today's article, I asked Mr. Ginsburg a question that I interact with on an almost daily basis; how long is too long to seek medical treatment after an accident? Adjusters seem to look for treatment the same day, and immediately after the accident if possible. But it's all too common that an injured client doesn't feel any pain until the next day, or even several days later. With this in mind, the only advice I can give is from the legal side of things. Since the top priority in a personal injury claim is always to get healthy again, we greatly appreciate Mr. Ginsburg's willingness to offer his thoughts from the medical side. So without further ado...

How long is too long to wait to get medical treatment after an accident?

There really isn’t much of a rule as much as there is the patient’s own impressions of an injury.

Anything that isn’t right ought to be examined and, if necessary treated, as soon as possible. Like anything else, the worse things are the faster things get even worse.

Being examined immediately after an accident may not give a treating provider enough information to know what is actually wrong. Swelling that causes pain can take some time to develop. The human body is pretty good at fixing itself, if an injury isn’t more than the body can handle. Some people choose to wait anywhere from a few hours to even a week or so after an injury to seek treatment.

I’m a medical and cardiac critical care nurse by experience and have worked with quite a few patients who have had open heart surgery. The teaching I have been doing for more than 20 years is basically that pain is a good thing. It tells us when something’s wrong.

Once we know something’s wrong, though, pain needs to be controlled to help healing take place. After an accident it is normal to feel sore or stiff. Sometimes this is just a minor injury that will require no treatment more than ice and rest to get better in a few days.

There’s the rub; if the pain, soreness, or stiffness gets worse despite doing the normal at home treatment a qualified treating professional should be seen as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of something treatable becoming something permanent.

I would add, from a nursing perspective, that any injury involving a joint (which would include shoulders, ankles, knees, hips, and yes, spines) should be examined as quickly as possible. There is a high risk of worsening the injury if it isn’t examined and treatment strategies put in place soon after the injury.

Treatment could be anything from rest and ice to surgery but should be guided by a professional. A sprained ankle that isn’t rested could become a torn ligament instead of just a muscle sprain. A strained or sprained shoulder could become a rotator cuff injury if not treated properly.

I don’t want to frighten people into seeking medical examinations and treatment where it isn’t necessary, but I want people to understand that if they choose to wait, there comes a point – sooner rather than later – where waiting is potentially devastating.

Again, we really appreciate Mr. Ginsburg's willingness to contribute to our blog. If you've been in an accident, or if you have questions or concerns, pick up the phone and call or fill out our contact form here. Thanks, and stay safe out there!