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Never been in a car accident? That’s phenomenal! But it doesn’t mean one isn’t coming down the road — no pun intended. According to Forbes, the average driver will file a collision claim with their car insurance agency just shy of every 18 years. That means that if you started driving at 16, you could have as many as four car accidents during your lifetime.

A majority of car accidents are not fatal, but that doesn’t mean they can’t leave you injured, in pain, scared, or just anxiety-filled. If you had other people in your car, like your spouse or children, you’ll need to also assess them for injuries, which may not be evident right away. Car accidents are also pricey – you have to care for your car as well as your health.

Protect Yourself Financially

What if instead of a fender bender, you found yourself in a huge, serious car accident that resulted in a lot of damage. Worrying about money on top of car damage and your health is just added stress. Here’s how to protect yourself financially so you don’t get taken advantage of:

  • Submit a thorough claim that includes your injuries, medical costs, work days missed, car repair pricing and any other damages.
  • Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company. Your insurance company is the only one that has your best interests in mind.
  • Know how much your car is worth and how much is needed to repair it. You don’t want to receive too little and end up paying for repairs out-of-pocket.

Also make a habit of checking your medical bills. Billing mistakes are very common and they easily go unnoticed because patients assume the bill is correct. Your medical bills will be itemized and coded, so you’ll need to figure out what the codes stand for – the hospital should be able to help you with that or you can hire a professional to check your bills for you.

Get Clear on Your Health Insurance Coverage

After you’ve been in a car accident, it can be difficult to figure out which insurance is used for what. Does your car insurance or your health insurance cover the medical costs? Whose insurance covers the damages? Various aspects affect how your healthcare costs are paid, including:

  • Your co-pays and deductibles
  • The party at fault for the accident
  • Specific types of insurance coverage

Often, you’ll use your health insurance as you usually do. You’ll go for medical treatment and you’ll pay the copay or deductible that your health plan outlines. If you have ambulance or ER fees, you could end up with a big bill in your mailbox a few weeks later. Usually, there’s a part of the bill that lets you fill in your health insurance information. Your insurance will only pay for so much, so be sure you know what to do with any costs left over after insurance pays your medical bills.

If you have basic liability car insurance coverage, which is a requirement in many states, your car insurance should be charged first. If you used your health insurance to cover medical costs, your health insurance company will likely make a claim against the car insurance company in order to be repaid. You can also ask your car insurance company what you should do when you go for medical treatment so that it’s taken care of from the beginning.

Take Care of All Aspects of Your Health

Repairing your car and treating your injuries are fairly straightforward responsibilities following a car accident, but dealing with the emotional and mental side effects is a lot more complex. You may be experiencing emotions you’ve never had before or that you didn’t expect would result from your accident, such as:

  • Anger
  • Disbelief
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Nervousness
  • Shock
  • Uneasiness
  • Worry

Speaking with a counselor could help you work through these issues. Or, consider integrated healthcare, which means that you, as a whole, will be cared for – not just your physical pain or your emotional pain, for example. You’ll work with one doctor to improve the health of all aspects of your life, including emotional, environmental, physical, and social. This is a helpful and cost-effective solution to visiting multiple doctors and specialists for the range of treatment you need.

Self-Care After a Car Accident

You’ve spoken with your insurance agency and you’ve had your injuries or pain treated. You’re still not feeling 100 percent – that’s completely normal. Here are a few ways to start feeling like yourself again:

  • Talk to someone. It can be a family member, a friend or a professional counselor. Discuss the accident and talk about the details. Describe what you experienced – how you acted, what you felt and the thoughts you had, both during the accident and in the days since.
  • Stick to your regular routine. It can be very comforting to get back to doing things the way you normally do. Even if you have to adapt your routine a little bit until you heal or get back to work, try to make your days as normal as possible.
  • Stay as active as you can without worsening your physical pain. Exercise or go for walks. If you’re unsure of what your body can handle right now, talk to your doctor. You may be referred to a physical therapist to help you find exercises you can do.

Take a Defensive Driving Course

If you’re nervous about getting behind the wheel again, you may benefit from taking a defensive driving class. Not only will you lower your risk of getting into another accident, but you’ll also boost your confidence so that you’re not constantly worried about driving. Also, try to practice good habits to further reduce your risk of getting into another accident. Wear your seat belt every time you’re in a car; eliminate distractions, like your using your phone or eating; and never drive when you’re tired or if you’ve taken medicine that can impact your judgement.

Last Thoughts

Car accidents have a lot of side effects aside from the obvious physical injury or pain, including stress over money and psychological strain that can affect your mental health. Even a small car accident can leave you with painful whiplash and anxiety about getting into a car accident in the future. Give yourself time to heal physically, emotionally, and mentally – it can take weeks or even months to feel completely back to normal.

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