Should I Get An MRI After A Car Accident?

Patient Receiving An Mri After A Car Accident

Car accidents often result in obvious injuries like cuts, bruises, or fractures, but what about the injuries you can’t see? Not all car accident injuries become apparent right away. Some might feel severe pain and discomfort and develop symptoms days or even weeks after the accident, raising concerns about potential complications–damage to soft tissues, internal injuries, and neural disruptions.

While a general check-up can identify many post-accident complications, unseen injuries can sometimes be the most concerning, especially when you feel symptoms like dizziness or headache, which raises the question, “Should I get an MRI after a car accident?”

What Is An MRI?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. MRI machines use a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create images of your internal body parts.   X-rays also create internal images of your body, but they are distinctly different from MRIs.  For example, x-rays are great for determining if a bone is broken.  However, an x-ray cannot confirm if soft tissue is injured.   Soft tissues include muscles, tendons, and other connective tissues in the body. Soft tissue injuries are among the most common injuries sustained in car accidents. We often refer to some types of soft injuries as whiplash.

What Will An MRI Show?

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that produces detailed images of the body’s soft tissues, bones, and organs. MRI scans can provide valuable insights into injuries and damages that may not be visible to car accident victims through other diagnostic methods like X-rays.

Soft Tissue Injuries

One of the primary strengths of an MRI is its ability to visualize soft tissue injuries clearly. These injuries include:

  • Muscle Strains or Tears: Damage to muscles or tendons.
  • Ligament Sprains or Tears: Injuries to ligaments, such as the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
  • Bulging or Herniated Disc: Injuries to the discs between the vertebrae in the spine, which can press on nerves and cause pain.
  • Bone Injuries: While X-rays are commonly used to diagnose bone fractures, MRIs can more clearly detect certain types of bone injuries, especially stress fractures or bone bruises.

Brain And Head Injuries

After a car accident, especially with a blow to the head, an MRI may identify:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Including concussions and more severe forms of TBI.
  • Brain Bleeding or Hemorrhage: Blood collecting in or around the brain.
  • Brain Contusions: Bruises on the brain tissue.

Spinal Cord And Nerve Injuries

MRIs can detect damage or compression of the spinal cord and nerves resulting from herniated discs or other spinal injuries. These may cause symptoms like numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms or legs.

Presence Of Foreign Bodies

If the accident resulted in debris entering the body, an MRI could help locate such foreign objects, especially if embedded in soft tissues.

In addition to these findings, the MRI report will include detailed observations by a radiologist, who interprets the images and provides a professional opinion on any abnormalities observed.

When Should I Consider Getting An MRI After A Car Accident?

After a car accident, the decision to get an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) should be based on a combination of medical symptoms, the advice of healthcare professionals, and the nature of the accident itself.

Persistent Pain

If you’re experiencing continuous pain, especially in the neck, back, or joints, a doctor will likely advise you to get an MRI to help identify soft tissue injuries or other internal problems that might be the cause.

Neurological Symptoms

Signs like numbness, tingling, limb weakness, or other neurological changes can indicate nerve compression or damage, which an MRI can help diagnose.

Head Injuries

Symptoms like dizziness, persistent headaches, confusion, memory issues, or any loss of consciousness might warrant an MRI to check for traumatic brain injuries or other related concerns.

Inconclusive Or Contradictory Results From Other Tests

If you’ve already had tests like X-rays that either don’t provide a clear picture or contradict clinical findings, an MRI might be advised for a more detailed view.

Severity Of The Accident

If the accident was really bad or if there were high speeds involved, even if you think you’re okay, there could be serious injuries that haven’t shown any symptoms yet. An MRI can help in early detection.

It’s important to note that while an MRI is a powerful diagnostic tool, it’s not always necessary for every car accident victim. Unwarranted MRIs can lead to unnecessary medical expenses and might not change the treatment approach. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional regarding your symptoms and the necessity of an MRI after a car accident.

Possible Reasons To Not Get An MRI After A Car Accident

Although MRIs are highly useful diagnostic tools, there are a few reasons why you might decide not to undergo this procedure after a car accident.

The Cost Of The MRI

Understandably, the cost of an MRI can be a significant concern for many individuals. MRIs are not inexpensive, and the price can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on various factors. However, it’s essential to recognize that an MRI can be a wise choice regarding your health.

If an MRI helps diagnose injuries sustained in a car accident, it can lead to tailored treatment plans that facilitate healing and alleviate discomfort. In such cases, the money spent on an MRI is an investment in your well-being, potentially enabling you to recover more effectively.

Medical Necessity

In the aftermath of a car accident, it’s crucial to remember that a defendant’s car insurance company is only obligated to cover medical bills for treatment deemed “reasonable and necessary.” Your doctor’s recommendation for an MRI should be based on a genuine medical need, such as symptoms or other findings that suggest your injuries are more severe. 

If your healthcare provider believes that an MRI is essential for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, it increases the likelihood that the insurance company will consider covering the cost. Insurance companies will be less inclined to pay for MRIs that aren’t linked to your car accident injuries or medical condition.

Car Insurance Limitations

Car insurance limitations impact the extent of medical treatment you can receive following a car accident. In many states, including Texas, the minimum policy limit for car insurance is $30,000. Unfortunately, this amount may fall short of covering medical expenses incurred after a severe car accident.

For instance, you may face financial challenges if you have hospital bills amounting to $45,000 and the defendant’s car insurance coverage is limited to $30,000. This is why it’s advisable to consider additional coverage options like underinsured motorist coverage and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) if available. These other coverages can provide added financial protection, ensuring that you can access necessary medical treatment and cover associated expenses beyond the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

Other Health Concerns

MRI scans are generally safe, but they are not entirely without risk. Some individuals may experience claustrophobia or anxiety during the procedure, as MRIs require patients to remain still in a confined space for an extended period.

Additionally, if you have certain medical conditions or are pregnant, specific considerations and potential risks may be associated with MRI scans. It’s crucial to discuss any pre-existing health concerns with your healthcare provider before undergoing an MRI to ensure your safety and well-being.

Will Getting an MRI Scan Strengthen My Car Accident Case?

An MRI provides detailed images of soft tissue injuries, such as tears in muscles, tendons, or ligaments, and conditions like herniated discs that might not be evident on X-rays. This clear documentation of injuries can offer tangible evidence, strengthening your personal injury claim by demonstrating the exact nature and extent of your injuries and helping to establish a direct link between the accident and your condition.

Furthermore, MRI results can assist medical experts in predicting future medical treatment, a crucial factor when negotiating settlements or legal claims in court.

However, there’s a flip side. If the MRI does not reveal significant injuries, it could be used by the opposing side to contest the severity of your car accident injuries and potentially reduce settlement amounts.

Additionally, the cost and necessity of the MRI can become points of contention, with the defendant’s insurance company potentially arguing that you didn’t need an MRI, especially if symptoms were minor or other cheaper or simpler diagnostic tests weren’t considered. 

Free Consultation With A Car Accident Lawyer

A car accident injury can be overwhelming, especially when faced with medical decisions like getting an MRI scan. An experienced car accident lawyer can guide you every step of the way. We can help you understand the potential legal implications of your MRI results, advise you on dealing with insurance companies, and ensure you’re taking all the necessary steps to build a strong car accident case.

Allbee Law Firm’s legal team can also connect you with trusted medical professionals to ensure you receive the care you need. You don’t have to figure this all out on your own. Let our experienced legal team stand by your side, advocating for your rights and seeking the compensation you deserve.

Reach out today at (972) 848-4848 and let us help you make informed decisions about your car accident case. 


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