Have You Been in a Car Accident? Read This NOW!
Can auto accidents cause concussions? Can a crash set forth a domino effect of health challenges that can lead to multiple sclerosis? Can a low-velocity fender bender lead to serious injury?
If you answered YES to all of the above, give yourself a high five.
Statistically, the average American will get into 3-4 car accidents in their lifetime. Fortunately, most accidents are mild to moderate and do not result in serious injuries or fatalities. Unfortunately, they can, and often do cause structural changes in the spine and surrounding tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves), even when the impact occurs at low speeds. These changes, if left untreated and unaddressed, can lead to a lifelong injury, chronic pain, loss of function, and a loss of the ability to do the things we love to do the most. This would put your life at a much higher level of suck. No Bueno.
So what should you do if you are involved in a car accident? First, breathe. It’s going to be OK.
At the accident:
- STOP. By law, we are required to stop if there is an accident that results in injuries or damage to the cars themselves.
- Help the injured.
- Prevent further accidents. Move out of the way of oncoming traffic, if possible. If on the freeway, stay in the car and immediately call 911 or the highway patrol.
- Exchange information with the other driver. With camera phones available, the easiest thing is to take a photo of the person's insurance card and registration. (Technology rules!)
- Get the names and numbers of witnesses.
- If your car is driveable, drive to the nearest repair station or home. If it's not driveable, get it towed. (Personally, I think AAA is the smartest money you can spend. For less than the price of a crummy dinner, AAA covers many things, among them car towing in case of an accident.)
- Seek medical attention, the sooner the better. Immediately is best. Go to an ER for serious injuries, or to your chiropractor as long as there are no cuts, lacerations, or other serious injuries not involving the spine.
After the accident:
- One of the most important factors in determining how quickly and how well you'll recover is the time you wait to be seen. The longer you wait to start treatment, the higher the probability of chronicity. Because so many people wait until there is neck or back pain to see a doctor, many hidden injuries can rear their ugly head days, weeks, and sometimes even months after the impact. Regardless of the presence or absence of pain, go see your doctor of chiropractic or medical doctor, preferably one with experience in handling personal injury (PI) cases. Do it. Now.
- A great chiropractor or MD with post-accident treatment experience will almost always take x-rays, do an evaluation, and provide treatment as needed. Referral for further imaging will also be discussed, as MRIs and CT scans might be needed to rule out disc herniations and other injuries not seen on standard x-rays.
Atlas Wellness Center Goals
- Short term: Getting you out of pain.
- Mid-to-long term: Prevent the injuries from becoming chronic and causing disability.
2pac vs Biggie. Lakers vs Celtics. Ice vs. Heat
While even the so-called experts can't seem to agree on ice-vs-heat initially, my 20+ yrs of experience in working with auto accidents victims, (and sports injuries as well) has shown me that every human is different; certain people do better with ice, others with heat, and many more with a combination of the two. Use them as needed, 15-20 minutes of each, as often as necessary. The ice will help break up the muscle spasm that results from the accident, and also act as a local anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic (pain control), while the heat will increase blood flow and relax tense muscles.
Also, REST. Even in low-speed collisions, a 100-lb (or even 200-lb) human is no match for the thousands of pounds of the cars involved. Even the smallest cars are more than 2500 lbs. and a pickup truck or SUV is oftentimes more than 4000 lbs. Physics, in these cases, is NOT our friend. Quite the opposite. Allowing your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other injured tissues a chance to rest and recover is crucial in order to heal properly. Neurologically, your entire body, and even your brain have been rattled, and they will need time to replenish and reset. You may have noticed after an auto accident, your body seems to require more sleep in order to function. I’m not to because it does. Be kind to your body—get off the phone, put it on airplane mode, and go to sleep earlier than you normally do.
Lastly, the million-dollar question that I oftentimes get from patients when they’ve been in an automobile accident: should I get an attorney? The short answer: probably.
First, let’s discuss the downside of getting an attorney. There will be paperwork. Lots of it. And phone conversations. And maybe even meetings. Also, you'll be paying typically 1/3 of the settlement as legal fees to the attorney.
Now, the upside of working with a reputable law firm. First of all, auto accidents should never be a DIY project. The laws are intricate, and the case-by-case basis of each accident makes these waters potentially difficult and confusing to navigate. With an attorney, you will ensure that you will not be screwed by the insurance companies, who are a BUSINESS with a zero-sum mentality: a dollar saved on your case is a dollar returned to their shareholders. They have an army of attorneys, paralegals, adjusters, and other experts who know all the tricks and intricacies of the trade, and they know how to use them to their own advantage, by minimizing your injuries and us, the resulting settlement. With an attorney, you’ll be assured of fair compensation and a much better settlement than if you attempt to handle your case yourself.
Bottom line: When you’re involved in a car accident, assemble a “Dream Team” of professionals who are well-versed in the nuances and idiosyncrasies of personal injury. A chiropractor, an MD, and a personal injury attorney are a great start so that you can sit back and focus on what really matters: your health and your future.
If you ever need names of great doctors or attorneys or have any questions regarding auto accidents or any types of personal injuries, feel free to send me a PM, and we can discuss privately or you can call Atlas Wellness Center, my office, at 7145406792 and ask for a no-charge consultation. I’m always happy to help friends (and even enemies) navigate the uncharted waters of post-accident chaos. Holler.