What To Do if in a Car Accident: Helpful Tips

Dr. Jess Barr Desbrow, DC

The proper steps to getting good healthcare, reducing pain, and rehabilitating from injuries after an auto accident are not intuitive.  Educating yourself on how insurance coverage and legal matters work in car accidents is crucial to fearlessly embracing your return to feeling great.
In the US, a car accident results in an injured person every 14 seconds.  More than 25% of all car drivers are involved in car accidents in a five-year period.  Whether you’ve just been in an accident, or want to be prepared for this possibility, there are important steps you must follow to play the game right.
People often feel pains within days of the accident, though it can be up to months for all the symptoms to really settle in.  Regardless of the level of trauma, it is advisable to seek experienced care to be certain your recovery is prompt and complete.
The worst you thing you can do is nothing.  Often with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories, it is not that hard to get back to feeling about 80% better.  But that last 20% may never come without good hands-on restorative care and rehabilitation.  And please do not neglect care for little ones that may have been involved, even if they can’t tell you how they feel.
Because the medico-legal process following an impact can feel just as traumatic as the accident itself, I do my best to help guide patients through the process.  Here is a summary of seven steps to take following a car accident to ensure proper care and maximum cost coverage:

  1. Just after impact, exchange insurance information with the other driver and take pictures if you can. Call the police, but don’t be surprised if they do not come to the scene.
  2. If you are severely injured, go to the emergency room.  If not, then don’t, and save your Personal Injury Protection (PIP, usually about $15,000) for your recovery and rehabilitation in the months to come.
  3. Contact your insurance company to file a claim.  Find out exactly what your coverage is for your particular situation.  Learn what the coverage is for your PIP, how much insurance the at-fault driver has, and if you have coverage on your policy for an underinsured motorist (UIM).  Get all the facts now, and it will help you understand how the process is going to work for you and your healthcare providers.
  4. Do not settle with any agents that contact you, unless you are 100% confident that you feel perfect and will stay that way. It is not uncommon for you to get a call or a visit within a few days or weeks of your accident from an agent (from the at-fault driver’s company) trying to get you to “settle” for a few hundred dollars.  Though the money will be tempting, this is a legal tactic for you to declare the case over, and unless you believe yourself to be feeling 100%, with no doubt whatsoever- DO NOT take this bait.  And remember, NO RECORDED STATEMENTS, as they can only be used against you.
  5. As soon as possible, contact a Chiropractor, Naturopath, or Medical Doctor that is familiar with managing auto accidents, and is open to referring you to other practitioners for the best possible care.  Do not delay.  Be diligent with your treatment plan so that you can get back to 100% as quickly as possible.  It is also important for your insurance company to see that you are taking your recovery seriously.

FYI: It is not necessary to go through a Medical Doctor to get referred to hands-on care.  Your auto insurance will cover you to see a Chiropractic Doctor, Naturopathic Doctor or an Acupuncturist.  Massage and Physical Therapy are often helpful modalities, but do require a prescription, which you can get from any of the doctors (just not the Acupuncturist). I personally think a blend of several modalities is the most beneficial.

  1. If your case becomes complicated and you are concerned about exceeding your coverage, contact an Attorney.  There are several criteria to consider in choosing the right lawyer, but that bridge can be crossed when the time comes.  There is no need to rush into this step if things seem to be running along fairly smoothly.
  2. Keep a daily log of the amount of time you spend dealing with all elements of the car accident.  Document everything from the time on the phone with agents, the auto shop, providers and lawyers, to your appointments, as well as how you are feeling each day.  This will all be very helpful in your final settlement.

Please pass this on to your friends and family, whether they have recently dealt with an accident, or just to be best prepared for the possibility.

Questions or comments can always be directed toward Dr. Jess Barr Desbrow, DC.  Details of her practice are found at www.HealthyJess.com.

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