Your life can change in an instant. That’s all it takes for someone to run a red light, change lanes without looking, or, as recently happened to me on highway 101 NB near Moffett Field exit, have their head in their lap on the freeway looking at their cell phone rather than noticing that traffic had stopped. BAM! It is an unhappy feeling. (She said she wasn’t texting, she simply had to answer her phone.)
The injury, and here I am specifically speaking to auto accident injuries, will depend on many variables: Speed, angle of impact, age, physical condition, gender, body position at time of impact and many more. For example, did you know that men are less likely to sustain a whiplash type injury in a low speed rear end accident because, among other things, their neck muscles are generally thicker and stronger than a woman’s? Different people react differently. In any event, here are some suggestions for what to do if you get hit and hurt through no fault of your own.
First of all, if you are not stopped already, get to a safe place, stop and get out of traffic when safe.
You should have your proof of insurance, your driver’s license and registration handy. Get that information from the other person(s).
If anyone asks you if you are hurt, NEVER say “No.” or “I don’t think so.” Why? Because depending on the type of accident, your body has just been subjected to a sudden force that may have stretched muscles or even brain cells past their breaking points. If you have ever been on a sports team and gone through a heavy work out, you will remember that you were rarely sore during or right after the work out. But the next day, that’s when you feel it.
It’s the same thing with the stretching of muscles, ligaments, and cells in your body during an accident. Typically, in low speed accidents you will not know whether you have been hurt right after the accident. If you tell people, doctors, ambulance drivers, “I’m okay.” that will be recorded in the medical records and come back to haunt you. You might not be okay. Saying you are okay is societally correct, but may be a lie. The better and more truthful answer to the question, “Are you okay?” Is, “I don’t know.” or “I’m not sure right now, talk to me in a couple days.”
After you get the car to a safe place and if you are able to get out of the car, get pictures. Take pictures of every angle of all the damage. This will help people estimate the impact speeds of the vehicles. It will also allow experts later to see the type of traffic that was present in the area. If there were any skid marks, TAKE PICTURES OF THE SKID MARKS – but be careful and do this safely. Please don’t get out in the middle of the middle lane of a freeway to take pictures of skid marks.
If you do feel bad after the accident or the next day, go see a doctor, just in case. When you see the doctor, have a type written list of all the problems you have noticed as a result of the accident. How do you write this list? Start from the tip of your head and go to the end of your toes. For example: 1. Bump on forehead where the airbag hit me. 2. Red rash on my face. 3. Constant headaches since the crash. 4. Ringing in my ears. 5. A bit of nausea. 6. Neck pain. 7. Tingling in my right arm going into my right little finger. 8. Experiencing some visual changes, blurry vision, some sensitivity to light. 9. Left shoulder pain. 10. Left shoulder bruise along the chest. 11. Some chest pain. 12. A bit of low back pain. 13. Knee pain and a knee bruise and swollen. 14. Some tingling in my left little toe. 15. Oh, and I’m hearing a ringing in my ears. 16. Oh, and people are telling me that I’m forgetting things. (See #4 and #15.)
Do not be shy about writing down each and every symptom you notice that has occurred as a result of the accident. Why?
Because, IF IT IS NOT IN WRITING, IT DOES NOT EXIST!!!
Most doctors want to help you get better. Most doctors do not like getting involved in insurance claims. I have even had a neurologist tell me during a deposition that he purposely did not write down all of my client’s symptoms because he did not want to get involved in a lawsuit! Hard to imagine, but that’s what he said under oath.
I’ve also won a case simply because the first examining doctor was very careful. He put “ankle swelling” in the medical records. No other doctor bothered to do that. The defense was that my client could not possibly have injured his ankle because there was nothing in writing in the medical records documenting that any doctor had noticed swelling in his ankle. The defense argument was that my client must have injured his ankle somewhere other than in the auto accident. Luckily this one doctor, the first one to see my client, noticed and put down IN WRITING the fact that my client had a swollen ankle. That was the key that allowed other evidence to come in that eventually won the case.
(How does one hurt one’s ankle in an auto accident? There were two impacts, first the rear and then the pushed vehicle hit the front. The rear impact was so strong that the driver’s seat broke backwards. So he was lying flat when the front impact occurred. Because he was lying flat, the seatbelt no longer restrained him. His body submarined under the seat belt and his foot hit one of the pedals bending and causing a bone to break inside his ankle. It was called a “Talar dome osteochondral lesion”. Without that initial medical report, he probably would not have won the case.)
These examples are why I suggest that after an accident you WRITE DOWN all your symptoms, type them up, make two copies, give your doctor a copy and keep a copy for yourself. You can tell the doctor, “Doctor, I know you are busy. I wanted to help you with my exam. This is a list of all the symptoms I am feeling right now that I am aware of. I wrote these down so you could put this into my medical records.” My experience is that some doctors appreciate this and some take umbrage. In any event, you have a record, IN WRITING, of what your complaints were soon after the accident.
Each time you go back to see a doctor for problems arising from the accident, do the same thing. WRITE DOWN all the things that are bothering you or that you have noticed have bothered you since the accident. Write down what seems to be getting better. Write down what seems to be getting worse and give the list to your doctor or physical therapist every time you go in. That way you have a record of what damage was caused by the accident.
These are some of the ideas of what to do after an accident in which you or a loved one has been injured.
One of the most undiagnosed injury after a rear end accident is a so called “mild” traumatic brain injury. This occurs when a person is subjected to a sudden force in one direction and then another force in the opposite direction called a “coup contra coup” brain injury. For more information about traumatic brain injuries, go to https://highimpact.com/case-studies/Brain-injury-101-Animation-Series-Breaks-Down-TBI.
If you have questions about your injury or an injury of a family member or friend, please call for further information.