Should You Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care After an Accident?

After an accident, you should always go to the emergency room. Go to the hospital emergency room by ambulance, and you will go right in without waiting because the hospital can’t keep EMTs waiting around.

Why You Should Go to the Emergency Room After an Accident

Life-threatening emergencies require a visit to the hospital emergency room. In an accident, you will not know if you have a life-threatening emergency which is the most important reason to go to the emergency room and not urgent care.

Because adrenaline may be running through your body, or you may be in shock after an accident, you may not realize you have a serious injury until a couple of hours later.

For instance, an accident may cause a head injury or internal bleeding. You may have a fracture even though you don’t know it at the time of the accident.

Another injury you won’t know about after an accident is a head injury, especially when you have a motorcycle accident. If you had a motorcycle accident, look at your helmet. If there are any scratches on your helmet from the accident, you should definitely go to the emergency room to make sure you don’t have a head injury. For more information about a head injury and symptoms, see our article about a head injury from a motorcycle accident.

This video shows what can happen to your brain from whiplash in a car accident and why you should go to the emergency room to make sure you don’t have a head injury.

What Is Urgent Care?

Urgent care centers provide easy access to healthcare for the times when your primary care physician’s offices are closed.

When Should You Go to Urgent Care?

You should go to urgent care when it’s not an emergency, and you need to see your primary care physician, but the office is closed, or you cannot get an appointment soon.

urgent care advertising on bus - going to urgent care or emergency room?

Symptoms That Can Be Treated at Urgent Care

  • Cold or flu
  • Sore throat or strep throat
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Minor burns (1st Degree burns)
  • Bug stings
  • Non-life-threatening allergic reactions
  • Small lacerations or cuts
  • Vaccinations

What You Should Know About Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers will not have a record of your medical history.

Urgent care centers may have a doctor on staff but may only have a physician assistant or nurse practitioner.

Urgent care should not be used because you want to avoid waiting in the emergency room.

When Should You Go to the Emergency Room?

Some examples of when you should go to the emergency room include:

Accidents – when you should go to the emergency room

Other Symptoms – when you should go to the emergency room

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Convulsions, seizures, or loss of consciousness.
  • Knife or gunshot wounds.
  • Heavy or uncontrollable bleeding.
  • Poisoning.
  • Severe abdominal pain.
  • Severe chest pain or chest pain that lasts longer than two minutes.
  • Heart attack symptoms.
  • Stroke symptoms, such as vision loss, sudden numbness, weakness, slurred speech, or confusion.
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings.
  • Pregnancy-related problems when you can’t reach your doctor.
  • Fever in a newborn less than 3 months old.

Is Urgent Care the Same as the Emergency Room?

No. The hospital emergency room will provide a much higher level of diagnostic care to better diagnose injuries and provide better treatment that is needed after an accident.

Urgent care misses more fractures than a hospital ER.

Urgent care is great when you have a sore throat.

Considerations About Whether to Go to the Hospital ER or Urgent Care

You may have some of the following concerns about whether to go to the hospital ER or urgent care after an accident.

Time Waiting for Treatment

It’s true that you will likely spend more time waiting at the ER than at urgent care. But hospital ERs have become much faster due to computer software for scheduling and triage.

If you go to the hospital ER by ambulance, you won’t wait at all because the EMTs will take you right in through the ambulance entrance. EMTs can’t be waiting around, so you’ll be seen immediately.

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Cost

While the cost of an urgent care visit is less expensive than the emergency room, the cost should not be a consideration when you had an accident, especially if you plan to call a personal injury lawyer.

If you go to the emergency room, you will get a lot more money than what it will cost. Additionally, you will not have to pay any money upfront for the cost of an emergency room visit.

The cost of your medical treatment from a car accident is 100% paid by New York No-Fault insurance, and you won’t even have a co-payment. You may or may not have a $200 one-time deductible per accident.

If you were injured in another kind of accident, medical insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare will pay for your treatment. If you don’t have any of those coverages and don’t have money, the hospital will get you on Medicaid, which can go back retroactively for 90 days.

In a worst-case scenario, we can get a settlement cash advance so you can have some money immediately.

Documenting Your Injuries After an Accident for a Personal Injury Case

A hospital ER will document much more information about your injury in the hospital record than urgent care will.

A hospital ER is more likely to find injuries that may be missed by urgent care.

Insurance companies put aside more money to settle personal injury claims when they have a hospital record in your file than if you only have an urgent care record. This is more important for a smaller claim that doesn’t have a serious injury. But a hospital record is always better.

Quick Consideration to Decide Whether to Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care

Generally, if you need treatment right away, going to the emergency room is probably the best option. However, if you can wait until later, then visiting an urgent care center might make more sense.

But if you have an accident, deciding whether you should go to the emergency room or urgent care is an easy decision, even if you can wait until later. After an accident, you should go to the emergency room.

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Attorney Franckel is a well-known personal injury lawyer, Founding Partner of 1-800-HURT-911® New York, and a former Member Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. He has an Avvo Top 10  Rating, Avvo Client’s Choice Award with all 5-star reviews, Avvo Top Contributor Award, Multi-Million Dollar Trial Lawyers Award, and other awards. See Mr. Franckel’s bio for areas of expertise.

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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is one of the HURT911® Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York; He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

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Robert Plevy, Esq. is one of the HURT911® Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Rob began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.

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