Protecting yourself emotionally after an MVA.

Motor vehicle accidents can be traumatic events, often leading to a wide range of emotions. The impact felt can range from minor to severe depending on the nature of the accident, the injuries, and the individual’s personal strength and resilience. An accident will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if it happened unexpectedly, you were unprepared for it, and you felt powerless to prevent it. The emotions felt can range from anger and anxiety to depression if you were not the ticketed party and guilt if you were the ticketed party.

The emotional toll in an injury can be significant and prolonged where there is ongoing pain from physical injuries. The accident can also cause significant financial stress, especially if you are unable to resume your work.

There are several strategies that can help you after a motor vehicle accident if you are struggling with your emotions. Those strategies are outlined below here, beginning with the most important recommendation, which is to see your physician to get the appropriate help needed.

See Your Doctor Regularly until Your Conditions Subside

It is critical to get the necessary medical treatment in a personal injury, including psychological or emotional help if needed. You owe it to yourself to obtain assistance in helping you get through the recovery and you also have a positive obligation in a lawsuit to seek treatment that will aid your recovery. It is recommended that you keep a record of how your injuries have impacted your daily life, including missed workdays and routine activities you cannot undertake.

A description of how the injuries have affected your personal and family life is also beneficial, which you should share with your physician. Your doctor may be able to give you referrals to other healthcare providers if necessary. Your doctor can also recommend alternatives or modifications and prescribe any medicine you may need. Keeping your physician updated with your progress will aid in him or her overseeing your recovery. Never abandon any treatment without first discussing it with your doctor.

Use Your Accident Benefits for Treatment, Accepting Help Where Possible

Upon notification, ICBC will send you an information package outlining the accident benefits available to you under the policy, including if you purchased any enhanced benefits. The benefits available are intended to help you recover as quickly as possible. Do not be shy in using what you are entitled to for your recovery. If you can obtain treatment and transportation right away, for example, seize the opportunity, for the sooner an injury is treated, the better chance it has at healing properly.

Also accept help from your family and friends, keeping in mind that their assistance is well intended. Talking with them may draw out your feelings about the accident, which you need to acknowledge and accept. The benefits of emotional support and information obtained from conversation may be greater in the long run than you realize at the time.

Retain a Lawyer and Follow Your Lawyer’s Instructions

Consult a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to legally protect your interests, which will put your mind at ease. A lawyer can help you maximize your damages claim if you are injured. Most accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that the lawyer only receives a fee if you are awarded damages or receive a settlement.

It is important to trust your lawyer and follow the advice provided. You lawyer may advise you to exercise caution in discussing the incident and limiting who you discuss the accident with. For example, it is best to not talk with the other person involved in the accident or a representative of ICBC and instead refer the person to contact your lawyer instead. Also, this is the time to shut down or discontinue with social media posts until your case is settled, including Facebook. Limiting the information you provide publically or even to friends may help prevent the defense counsel from discrediting you later.

Resume Your Normal Activities as Soon as You are Able

Try to get back to your daily activities and routines when possible, even if you are uncomfortable or scared at first. Get plenty of sleep, eat small, well-balanced meals and make time for rest and relaxation to bring your life back into balance. Find activities that make you feel better and keep your mind occupied (e.g., reading, cooking, playing with your kids or pets) so you are not dedicating all your energy and attention to focusing on the traumatic experience. Find ways to stay active without aggravating any injuries you sustained during the accident (e.g., walking indoors at a mall or going swimming).

Recognize that many people limit what they do after a motor vehicle accident but do not let that affect you negatively. Do not be afraid to return to driving or being a passenger in a car and use this as an opportunity to become a more defensive driver. After discussing with your doctor, return to work when you are able as you may find it beneficial to be with coworkers than isolated at home. When returning to work, go prepared with a doctor’s note stating your needs and accommodations, if any, including a need to reintegrate with reduced hours for a temporary period. You can always go back to your doctor for assistance if the conditions are not right and you need greater assistance.

If you can resume your normal activities or find new activities to enjoy, you may inoculate yourself from greater emotional distress from the accident. Even when feeling better, expect to feel troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions – especially in response to triggers such as an anniversary of the accident or an image, sound, or situation such as driving by the accident scene that reminds you of the traumatic experience.

Trust Your Lawyer to Manage the Case and Move on Once the Claim is Settled

The time period prior to settlement may seem very long, but this is intentional to see how you are faring and what injuries cannot be healed or cause chronic pain after a period of a few years. Your lawyer will keep you informed of any developments in your case and if you need to attend appointments. Your lawyer will inform you of a settlement offer from ICBC and has the expertise and experience to advise whether or not to accept the offer.

If you accept a settlement, you will be required to sign documentation releasing the guilty party from any further responsibility, so it is important to know what you are signing. Once you absolve ICBC or individual, you cannot receive any more money. Fortunately, once the matter is settled, ICBC also can no longer pursue you for information to be used against you. Consider the settlement as closure to the matter and then try move forward with your life.

A serious motor vehicle accident can cause a number of emotional reactions, but these should gradually fade over time. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond to an accident, but the strategies outlined above may help you minimize the damage. Taking care of yourself is necessary for your own benefit and for your legal case, and knowing that your lawyer is working on your side for a fair financial settlement should provide some added strength in the interim.