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Should You Go to the ER or Urgent Care After a Car Accident?

The shock and surprise of being involved in a car accident can cause you to doubt whether or not you’re really injured (or at least injured enough to seek medical attention).

But it’s important to get to a medical professional immediately if you think you have sustained injuries due to a car accident.

It isn’t worth experiencing longer-term pain just to avoid the initial costs of care, especially if the other driver was at fault and you are able to file the correct insurance claims or even sue if necessary to receive compensation for your medical bills and additional costs.

What Are the Most Common Car Accident Injuries?

The collision between two heavy vehicles certainly poses a danger to the drivers and passengers involved, and many car accidents result in some sort of injury, whether mild or severe. Regardless of your injury, it’s essential to get care after a car accident. Here are some of the most common types of injuries that occur from car accidents.

Whiplash and Neck or Back Injuries

Whiplash is one of the most common minor injuries from car accidents. It may not even manifest for several hours after the car accident or until the next day. Sometimes other neck or back pain immediately or eventually sets in due to the way the body is thrown forward or to the side due to the impact.

Broken Bones

Depending upon the type of accident and the person’s position, bones can easily be broken in a car accident. Suppose you’re in the driver or passenger seat, and your hands come into quick contact with the dashboard. In that case, your wrist or fingers may break, and chest bone breaks are also relatively common due to impact or malfunctioning airbags.

If you suspect a broken bone, try to reduce your movement as much as possible until you can get medical attention.


Burns can also occur from vehicle accidents. Friction from vehicle parts can burn the skin, and actual fires from combustible objects in the car can also cause burns. Another possible cause of burns is the chemicals that airbag systems release during airbag deployment. Some of the most serious injuries that occur in auto accidents are severe burns.

Other Injuries

Sometimes, major cuts, gashes, and other injuries will also occur due to flying objects from another vehicle or defective airbags. If significant bleeding occurs, especially from an artery, get emergency medical attention immediately. Internal bleeding and breathing difficulties are also possible results of an accident and should be handled quickly.

What Are the Differences Between Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centers?

Emergency rooms are exactly what they sound like: medical centers set up for any medical emergency. An emergency room is typically more expensive but usually has access to many more resources for treating various emergency problems.

Many emergency rooms are also connected to hospitals, which means there are partnerships in place that further aid those ERs in handling more cases at once.

Urgent care centers are also special centers for more urgent health needs, but they are more often standalone centers with fewer machines or tools for diagnosing and treating patients.

However, they usually have on-staff doctors and nurses who can treat injuries and handle procedures such as scans of various kinds, tests, and prescriptions. Urgent cares can generally treat bad cuts or potential breaks that need splints or temporary binding until further treatment.

Many urgent care centers have policies that help them decide when to automatically send a patient to the ER because they know that certain conditions will receive better treatment.

Health insurance companies will treat an emergency room and an urgent care center differently, and usually, copays are lower for urgent care. It’s a good idea to know how your insurance plan works so that you aren’t surprised. Also, keep in mind that if you file a successful personal injury claim, you’ll be able to recoup the cost of your medical treatment.

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

Deciding whether to go to the emergency room or urgent care largely depends upon your injuries and where you are.

If you have significant injuries, or your injuries are life-threatening in any way (such as uncontrollable bleeding), it’s best to get emergency room care. If you have a gut feeling that you should lean on the side of caution, follow that intuition and go to the emergency room.

If you are uncertain between the two options and don’t have life-threatening injuries, it may be best to opt for urgent care at first or at least to call one to get their opinion.

Suppose you’re too far from an emergency room to feel comfortable about how long it will take to get there and want to at least get your foot in the door at a facility for a serious injury.

In that case, it’s okay to opt for a nearby urgent care clinic first, but be sure to ask them as soon as possible for a doctor’s opinion on whether you need to be moved to the nearest emergency room.

Consider the waiting times at the options you have. If the wait time at an emergency room is too long and you think an urgent care center might have what you need, then go to urgent care.

You can also call your primary care physician to get their opinion on where you should seek treatment. Whatever you do, don’t let fear of medical costs keep you from getting the immediate medical care you need after a car accident.

Your well-being and health are worth it, and it’s possible that recovering compensation to help cover your medical treatment will be as simple as filing a personal injury claim later on.

Get Connected to Professional Medical Help with 1800 Ask Gary

Getting injured in a car accident can be scary, and it’s difficult to think clearly about what to do next when it occurs. Make it easy on yourself and your loved ones by contacting 1-800-Ask-Gary to get a free consultation with medical professionals who can help.