How to Cope After a Car Crash

by Carrie Stemke

Surrounding yourself with the support of family and friends can help you cope.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 there were 10.8 million car accidents in the United States. Even long after the physical injuries have healed, a car crash can leave a mental imprint that can, at times, seem nearly impossible to deal with. After an accident, drivers report experiencing everything from mild anxiety at the thought of getting behind the wheel again to severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Taking the right steps to help yourself or a loved one heal after a car accident can result in a faster recovery and a return to your regular life that much sooner.

Go Easy On Yourself

After going through a car accident or watching a loved one try to heal, it's not unusual to experience some negative feelings, such as anxiety, fear or depression. Stress disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, are natural reactions to the trauma of events such as a car accident, and can be resolved with time. There's no specific amount of time in which you're supposed to "get over it," nor is there any "right" way to react, no matter your role in the crash.

Speak With a Lawyer

If you've been the victim or the cause of a car accident, talk with an attorney. The medical bills stemming from a motor vehicle crash alone can be ruinous, whether you're trying to pay for your own or being sued by someone else. Then there are the added expenses of repairing your car or purchasing a new one completely -- car insurance doesn't necessarily cover all your costs. According to the legal blog of Colorado-based injury law firm Bachus and Schanker, LLC, in most states, people who were in car accidents and sustained emotional or physical injuries are legally permitted to seek compensation for their medical costs.

Keep Up a Healthy Routine

Although you may not feel like it much at first, getting yourself back into a healthy, regular routine will promote healing, counsels the Royal College of Psychiatrists in their online article, "Coping After a Traumatic Event." This can be as simple as eating regular meals, trying to maintain a healthful, balanced diet and getting daily exercise. It's perfectly fine to take things at your own pace. For some people, it might be easier to start off slowly -- say, one regular meal per day and 20 minutes of light exercise three days a week. What is important is that you try, and make an active effort at healthy regularity.

Don't Be Afraid to Get Help

Whatever your role in the accident -- whether you were the victim, a friend or family member who wasn't in the crash, or if you caused the crash and hurt someone else -- don't be afraid to seek help from friends, family, clergy or the medical community. Definitely speak up if you have suicidal thoughts, are concerned that you cannot control feelings of anger relating to the accident or if your crash-related distress interferes with any area of your life for more than one month.

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About the Author

A New York native, Carrie Stemke is an avid writer, editor and traveler whose work has covered many different topics. She has had a lifelong fascination with and love of psychology, and hold's a bachelor's degree in the subject. Her psychology research articles have been published in Personality and Individual Differences and in Modern Psychological Studies.