You are driving down the road minding your own business when all of a sudden you are in a car accident. It happens in a flash. Fear, shock, anger, and many more emotions are all coming over you. Your thoughts are racing faster than your body can keep up. All the above is a normal reaction. Soon things will slow down, the body and mind will adapt. What should your next steps be?
I am going to say that this is a minor car collision and you are safe with no immediate visible injuries. This is more common and you will be handling things on your own in terms of collecting information. Following these first steps to ensure proper handling of the accident seen. Think of the mnemonic “PIP”.
1) Police. Call the police to have them come out and document the scene and take any statements that need to be collected. Your insurance company and a lawyer will need this report to proceed with claims. Without this report, you could have many difficulties going forward. Even if the police respond slowly, do not leave.
2) Insurance information collection. Exchange insurance ID cards and write everything down on it. My best advice is to take a picture of the front and back of the card. Also get the person’s phone number and if it’s a cell, call the number right there. If they give you a wrong number you can fix it right there. If they give you another bad number they could be giving you bad information from the start and you need to notify the police when they arrive at the scene.
3) Photos. Take pictures of your car and their car. Include not only the damages in the picture but the street and intersection where the collision occurred. I also like to take a photo of their plates as well. Too much information is never going to hurt you, it’s the lack of information that causes problems.
After you have left the scene all the calls will begin for you now. Call your insurance company first thing and provide them any of the information they request. Do not wait to call on another day. I think your next call should be to a personal injury lawyer. This is why. This one call will save you many more calls down the line. A good lawyer will have repair shops, doctors, and rental car companies ready to step in and help. The office will make the calls for you and set things up. To me, it’s well worth the money. Whether you’re at fault or not the lawyer will protect your interests going forward. You can go through your insurance company if you’re more comfortable. It’s just a matter of choice.
You have handled the scene and made the necessary calls now what? Well, it’s time to get checked out by a doctor. A chiropractor can handle this from the first exam, through treatment, and at the time of release. Let’s say pain is slowly starting to settle in, which is common a few hours after a collision. Your body has gone through trauma and may have been pushed past its limits, causing a sprain or strain to an area. Whiplash is a strain to your neck and can slowly increase in pain and stiffness over days. Each day can be worse and worse. The first office visit to a chiropractor will include a full physical, a check for range of motion in the spine and x-rays. An x-ray not only rules out fractures to bones, but it will also show if a sprain has changed a bone or a joint’s natural position. This first visit is to get a baseline of how you are feeling. If you are in pain the cause will be identified and a course of treatment will be explained. It is best to get treatment as soon as possible, as this can help reduce the time you are in pain and promotes healing. Even if you have no pain the day of the collision it is still best to see a chiropractor because they will be at the ready to help you if or when the pain sets in. A good thing to have on your auto policy is med pay. This will cover the cost of care up to a certain amount that you elect. The best amount of coverage to have is $5000. In most cases, this will cover all your chiropractic care from start to finish. Some chiropractors will take a patient based on a future settlement, but this is not something every chiropractor will do. Having the med pay is the best bet and the rates are not very much.
The main thing to do at this point is to focus on healing. Ice sore or painful spots for the first two to three days. Take it easy and don’t overdue activities. Your body it still injured and not ready to be pushed. It is very important to make all your scheduled appointments with your doctor. Your first phase of treatment is to address your pain, phase two is to promote proper healing and the final phase is to strengthen weakened and damaged muscles. Treatment will be over many weeks but that is to help you. The goal of the doctor and you is to get you back to how you were functioning before the collision as fast and as safely as possible. Be patient with the care. Even if the pain has left, stay in care. A doctor knows you are still healing and plans for that during care. Stopping your care before the doctor releases you raises your chances of the injury returning in the future. Trust and invest in your care.
In conclusion, an auto collision happens in the blink of an eye, which causes a disruption to your daily routine for many weeks. Doing your due diligence at the beginning is key to proceed smoothly. Adding med pay to your auto policy can make the process of paying for health care a no stress situation. Follow up with a doctor as soon as possible to limit pain and start the healing process. Keep to the plan outlined by your doctor, even when the pain is gone. Limit your activities to allow your body to heal properly.
My hope is this you never have to put the steps above into action, but having a plan ahead of time can prepare you for the best results. Print this article out and store in your car as a guide for help. Be safe and stay healthy.
Dr. Travis Early is a chiropractic physician, husband and father of 2. He focuses on the natural way of healing and believes that the best medicine is the natural process of the body healing itself. Dr. Early also takes the time to help his patients understand why they are having pain, how the body works, and what he can do to help. His treatment plans not only include care at the office but also how to continue care at home.