You’ve just been in a car accident – now what? Car accidents may range from mild with non-urgent injuries to severe disasters. Many people in car accidents fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, and determining whether they need emergency medical care or a cheaper walk-in clinic might not be easy. A Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer can help you decide what the best course of action may be.
People injured in car accidents often go to a hospital emergency room or an urgent care center for treatment. With the rising costs of medical care, more and more people are choosing cheaper urgent care centers over hospitals, but this is not always possible. Since car accidents are covered by auto insurance rather than health insurance, certain urgent care centers will not accept patients for car accident injuries. Injured patients often must get treatment from a hospital, which is usually more expensive.
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What’s the Difference Between Going to a Hospital and Urgent Care After an Accident?
Urgent care centers and hospitals share a lot in common – they’re a medical space you can visit for treatment. But they have notable differences. Hospitals accept a wide variety of patients, often under dire circumstances. In a triage instance, your injury can mean waiting hours in an emergency waiting room. Urgent care centers, as the name implies, take on patients in urgent need of treatment, but the urgency does not usually rise to the same level as an emergency room.
Hospitals are larger, staffed by more doctors and nurses, and have more medical equipment to help treat patients. As such, hospitals and emergency rooms are more capable of treating numerous patients with various needs. If your injuries from a car accident are severe and require extensive treatment, or if you’ve got a bone or two sticking out, a hospital would probably be your best bet.
Urgent care is designed more for people who need treatment soon, but their injuries are not dire or very time sensitive. If you tweaked your back, an urgent care is your best bet. There is usually no emergency room in an urgent care center. Do not go to urgent care if you are bleeding out after a car wreck.
Urgent care is more appropriate for lesser injuries, and treatment is more specifically tailored to routine or common injuries. Bumps, bruises, and minor cuts or lacerations are commonly treated in urgent care. Since urgent care centers are much smaller than hospitals, testing, imaging, and equipment are more limited.
Wait times are a major consideration for people seeking medical attention after a car crash. Both hospitals and urgent care centers are known for making people wait despite their pressing medical needs. Obviously, you want to minimize your wait time as much as possible.
While hospitals often make patients wait before being seen by a doctor, they will prioritize patients in dire need. If you are badly injured after a car accident and rushed to the emergency room at the hospital, you will probably be seen immediately. If you walk in with a headache that you think might be a concussion but you are otherwise stable, you will probably have to wait a bit.
Urgent care centers are more likely to make you wait because they usually do not give priority based on emergencies. If you walk into urgent care with an obvious emergency, they are more likely to send you to the nearest hospital rather than make you wait in their waiting room.
Costs and Billing
According to a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), hospitals must stabilize patients regardless of their ability to pay. Urgent care centers are not bound by EMTALA, and they often do not accept third-party insurance (e.g., auto insurance).
After a car accident, auto insurance usually pays first, and health insurance pays for anything left over. This is usually not negotiable, meaning you cannot simply choose to use your health insurance if you also have valid auto insurance.
Auto insurance often takes a long time to process payments, and urgent care centers would be left waiting for months. Most urgent care centers operate with very narrow profit margins, and they cannot afford to wait so long for payments to process. As such, they only accept payment from health insurance.
If you enter an urgent care center for injuries related to a car accident, they might turn you away. They are not required to treat you under EMTALA and might not accept auto insurance. Consult your car accident attorney to make sure you’re going to the right place.
Where to Go for Treatment After a Car Crash
After a car accident, you must decide where to go for treatment. For some people, this decision is made for them. First responders might immediately take accident victims to the hospital with severe injuries.
If your injuries are less severe and you can leave the accident scene on your own, you might want to go to urgent care. However, this might not be possible. Since many urgent care centers will not take car accident victims because they will not accept auto insurance, you might end up at the hospital anyway.
Hospitals tend to be very expensive compared to urgent care. Many people want to go to urgent care because they know their injuries are not severe and cannot afford a big hospital bill. Unfortunately, until our healthcare system undergoes a major overhaul, many drivers are given little choice in the matter.