Being involved in a car accident can be traumatizing, no matter who’s at fault. It’s hard not to panic in the moments following the initial collision, and in the weeks following the accident, you may be stuck dealing with both physical injuries and the financial impact of the damage done. There’s no easy or surefire way to recover, but everything gets easier if you follow these steps:
After the Accident
In the immediate moments after the accident, it’s important for you to take these steps:
- Get to safety. Your first step has to be to get to safety. If you’re in a car and it’s still drivable, get it to the side of the road as soon as possible. This will not only shield you from further impacts, but will also prevent other accidents from chaining off of yours. If you’re a pedestrian, get out of the road as soon as possible.
- Check on other people in the accident. Next, you’ll want to check for the other people involved in the accident, including any passengers that might be with you and the drivers and passengers of other vehicle. Check to see if everyone is conscious and if anyone seems to be in need of immediate medical attention.
- Contact police and/or emergency services. If anyone is seriously hurt, you need to call emergency medical services right away. If you have some training in emergency aid, you may be able to temporarily help, but it’s much better to rely on the professionals. While you’re at it, call the police and file a report. It’s always a good idea to file a police report about the accident so you have a written record.
- Gather evidence and personal information. As soon as possible, gather evidence about the crash, in whatever ways you can. Take a photo of the other vehicle(s) involved, including license plate numbers, take photos of all the damage to your car, from multiple angles, and write down the names, addresses, and insurance information of the other parties. You may even want to look around for witnesses to the accident.
- Contact a lawyer. It’s also a good idea to contact a lawyer as soon as possible, especially if you were injured, but not at fault. They may be able to help you receive financial compensation for any injuries you sustained, or any damage done to your vehicles.
Seeking Medical Attention
If you’re working with a tight budget, you may be reluctant to seek medical attention for any physical injuries you sustained during the crash. However, it’s vital that you seek medical help right away—and document your progress every step along the way. Your health needs to be your first priority, even before the vehicle crash is financially resolved. If the other driver is found to be at fault, you’ll receive compensation for most (if not all) of the medical costs you incurred in the wake of the accident. In some cases, you may even be able to recover any wages you lost from lost work due to those injuries.
Dealing with the stress and the psychological trauma is a different story. If the accident was particularly devastating, you may be afraid or reluctant to travel in vehicles, or be near the scene of the accident. It’s important for you to be honest about your psychological health, and lean on your friends and family members for extra support during these trying times. Working with a therapist may also be advantageous, depending on the severity of your condition.
For less severe accidents, your biggest problem will likely be the increased stress that comes with not having a vehicle or wondering how the case is going to resolve with insurance companies. In this scenario, coming up with a backup plan, meditating, exercising, and relieving stress with your favorite hobbies can help.
Finally, you’ll need to recover financially. If you’re not at fault, the at-fault drivers’ insurance company should cover everything—you just have to wait for the check to clear. You may also be able to win compensation with a personal injury attorney. If you are at fault, insurance should still protect you, but you may face higher premiums, and may be required to pay for some damages out of pocket. If that’s the case, there’s no real shortcut; you’ll have to tighten down your budget and pick up a side gig (or two) to make some extra cash to cover the difference.
It’s not always easy or straightforward to fully recover after experiencing a car accident, but there’s always hope. Be honest with yourself in terms of your injuries and psychological afflictions, and take the time necessary for those wounds to heal. Even if your budget is tight, you should be able to get support and work your way back to normalcy.
*This article was contributed.