According to estimates from the National Safety Council, some 4.5 million Americans were seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2018. That’s in addition to the 40,000 who were killed in such accidents.
It should come as no surprise that multiple two-ton hunks of steel, colliding while traveling at a speed of 60 mph, can be so deadly. However, many people simply aren’t prepared for the aftermath. Read on to learn the steps you should take after really bad car crashes.
1. Seek Medical Treatment
If you have sustained an acute injury in the accident — a broken bone, a concussion, lacerations, whiplash, or any other serious issue — you’ll be tended to onsite by EMTs or paramedics. They will also likely take you to the hospital for a more thorough going-over and any additional treatment that may be required.
Even if you were able to walk away from the crash with nothing more than some scrapes and bruises, you should still make an appointment with your primary care physician. Alternatively, you could visit an urgent care clinic. There are some injuries that may not manifest themselves right away, but that could cause pain and physical disability down the line.
Either way, make sure to follow through with all treatment protocols. This includes physical or occupational therapy, should those be required. Do not resume working or other normal activities until the doctor has given you the all-clear.
In some cases, you may want to work with dedicated auto injury doctors. They have devoted their career to taking care of accident victims. Their approach to your treatment, and their understanding of the difficulties you face, is informed by that dedication.
2. Monitor Your Mental Health
Even a fender-bender can be stressful, and the more serious the accident, the greater the emotional toll it will take on you. In fact, it’s not unusual to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a wreck. That’s especially true if there were fatalities or very serious, debilitating injuries.
It’s important to open up about your emotional state, whether that’s to your spouse, a trusted friend, your doctor, a clergy member, or a therapist. There’s no shame in seeking professional help after an incident of this magnitude. Therapy can be instrumental in helping you recover and preventing auxiliary issues, such as drug or alcohol dependence.
3. Cut Yourself Some Slack
You might find yourself surprised at how shaky and upset you feel following an accident, even weeks or months later. Developing a fear of driving again, or even riding in a motor vehicle, isn’t unheard of. Plenty of accident victims feel skittish about getting behind the wheel.
The injuries you have sustained may also take some time to heal. Although it’s frustrating that pain and limited mobility are holding you back, know that the healing process is just that — a process. And aside from following all the directives issued by your health care providers, there’s nothing you can do to speed this along.
So be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve lost some abilities or are constrained by emotional difficulties. Accept help from family and friends during this trying time. Rushing your recovery — physical or emotional — is only going to set you back further.
4. Document Everything
Hold on to all paperwork and documentation related to your motor vehicle accident and the treatment you seek as a result of the injuries you have sustained. It’s a good idea to keep a journal or log of how you are feeling physically, the progress you make in physical therapy, and any side effects you experience.
Note down all conversations you have with law enforcement, medical providers, insurance adjusters, and attorneys. Better yet, record them. In the event that you do decide to take legal action, having all of this material will be crucial to your case.
Take pictures, too. Photos of the accident scene are important, since they can help establish what the road and weather conditions were like. Don’t forget to take snaps of your injuries as well. Photographic evidence might make or break your lawsuit, should you decide to go down that path.
5. Consult with an Attorney
To sue or not to sue, that is the question. If your accident was caused by another party’s negligence, you may want to consider bringing legal action against that party.
Being injured in a car crash can be an expensive proposition, even if you are covered by insurance. You might be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and lost income, both present and future. It’s also possible that you could seek damages for pain and suffering, as well.
Personal injury lawyers offer complimentary, no-obligation consultations, so there’s no harm in meeting with an attorney. They can review the facts of your situation, advise you as to the likelihood of winning a settlement or trial, and talk to you about the extent of economic damages you might be able to expect. If you decide not to pursue legal action, you will do so from an informed perspective.
6. Accept That Your Life Has Been Altered
Serious accidents and the damage they do to your mind, body, and spirit can, unfortunately, come to define an era of your life. Many victims talk about “before the accident” and “after the accident” as a way of making sense of the changes.
Accepting that your life might never be the same again can be difficult. No one wants to think that they might suffer for the rest of their days with nerve damage, brain damage, partial paralysis, chronic pain or stiffness, difficulty walking, or emotional repercussions like depression or anxiety. While you should always strive to recover, it can be helpful to accept where you are today in order to move forward with your life.
Final Thoughts About Really Bad Car Crashes
In the blink of an eye, your entire life can be irrevocably altered. Maybe you glanced down at your phone to read a text, or maybe it was the other driver’s negligence. No matter what caused the accident, what happens afterward is largely up to you. Chart a course that can help you recover and regain as much happiness and health as possible.
Have you ever been in really bad car crashes? Tell us how the recovery process went for you by leaving a comment below.