1. Make sure you and the other driver are safe before getting out of the car. If you are in a busy intersection move out of harm’s way (if possible). Make sure you pull as far as you can to the side of the road.
2. Check for injuries. Most people don’t feel injured immediately after an auto accident because of the adrenaline rush. Be cautious. With every auto accident you are going to have an injury; the forces involved are just too great not to. If an ambulance comes, the EMT’s will check things out. They usually recommend you come with them. If you feel like you can drive home then tell them. If not, go. Better safe than sorry. It will be a pain to deal with the ambulance bill when it comes and your claim hasn’t been paid, but your health is worth the hassle
3. Exchange information. At minimum, you should get their name, telephone numbers, license plate and card numbers, and their insurance information. One of the more innovative things I would recommend besides writing down the above information is to take lots of pictures. Most cell phones these days have cameras. Take pictures of the accident but also take pictures of their driver’s license and insurance card.
4. Call the police. Do this just in case. Truth is, most of the time they just tell you to exchange information. It may not feel necessary to call but you never know. If you call and they can’t help you in time then call back later and file a police report. This will help protect you.
5. Inform your and the other driver’s insurance company. The quicker you get the ball rolling the easier it will be for you. There are two sides to an auto accident claim, the property damage and the bodily injury. The car they should fix quickly. Taking the time to see a doctor about the bodily injury before any decisions are made is important (will discuss next). If the accident was not your fault, you should still let your insurance company know. They can back you up if the other person is either under insured or just a pain to work with. You may also have Med-pay which is an extra writer that covers injuries regardless of who may be at fault.
6. See your chiropractor! Chances are you have some pain or discomfort. Even if you don’t have pain, get an exam. In every auto accident you are dealing with forces that cause tissue damage. Sometimes you don’t feel the problems until months later when weak scar tissue tears and starts the inflammation again. In addition, it is tough to argue with insurance companies unless you get checked out soon after the accident.
7. Ice. The protocol for icing should be 20 minutes maximum on the affected area. You want to feel the cold then burn then ache before it goes numb so only use a paper towel or thin t-shirt between your skin and the ice pack. NEVER USE HEAT after an auto accident. This will feel good while it is on but bring a lot more blood to the area and make the inflammation worse. Increased inflammation will slow down the healing process.
8. How should you pay for your care? This could be its own blog post but I will keep it short. If the accident was not your fault you shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. I am happy to treat people on a lien until is settles. If it is your fault you either have to pay for it yourself or have Med-pay on your auto insurance policy. Besides Med-pay, if you are not at fault, retaining an attorney can save you a lot of hassle and stress and should help you get a little extra money for all the things you will have to deal with on your road to recovery.
9. Journal. The more information you have the better. Take note of your aches and pains, when you have to take pain meds, times when you get headaches, days/hours missed from work. One of the most important things you can document is what you cannot do anymore as a result of your injuries from the auto accident. Detail will help convince the insurance adjuster that your injuries are legitimate.
10. Get better. Healing takes time. It is a roller coaster ride that can be frustrating. Don’t stop treatment too early or it could come back and become chronic. Remember, a positive attitude goes a long way to healing.