Car accidents are never good and can sometimes be very serious or life-threatening. If this is your first car accident, you may be feeling confused and anxious about what to do. The first step is to address any injuries, both physical and mental, and then start to deal with the rest of it.
The NHTSA reports that more than 36,000 people die each year in fatal car crashes. That number is declining due to stricter government regulations and vehicle safety features included in most new cars and trucks. Another 7,000+ people are injured in car crashes every day.
Address Your Injuries
If you have been in a serious car crash and sustained injuries, you will need to seek medical help immediately. You may have long term medical care and expenses to worry about. Car crash injuries can range from whiplash to severe spine, neck, and back injuries with lasting effects. Some of the more serious injuries to deal with are:
- Head and brain injuries – when your head hits the windshield, the side of the car, the window, or roof of the vehicle in a rollover. At the very least, you could suffer a concussion and need medical attention.
- Broken bones – other serious injuries include broken arms, legs, and ribs. These need to be set by trained medical personnel and then weeks to fully heal.
- Back and spine injuries – these are the worst injuries to sustain in a car accident and may require long term rehabilitative care, and some may never heal fully.
- Mental anguish and trauma – don’t overlook the fact that you have been seriously injured, which can leave you feeling traumatized and scared. You may need professional help to work through these issues.
Seek medical attention if you are injured and give yourself plenty of time to heal. During your recuperation, follow all your doctor’s instructions and eat healthily and stay hydrated. Make sure you get lots of rest.
You may need help with medical expenses or insurance claims. You might consider consulting a professional attorney who deals in these types of cases regularly.
A Fender-Bender or Less Serious Car Crash
If you have been in a car accident and no one is hurt, but the car is damaged, take a deep breath and a moment to be grateful. Although it’s not fun dealing with a car accident, at least you were unharmed.
You may feel a bit disoriented, shocked, or nervous. That is completely normal. After you take a minute to breathe and calm down, you need to address a few things.
Assess the Situation
Is everyone in the car safe? Does anyone have injuries? Check children carefully; not all injuries will be immediately apparent.
- If you can move the vehicle to a safe location, do so. First, check your state laws. In some cases, it is illegal to move a car from an accident scene before the police review it.
- If it safe, put a perimeter up of safety cones or emergency flairs to alert other drivers.
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- Call 911 to alert the police of the accident and wait for their arrival.
When the police arrive, they will ask questions like:
- Who was involved?
- They will ask for your name and contact information and any other drivers involved.
- They will ask specifics about the accident (road and weather conditions, obstacles, etc.).
- They will take down information about the location and take photographs.
Get Information from the Other Driver
Something that is often overlooked by victims of a car crash is getting information from the other driver. Be sure to collect these pieces of data:
- Their name and address.
- Phone number.
- Insurance policy company and policy number.
- License plate number.
When filing a claim for any damages or medical expenses, this information will be critical to getting you paid.
Document the Crash
If you are uninjured and not too traumatized, take a few minutes to jot down complete notes about the crash. Sketch out the entire incident from beginning to end, including any distractions or variant pieces of the puzzle. If you have a cell phone, take complete photos of every angle and both cars. Take down a full description of the other vehicle (make, model, color). Photograph any road signs and nearby landmarks.
All of this information will be handy to use in court if the situation escalates, or with insurance companies when trying to get them to pay your claims. Never admit fault to anyone on the scene, especially the police, even if you know you were to blame. Wait to speak to your lawyer first.
Dealing with the Rest
In the days or weeks following a car crash, you may have to fill out police reports, file claims with the insurance company and fill out other paperwork. You may also have to make a few calls. If your car is damaged, you will need to have it fixed. Call your mechanic to set that up.
Along with the routine tasks of dealing with the aftermath, you may experience some delayed feelings of Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Watch for signs that you are affected. If you aren’t sleeping well, have nightmares, or are feeling heightened emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, or fear, you may have PTSD. Consult a specialist to help treat it.
After the Car Crash
Give yourself time to heal fully after your car crash. Take the steps you need to handle the business side of things and be patient. If you don’t feel comfortable driving right away, give it some time.
One positive note about having a car crash is it often makes the driver more careful in the future. Consider taking a defensive driving course. The more aware you are of your surroundings and other vehicles on the road, the better equipped you will be to handle anything that comes your way.