***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
Being impacted by an auto accident in some way (in a car, as a cyclist, as a pedestrian, etc.) is understandably very stressful and worrisome, especially for those who are suffering psychological, physical, and health issues stemming from the accident.
Review the tips below and consider those that may be helpful for you in tackling your next steps.
***Reminder: this is not legal, financial, health/medical, or insurance advice -- this is general information for your review and consideration. Please contact a professional who specializes in these areas for guidance and assistance.
1. Seek medical attention as needed
If you are injured in any way, call 911 to get medical attention immediately. Try to make a note of the names of the medical professionals, health care centres, and the “who”, “what”, “when” of the medical support you received or ask a family member or friend to help you with this task. See your family doctor as soon as possible to ensure they are up-to-date. Keeping some kind of file or record of events may be useful for a later time.
2. Note the names and contact information of people involved in the accident and people who witnessed it (if relevant)
If there are others involved in the accident or people who saw what happened, try to get their contact information as it may be useful later for fact-checking and verifying details on a future date. If you need help writing this down or taking photos of the extent of the damage, ask a person who was traveling with you or a witness.
Of course, if the accident is serious, it is understandable that you may not have been able to communicate at the time. This information may be noted or obtained through other means.
3. Contact a personal injury lawyer for a consultation regarding next steps and interview several before choosing one you feel is a good fit
A personal injury lawyer specializes in accident benefits and differs from lawyers who work in other areas. If you decide to hire a lawyer, try to explore those working in the personal injury field.
When considering lawyers, interview several and try to choose one who is good at explaining benefits that may be available to you, is timely in their communication, and follows up proactively based on your needs.
4. Ask your personal injury lawyer about being connected with an Occupational Therapist and possibly a Case Manager
Different professionals specialize in different areas of need. Your lawyer will be focused on building a solid case and representing you as effectively as possible.
They may wish to refer you to other health professionals, such as an Occupational Therapist and/or a Case Manager, who can handle other crucial matters related to your physical abilities, housing, return to work, family life, psychosocial needs, care needs, etc. as you adjust to life following your car accident.
5. If an Occupational Therapist and/or a Case Manager is assigned, ask them how they can help and what their roles will be in supporting you
Getting a sense of who does what is very valuable in gaining an understanding of what everyone’s roles are in helping you moving forward. You are within your right to ask what types of tasks different professionals will be taking care of.
For example, you can check with the Occupational Therapist regarding their assessment and treatment plan in regards to your physical function and what (if any) equipment, personal care needs, potential cognitive/memory supports you may need post-accident, and home set up requirements you may have moving forward.
Similarly, you can ask your Case Manager about organizing personal care services at home (if appropriate), exploring a more accessible housing environment if needed, helping you apply for relevant financial supports, and considering your needs as a whole to ensure as smooth a transition as possible through the healthcare system and daily life in general.
Your lawyer, Occupational Therapist, and Case Manager make up your private team. Ask questions as you need to if you don’t understand something. Their goal is to help and support you as you navigate the auto-insurance world.
Keep in touch with your team regularly to understand what they are doing to assist you in maximizing your abilities, function, and quality of life. Connect them with your public health care team as needed to facilitate smooth communication across roles and systems.
6. If you think you need counselling services following the car accident, ask your lawyer and private team if they can assign a psychologist or social worker
Being in a car accident, coping with changes in your body, personal, and work life, and many other adjustments are extremely complicated factors to deal with.
You may want to consider accessing some counselling sessions, even if it is for the short term, to help you cope with your new situation. You can ask your private team if they can help connect you with a mental health professional for support.
7. Keep your receipts
You will need to hold onto your receipts to make claims, whether you are strictly claiming under your auto-insurance plan or whether you have work-related benefits that you may need to go through first regarding medical equipment/supply coverage and other relevant expenses.
Maintaining good paper records is important in case you need to provide original receipts as proof of expenses. Make copies so you have a back up as well.
8. Understand the differences between various insurance plans
You may need to explore your benefit package through your work or your spouse’s work benefits (if applicable) for certain expenses prior to dipping into your auto-insurance benefits. Give your work benefits or your spouse’s benefit company a call to ask about possible coverage regarding equipment needs, fee-based personal care services, home modifications, and other needs as appropriate.
You want to ensure you are maximizing the use of all relevant coverage and that you are using the right benefits at the right time. Your lawyer may be able to guide you through this process to help ensure you are going through the proper avenue first and not using up your auto-insurance benefits faster than necessary.
9. Keep track of events, timelines, and dates
Making notes regarding when certain key matters have occurred - whether that’s the date of the car accident, hospitalization dates and hospital names, health care team member names, the surgery date (or multiple surgery dates) and the surgeon’s name, etc. - is vital as it will be harder to recall this information in your mind as more time passes.
You may find in your journey that you will see many different health professionals. Having a solid record of details will reduce the burden on your memory since you’ll have information ready if you are asked when certain things have happened, who you’ve seen, and how you’ve managed over time.
10. Connect with your lawyer as needed regarding the progress of your case
Your lawyer works for you. They need to update you as to the status of different pieces they are working on when you request it. It may help to book brief check-ins with your lawyer on a schedule that works best for you so you are aware of how they are serving and helping you.
If you have any concerns or worries, be open with your lawyer and let them know. Their goal is to support you in a way you find helpful based on your particular needs and preferences. They will need to be transparent with you in regards to costs, fees, expectations, and requirements.
As long as you keep the lines of communication open, you will be on an even playing field and that is important in order for you to feel confident in the assistance you are receiving throughout your case and over time.
Wishing you well on your journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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