Adulting 101: Dealing with Car Accidents (USA)

In “Adulting 101”, Annie and Juliet cover topics that they wish they knew going into adulthood (like retirement savings), as well as topics they want to learn more about (like recycling). Check out other posts here.

I was rear-ended the other day in Atlanta. It could have been worse, but I did get rear-ended and my car needs some fixin’ up. I went into psychological shock once I was hit. It was my first major accident, and I was alone. When it happened, I made a mental list of everything I needed to get from the other person. AAAND I got little to nothing because my mind and emotions went in two separate directions once I got out of my car. Now I’m here scrambling to get all the information I need, which sucks, so this is a guide in case I am ever involved in another accident – knock on wood.

Image by Gellinger on Pixabay

Breakdown about psychological shock

Source: Psychology Today

Psychological shock is when you experience a surge of strong emotions and a corresponding physical reaction, in response to a (typically unexpected) stressful event.

Types of events include:

  • A car accident or near miss.
  • Situations that provoke fear like being in an airplane with severe turbulence.
  • Hearing a story that traumatizes you.

Symptoms of psychological shock include:

  • Feeling a surge of adrenaline.
  • Feeling foggy and can’t think straight.
  • Feeling disconnected from events that are unfolding.

All the symptoms are part of our body’s fight-or-flight response system. Your body is prepared to make quick, thoughtless action. This in turn can lead to feeling spacey and foggy (like you forget or confuse things).

What could happen then:

  • Because you’re running on adrenaline, you could end up making poor choices. Your body needs time to relax and return to pre-shock state.
  • It may be difficult to listen and comprehend what others are saying.
  • You won’t necessarily feel pain in the midst of an adrenaline surge, but may start to feel pain as the surge wears off, which could take days.
Image by pixel2013 on Pixabay

Note: This is all from the victim’s point of view.

At the scene of the accident

  1. Call the police and file a police report. This is for insurance purposes.
    • If you leave the scene of the accident (at least in Georgia), you will have to file a self-report later on for the accident by logging onto the state government website.
  2. If anybody asks you, “Are you hurt?” Say I DON’T KNOW. Don’t give an absolute yes or no because your body is in a state of shock so it can mask any physical pain. Move the conversation along.
  3. Note the time and place (closest business, what street you are on, nearby cross streets).
  4. Take photos of everything: damage, license plate, driver’s license, insurance company and policy number.
    • If the other driver has a rental, take a photo of the rental license and/or car registration (usually in the glove box).
  5. Grab contact information: full name, phone number.
  6. Grab contact information of witnesses nearby.
  7. Triple check this list.
Image by pixel2013 on Pixabay

After the accident

There are 2 ways to resolve follow-up issues: private negotiations or through insurance company.

Private negotiations

I don’t suggest this because you basically are hoping that the other person is a decent human being and will pay up. During the period between the accident and if you get the money, it’s a freaking emotional roller coaster. I strongly advise against doing private negotiations.

Through insurance company

This process was described to me by my insurance company. It may vary from company to company; I don’t know because I haven’t been in any other major car accidents or been conversing with that many insurance companies.

  1. Call your insurance company. Even if you do not have all the information, let them know what’s going on and start a claim case.
    • Understand what your coverage is.
    • Does your insurance provide a rental car when your car is in the shop?
  2. Wait for contact from an adjuster. There are different adjusters for auto body and medical.
  3. Go to the doctor’s for checkup.
  4. Go get your car fixed. If your insurance policy has a deductible, you pay the deductible and the insurance company covers the rest.

Other things to know

  • Always have on you:
    • Insurance information
    • Driver’s license
    • AAA card or whatever other roadside assistance service you have
  • This varies state by state: If you do not file a police report at the scene of the accident, you will have to file a self-report by searching up your state’s SR-13 form.
  • If you need a lawyer, you need a personal injury lawyer.
  • If you only have limited information (say full name and phone number and insurance company), give them a call and ask whether this person is one of their customers. It may work.

I don’t wish anybody to get into car accidents. But even if you are a good driver, there are other people on the road who are not. Use this guide if you ever find yourself in an accident.

xo Juliet

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