The High Cost of Delaying Medical Treatment

Better safe than sorry. So goes the old saying, and it is particularly applicable when someone is injured and tries to decide whether to get medical attention. Foregoing treatment of something seemingly minor may result in a serious long-term health problem.

Of course in an emergency time is of the essence. At the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident or similar catastrophe, delay in medical attention could cause disability or death.

Where it becomes dicier is when the severity of the injury may not be so obvious, like with a closed head injury, whiplash in a minor car accident, localized burn or dog bite.

External injuries like burns, puncture wounds or cuts should be seen by medical personnel even if they seem minor because of the risk of infection or scarring from inadequate cleansing or other medical attention.

A blow to the head in an accident or fall can cause a concussion without outwardly serious symptoms, but immediate medical attention should be sought to prevent permanent or long-term injury. At the hospital, doctors can perform tests to check for internal bleeding in the brain or other damage, initiating treatment that may prevent further harm. For example, rest and other treatment for a minor brain injury may prevent permanent damage to sight or hearing.

For any injury that seems inconsequential today, only an experienced doctor can examine the victim and warn him or her about what future symptoms to watch for that could be signs of more serious harm.

If you aren't sure whether an injury is an emergency, treat it as an emergency. Call 911. Go to the emergency room.

Avoiding treatment may mask the severity of an injury and if it was caused by the negligence or malicious behavior of another person, delay could make the need for taking legal action less apparent. Many lawsuits have legal deadlines for filing.

In the currently bad economy, people who are unemployed or without insurance may avoid medical treatment for injuries because of the high cost. Medical expenses may be recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit, however. Anyone with a suspected injury should seek medical treatment first to prevent further harm, and then when the condition is stable enough, contact an experienced lawyer to discuss your rights and remedies under the law.