Ten Tips to Get Back to Normal after a Car Accident
BY LISA FREY
As a person who’s worked with victims of motor vehicle accidents, and has been rear ended three times in the past two years, I have learned a few things about the non-legal side of dealing with an accident. These tips are not intended to be legal advice – they are practical observations about getting back to normal after a crash.
- Visit your GP as soon as possible, and thoroughly describe your symptoms. It’s the best way to have an accurate record of exactly what you experienced during and after the accident. From personal experience, it’s easy to forget what was hurting you and when. The more information your doctor has in front of her, the better treatment plan she can create. A whiplash injury, in particular, often takes a while to rear their ugly head, so even if you think you’re fine, it’s worth having a doctor check you out to make sure.
- Get your GP to refer you to a chiropractor, physiotherapist and/or massage therapist. If you have a referral from a doctor, the treatment is more likely to be covered. Plus, if you don’t already have someone in mind, your GP will probably know the name of an experienced local practitioner. It’s useful to go to someone with lots of experience dealing with motor vehicle injuries – and who is familiar with the ICBC billing system. If they already have your adjuster on speed dial, that will save you a lot of headache. Literally and figuratively.
- Make a separate calendar for your medical appointments, physio appointments, etc., or use your work calendar. You may have to show your calendar to ICBC or the Court at some point in the future to prove you have been taking steps to get better. It might be helpful to keep it separate from your personal appointments you’d rather keep private (like a toenail fungus removal appointment, or dinner with your ex).
- At your follow up with your GP, get medical advice about when you should go back to exercising. Then, put the times you go walking, jogging, hiking, to the pool with your kids, to the gym, or even when you kick a soccer ball around, on your “recovery” calendar – as well as when you do any exercises recommended for you by a physiotherapist. Not only will it look good later on, it also can help you see the progress you are making!
- Do your rehab exercises. Yes, I know they are tedious, and progress can be agonizingly slow. But, I promise you, they eventually work. Plus, if you don’t do your rehab exercises, ICBC may try to claim that it’s your own fault you are still in pain.
- Yoga or meditation classes can help with your relaxation and overall health – record them on your calendar as well. This shows you are actively taking steps to get well.
- If your pain is more serious, record your pain levels (e.g. stiffness getting worse; feeling numb; right shoulder is better but right leg continues to ache at night, etc.) on your calendar, once a week or so. This helps protect you from accusations of exaggeration or a faulty memory down the road. But keep in mind, this calendar may be seen by a lot of people including the judge…so keep your personal thoughts – like how much you want to inflict revenge on the knuckle-dragging idiot who rear-ended you – out of it.
- Keep all your receipts for pain medication, gym memberships and other costs, along with your physio/chiro/RMT receipts. You may be able to get reimbursed for them later. I put everything in an envelope with ACCIDENT STUFF scrawled on it in red Sharpie.
- This is very cliché advice, but stay positive. It will make you feel better, heal faster, and stay on top of your claim. If you were not at fault for the accident, it can be particularly frustrating that your life has been disrupted. For a long time, I felt angry and tense every time I got in the car. However, I found that focusing on what I could do to improve my claim was more pleasant, and actually improved my symptoms.
- If you feel intimidated, talk to a lawyer. Believe it or not, most of us enjoy helping our clients get what we know they deserve. Remember, your adjuster is not working for you – and he or she is pressured from above to pay you the absolute minimum amount possible. While some adjusters are very nice, others have tried to shoo me away – until learning that I was a law student.
I believe my RMT put it best: “If calling your adjuster is adding to your stress instead of relieving it, you should get help.”