What has life been like for you since your accident?
For Mr. D, recovery has been really hard.
Just like any other day, he was driving back home from his office. He didn't know he was about to be blindsided by another car entering the intersection going way too fast.
His car accident left him bedridden for months, and it also put his family in a difficult situation. He is still learning to cope mentally.
The Dawson family had to deal with the medical bills for his ongoing treatment and post-accident care. The trauma his spine suffered during the accident left him immobile for months. He still has difficulty walking without support.
Even after six years, he is still dealing with the accident. There are times when his family is reminded of the pain brought about by that day.
For Mr. D himself, well, he will never forget the accident. He still deals with guilt for having put his family into difficult times, even though it wasn't his fault. He can now drive again by himself, but he knows his wife will always worry when he gets into a car.
There are many individuals and families thrown into similar circumstances every year, forced to deal with life after an accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 32.6 thousand people died in a car crash in 2014, and 2.34 million people were injured as a result of a traffic accident. (Find latest traffic accident data here.)
Those who have experienced an accident can feel the shock, physical discomfort and posttraumatic stress long after the actual event. Depression can take a stronghold, sometimes precluding recovery to a normal life after the accident.
And it's not just the people in the accident who suffer and need to recover.
Family members and loved ones can also see their lives change like day into night.
If you or someone you care about is struggling to deal with an accident, or looking for ways of coping mentally, you need to know you're not alone. Even if it's been years and you feel like things should be 100% back to normal and they're not – know that there are others dealing with this too.
Common feelings you may experience long after an accident
After an accident, it's common to feel uneasy, confused and overwhelmed.
You may even develop a fear or phobia. It is common for people who were in a car crash to become very fearful of driving again. Many victims and their families often express that these feelings don't go away even after months of counseling or rehabilitation.
These collective feelings can change how you think about everyday tasks, and even your approach to life.
That accident is now a part of your history, a part of who you are, like everything else you've experienced in this journey called life.
Post-traumatic stress may bring about serious depression, nightmares, insomnia and a distressed feeling that lingers. Ongoing memories of the accident that pop into consciousness at any time may leave you feeling helpless and stressed.
Coping mentally after an accident
You may feel troubled after an accident, and you may search for a way to address the emotional stress in order to move beyond it to greater recovery.
The best way to start the process of healing may be to talk with close ones. Counselors often advise the victims to interact with friends and family members first.
Just having that first conversation may be the hardest, but sharing your experience, thoughts about the accident and feelings that came about in the days after the accident can be a step toward healing.
Forgiveness may be a concept to think about. Forgiving the other person, or forgiving yourself – or both.
See how a young driver discusses how to get past his driving accident and rallies a number of great responses worth reading.
Stay active to counter emotional stress
Exercise may look different to you after an accident, especially if the injury left you severely affected physically.
However, engaging in physical activity can produce feel-good hormones that combat stress, improve outlook and speed recovery.
Your doctor can create a safe workout regimen and a schedule for you based on your physical condition and stage of recovery. While on prescribed medication, you may need to follow a strict exercise and physical activity regimen as provided by your doctor and a physical therapist.
Recovery After an Accident Overview
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Return to normal as much as possible
It is best to get back to your regular life and daily activities as soon as possible after an accident, as much as physically and mentally realistic. If you can regain some sense of normalcy, some peace may be regained.
This may be easier said than done for many who have been in an accident.
It may mean embracing a new normal for you.
Building up an everyday routine – especially one that includes enjoyable activities no matter how small - will help someone who has been in an accident begin to come to terms with the event and life after it. After the Crash – The Mental Battle discusses the importance of getting back to regular activities.
Some people who have strong feelings of fear and helplessness look for ways to feel more in control again. For example, if you had a car accident, consider a defensive driving course if you are physically able to drive again, to help you gain a stronger sense of mastering the roads.
Meet with friends even if you feel things may be weird at first. You might feel they are looking at you funny, searching for anything that's different, and making you feel self conscious. But leaning on your friends, and opening up to them can be a great way to surround yourself with the support you need right now.
The role of a personal injury attorney
While dealing with the physical and emotional aftermath of an accident, don't neglect to consider enlisting professional help to assist you in legal procedures and financial recourse.
Although the process of bringing a personal injury claim may feel like one more thing you just can't deal with at the time of an accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can easily guide you. That's what they do, and they are prepared to carry that burden with you.
A personal injury lawyer can assist you in filing the insurance claim. They will also help you document everything, including details of health and emotional problems after the accident. Plus, the attorney can help you understand the state laws before you file the claim.
Documented lists of symptoms and emotional distress are used as a part of the evidence while filing the accident insurance claim. The personal injury attorney works closely with you to record everything so that he or she can create a strong case for the lawsuit and insurance claims.
The severity of physical and emotional distress should also be documented by a licensed medical provider and perhaps in the presence of your personal injury attorney. This is to highlight and prove that your emotional distress didn't begin until after the accident while filing the personal injury claim.
These emotional conditions can be very difficult for the person during a long rehabilitation. Therefore, the compensation section in the personal injury claim may allow for your pain and suffering.
Apart from the physical and psychological impacts, accidents can cause a major impact on a person's family life, career and financial circumstances. Taking legal assistance from a personal injury lawyer is also highly recommended.
When you're looking for help to get over an accident, don't discount the greatest healer of all: time.
What has life been like for you and your family since your accident? What has been the most helpful for you as you begin to
put it behind you?