As common as car accidents are, they can be incredibly jarring and life-altering. This is especially true when accidents result in injuries. But life moves on and you can’t flounder in a rut of frustration and apathy. Eventually, you must return to normal – even if “normal” looks different than it did in the past.
How to Return to Normal
According to data collected by the CDC, more than 2.5 million Americans end up in the emergency room for crash-related injuries each year. In total, they spend more than 1 million days in the hospital as a result of crash injuries. Annually, these injuries result in a collective $18 billion in lifetime medical costs (with 75 percent of these costs occurring in the first 18 months after injury).
On average, a crash-related emergency room visit costs roughly $3,300. Over the person’s lifetime, costs add up to an average of $57,000. In more serious cases, the total lifetime bill can easily reach six or seven figures.
Physically, emotionally, and financially, recovering from a car accident is tough work. But if you want your life to return to normal, there are certain steps you must take.
Get the Right Medical Attention
First and foremost, you must get the appropriate medical attention for your injuries. There’s no point in pretending like everything is okay. Ignoring your injuries will only lead to physical and financial challenges down the road.
Common auto accident injuries include head and brain trauma, broken ribs and collarbones, whiplash (neck and back pain), and lacerations. It’s also possible that there’s internal damage – such as bleeding or swelling. So while you may assume that everything is okay, there could be more serious issues beneath the surface. Keep this in mind and don’t risk circumventing medical attention because of the perceived inconvenience.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Getting medical attention is one thing. But for the medical attention to help, you must follow your doctor’s orders upon release.
Doctors don’t give orders just to keep you busy. They provide specific medications and treatment instructions as a way of helping you find healing. If you pick and choose which elements you apply, you could end up with long-term consequences.
Following the doctor’s orders is also important from a legal perspective. Should you file a claim with an insurance company to receive compensation, attorneys and insurance adjustors will check to make sure you followed the appropriate instructions. A failure to do so could compromise the integrity of your case and lower the value of the claim.
Hire an Attorney
When you’re the victim of a car accident, you have the right to obtain damages in order to cover your bills and offset some of the pain and suffering that you’ve been through. Generally speaking, there are two categories of damages that apply in a car accident situation: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are fairly easy to calculate because they’re directly tied to a numeric value.
“You’ll have hospital bills and costs associated with copays, prescription medications, medical equipment, transportation costs to and from your doctor visits, and rehabilitative therapy, in addition to the wages you’ve been deprived of and the loss of your future earning potential,” Craig Swapp & Associates mentions. “We can also include the costs of repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle.”
The non-economic damages are slightly more challenging to calculate. There’s more subjectivity involved and the final tally depends on a myriad of factors. Examples of non-economic damages include loss of consortium, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement.
To navigate the complexities of calculating damages – economic and non-economic – and negotiating with insurance companies, you’ll need a lawyer. Resist the temptation to represent yourself and take the time to hire the right personal injury attorney for your needs.
Don’t Ignore Your Emotions
The physical ramifications of a car accident are usually pretty obvious. Whether it’s a broken bone, sore neck, concussion, or laceration, a doctor can easily assess your situation and give you a procedure, treatment plan, or medication to address it. The emotional fallout from a car accident isn’t always as apparent – but it’s still there.
As you recover from your car accident, it’s important that you don’t ignore the emotional symptoms. You may experience shock, denial, disbelief, anger, agitation, irritability, guilt, shame, anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, hopelessness, or depression. Rather than suppress these emotions, you should confront them.
If emotional side effects linger, be sure to seek professional help in the form of a counselor or other mental health professional.
Ease Back Into Work
There’s a common misconception among car accident injury victims that returning to work renders your injury claim useless, but this simply isn’t true. When your doctor clears you to return to work, feel free to do it. In fact, this is an important piece in the recovery puzzle. By reintroducing routine into your life, you’ll find it easier to shift the focus from your injury to other things.
Redefine Your New Normal
Let’s be clear about one thing: Your new normal may not be the same as your old normal. In other words, life after a serious car accident tends to look different than your pre-accident life. Having said that, things don’t have to be worse. By being proactive and alert, you can enjoy many years of health and happiness.