Should you go to the ER or urgent care after an automobile accident?

Should you go to the ER or urgent care after an automobile accident?

Feb 01, 2024

The emergency room (ER) and urgent care clinics serve different purposes when treating injuries sustained in an automobile or motorcycle accident. The ER is equipped to handle serious, critical injuries that require immediate trauma care, while urgent care near you can treat minor to moderate injuries. Where to seek medical attention depends on factors like injury severity, insurance coverage, and convenience.

Evaluating Injury Type and Severity

Start by tuning into your body and evaluating your pain levels immediately after the accident. Are you having trouble moving your neck? Do you feel sharp stabbing pain when you try to get out of the car? Any extreme pain, immobility, numbness, or visible deformity likely signals a serious injury. Head, neck, back, and torso pain must be addressed promptly, as they can indicate traumatic brain injuries, spinal damage, or internal bleeding.

Monitor pain levels over the next 24 hours. Injuries like whiplash or sprains may not be apparent right away due to adrenaline. The days following the accident are when you’ll start to feel muscle soreness, headaches, stiffness, and other issues caused by strains, sprains, or soft tissue injuries. Pay attention to any pain that persists and intensifies over time, as that likely merits medical evaluation.

Also note any bruising, cuts, scrapes, or lacerations sustained in the collision. While minor surface abrasions can be treated at home, deep cuts and gashes need stitches and antibiotics to avoid complications like infection. Heavy bleeding or extensive bruising can signal a more complex soft tissue or internal injury. Seek prompt medical care for these.

Finally, look out for delayed symptoms like vision changes, intense headaches, memory problems, nausea, tingling extremities, muddled thinking, and difficulty concentrating in the days and weeks after the crash. These warrant medical assessment for potential concussion or brain trauma. Any post-accident symptom that worsens or persists warrants seeing a doctor. Catching injuries maximizes treatment outcomes.

Types of Injuries to Watch For

Some common injuries to watch out for after a car accident include:

  • Whiplash – Caused by the neck jolting back and forth, whiplash may not produce symptoms until hours or days later. Stiffness, reduced range of motion, headaches, and shoulder and arm pain are typical. Whiplash ranges from mild to severe.
  • Concussions – The brain hitting the inside of the skull can cause concussion. Symptoms like headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and cognitive issues may immediately appear or take time to manifest. Repeated concussions are particularly dangerous.
  • Sprains & Strains – Strains are injuries to muscles or tendons, while sprains affect ligaments. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and reduced mobility. The severity depends on how many fibers are damaged.
  • Broken Bones – Fractures from high-impact collisions may be obvious with visible deformity or subtle with just pain and swelling. Broken bones require prompt realignment and immobilization.
  • Back & Neck Injuries – Compression fractures, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and other back/neck trauma can occur. Symptoms range from muscle spasms to extreme pain and neurological damage.
  • Internal Organ Damage – Impact on the abdomen can bruise, rupture, or lacerate organs like the spleen, liver, kidneys, and intestines. Indirect blows can also tear organ tissue. Symptoms like pain, vomiting blood, fainting, and low blood pressure indicate urgent medical care is needed.

Knowing the wide range of potential injuries underscores the importance of always getting checked out at a highly capable emergency room after an accident, even if you feel fine initially due to adrenaline. Our emergency room is fully equipped with advanced imaging technology, specialized trauma equipment, and experienced emergency doctors and nurses ready to diagnose and treat accident injuries at any hour. Getting promptly evaluated at Ascent ER ensures any hidden injuries are caught early and treated properly for the best outcome. We have all the resources to thoroughly assess and care for the full range of injuries seen in collision victims. Do not risk your health – come to our ER to be evaluated after any accident, no matter how minor it may seem.

When to Choose the ER After an Auto Accident

You should go to our emergency room near you if you have sustained any serious, life-threatening injuries in a vehicle collision. Head, neck, and back injuries should be promptly evaluated in the emergency room to rule out spinal damage or internal bleeding. Deep lacerations, broken bones, and injuries with heavy bleeding all necessitate emergency care to stop blood loss and begin trauma treatment. Signs of a concussion or internal organ damage also mean you need the advanced imaging technology, specialists, and critical treatment capabilities of the ER. For example, after automobile accidents, some signs of injury that always require emergency medical care include key features like loss of consciousness, confusion, difficulty breathing, chest pains, pain in the head or neck, deformity to limbs, migraines or seizures, blurred vision, etc. The emergency room is fully equipped and trained to provide rapid, lifesaving trauma care and stabilize critically injured patients in the aftermath of a serious accident. When in doubt, it is better to err on the side of caution and go to the emergency room.

When Urgent Care May Suffice

For minor to moderate injuries sustained in a car or motorcycle accident, urgent care may be suitable for treatment. Cuts and abrasions that require cleaning and simple bandaging can often be treated at an urgent care clinic. Muscle strains or sprains that do not have severe swelling or debilitating pain may also be managed and wrapped at an urgent care facility. However, it is recommended always to call ahead to confirm that the urgent care center has the capabilities and resources to adequately assess and treat your particular injuries before visiting. If not, go to the nearest emergency room instead.


In conclusion, listening to your body and evaluating your specific pain, symptoms, and injury severity will help determine whether urgent care or our emergency room near you is the right medical facility after a vehicle collision. In most cases, it is best to seek medical attention in the emergency room right away after an automobile or motorcycle accident. Our emergency in Houston is fully equipped to assess your injuries accurately, provide rapid trauma care, and conduct needed imaging and testing to determine if you have any life-threatening or critical injuries that require emergency treatment. Do not risk your health by delaying emergency care. For your safety after a collision, go directly to the ER near you to get thoroughly checked out. The doctors at Ascent Emergency Room are specially trained to treat accident victims and can quickly diagnose and treat any serious injuries you may have sustained. When in doubt, or if you notice any concerning or worsening symptoms, you should get checked out at the emergency room, where critical trauma care is available 24/7.

Are you looking for an emergency room in Houston, TX? At Ascent Emergency Room, we care about your health and their emergency needs. We are located just a little away from you and provide exceptional and comprehensive emergency care appointments for the surrounding Houston area:

  • (Southampton) University Place
  • Rice Village
  • Bellaire
  • Old Braeswood
  • Gridiron
  • Brookhaven
  • Southside
  • Riverside Terrace
  • Greater Third Ward
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  • Westmoreland Houston
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