Sustaining even a minor injury after a car accident can be traumatic, leaving you anxious about getting behind the wheel again. But many auto accidents cause devastating injuries leaving victims needing extensive medical treatment. Others may be unable to work or have severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recovering after an accident can be lengthy and challenging, but there are ways to make it easier.
McAllen personal injury lawyer Dr. Louis Patino draws on his years of experience supporting individuals injured in auto accidents that weren’t their fault and offers advice for ensuring the smoothest possible recovery.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Injuries don’t always manifest symptoms immediately, but early action can identify them or — at the very least — allow you to take preventive measures and understand what signs to look out for. For example, a bump on the head can cause a traumatic brain injury ranging from a mild concussion to a significant brain bleed, and both can occur even if you don’t sustain an open wound. While one is more severe than the other, a concussion is still dangerous and can have a long-term impact if left untreated. It can be tempting to forgo medical treatment if you feel fine — especially if you can’t afford it — but you should always see a doctor to be safe.
The sooner you get the treatment you need, the better your long-term prognosis will be, and the faster you’ll be able to put your accident in the rearview of your mind.
Seeking prompt medical attention also allows you to document your injuries, providing vital evidence if you intend to recover compensation for your bills and lost wages.
Contact Authorities and Document the Scene
The reporting requirements for an auto accident vary by state. Depending on where you live, you may need to report your accident immediately or have several days or weeks to inform the authorities. In any case, all states mandate drivers to report any crash resulting in injuries, death, or property damage. Ideally, you should call the police immediately after the accident so they can document the scene and determine what happened and who is responsible. It’s also helpful to gather evidence — such as photographs or videos of skid marks, vehicle damage, and injuries, and the contact details of any eyewitnesses — to prove who caused the accident. This information is vital for filing an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Notify the Insurance Companies and Consult an Attorney
Speaking to insurance adjusters may be the last thing you want to do while you’re recovering from painful injuries or coping with the trauma of an accident. However, a claim can alleviate your financial burden and ensure you can afford your medical treatment and take the time off work you need to heal.
You should call your insurance provider and report the accident to the other driver’s insurer if they are at fault. They will assign an insurance adjuster to your case to investigate your accident and determine if you have a valid claim.
It’s also worth consulting a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling car accident claims. They can help you by gathering evidence for your claim and negotiating a fair settlement that compensates you for your losses. They will also handle all communications with insurance companies so you can focus on your recovery. Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means you won’t pay legal fees until you win your claim and receive your compensation.
If you file a car accident claim, you must prove your losses — or damages. Hold onto all documents related to your accident, including medical reports, bills, receipts, repair quotes, and payslips.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
Just like you can’t expect flowers to grow if you don’t plant the seeds, you won’t benefit from your medical treatment unless you stick to the prescribed plan. Attending follow-up appointments, taking medication, doing physical therapy exercises, and getting plenty of rest will all support a smooth recovery and minimize the risk of worsening your condition.
Prioritize Your Emotional Healing Too
It’s easy to overlook your emotional well-being if you’re in physical pain, but your mental health is just as vital — if not more so. Most injuries eventually heal, but an auto accident can affect your mental health long after you’ve physically recovered. You may develop PTSD that disrupts your sleep or causes you to relive the trauma whenever you sit in a car — even if you’re not driving. Your accident may even inadvertently impact your loved ones. For example, you might become depressed and withdrawn, which changes your relationships, or your fear of driving might negatively influence your young children, scaring them off ever wanting lessons.
You might want to consider therapy to process your emotions in an open, safe space, but writing how you feel in a journal can also be therapeutic. As the weeks and months go by, it can be encouraging to glance over past entries to see how far you’ve come — which can be tough to appreciate during a lengthy recovery — but even the simple act of getting your feelings out of your head and onto the page can help.
Finally, taking the time to engage in relaxing activities can be a healthy distraction. That doesn’t mean you need to meditate all day, nor does it mean you have to do anything strenuous — you might find it challenging to do even gentle exercise with severe injuries. Sitting outside in the fresh air, drawing or doodling, reading, and completing puzzles can each benefit your physical, mental, or emotional well-being.
Get Additional Support
Never underestimate the power of a supportive network. Support groups and counseling provide a more structured space to share your feelings and receive reassurance and advice from others who have had similar experiences, but a long phone call or catch-up and lunch with a trusted friend can be just as valuable.
Recovery is a journey and doesn’t happen overnight. It also looks different for everyone. These tips can help you find the path that suits you, allowing you to adjust to life after your auto accident as quickly as possible and get the compensation you deserve so you don’t have to worry about the financial impact.