First of all…These tips come from my own experiences. I am not a lawyer or a doctor and I don’t prescribe, diagnose, give a prognosis or legal advice. The following are just some tips to keep in mind as you navigate the difficult situation of having been in a car accident. If I have overstepped my bounds in any way, it has been done in ignorance and I will remove any offending material if there be any. This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice from a trained professional. That being said… Let me share some insight that might help avoid some pitfalls that I have seen happen to clients as they have gone through their treatment.
1) Get checked out ASAP
Even if you don’t feel very bad, do not say that you are okay. Pain symptoms can take 2-3 days (or longer) to manifest. Sometimes a claims adjuster will call within the first 24-48 hours to get you to settle the claim. Don’t do it until you have given it enough time to evaluate your condition and have been checked out by your primary care provider. This can mean traditional medical doctors or, in Oregon, Chiropractors or Naturopaths. Check to see who is considered a primary care provider in your state. When you are checked out make sure to accurately report all symptoms. This not only includes things like neck pain and back pain, but also headaches, dizziness, nausea, extreme fatigue, etc. Anything new since the accident needs to be put in the report.
2) Be honest
ACCURATELY describe your pain. This means don’t exaggerate or UNDER report your pain symptoms. Determine a good pain scale with your physician and just be consistent. For example: 1-3 = mild pain; 4-6 = moderate pain; 7-9 = severe pain. Some clients have reported a 3 on the pain scale and then describe how they can only sit for about 10 minutes before having to move around because of the pain. This isn’t the time to ignore your pain. Be in touch with your body. Notice how it affects you and how you have to compensate because of the pain. All of these details are important to tell your providers as they are helping you and to see how well the treatment is working, or if a change needs to be made.
3) You can choose your team
Some people have health insurance or managed care providers and think they need to get their treatment from these avenues. YOU DON’T. If you are happy with the care then continue. You do not need a prescription to see a Chiropractor or Naturopath in Oregon. They are primary care providers. If your doctor sends you home with muscle relaxants and pain meds, this does not address the cause of the issue. Your body just went through a major PHYSICAL TRAUMA. It makes sense to get physical manipulation of bone and tissue to help with that trauma. Car insurance pays for the treatment and care in most cases, so call and verify coverage with your provider. If your practitioner doesn’t automatically recommend Massage Therapy (a lot of them do) you can request it. Most will have no problem writing a prescription. Other providers that may be helpful might include, Chiropractors, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Physical Therapists, etc. You may even need help with housework in the beginning if you are aggravating your condition by doing so and if it is keeping you from getting better. You can help make the decisions for your care and treatment. It is your body and you will have to live with the results, so don’t hesitate to voice your opinion.
4) Your treatment is your job
It is sad to admit but recovery can seem like a part-time job. Between the appointments and phone calls with insurance companies it can seem like everything revolves around this brief moment of time that changed your life so drastically. Keep a good calendar so you show up to your appointments consistently and on time. If you are not consistent in your treatment it might be determined that you are “all better” and your care will come to a halt. Keep a pain journal. How does the pain affect your life and how do you have to change things because of it? How are you sleeping? How long can you sit, stand or walk? Are any activities avoided because of the pain? These can all be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment as the frequency and duration of pain flares decreases over time. It really could take months to regain pre-accident status so be patient and keep showing up for yourself.
5) Do your homework
When dealing with the insurance companies, do not undervalue yourself or your property. If your car was totaled and you will need to purchase a new car, make sure you know the values and advocate for yourself. It helps to receive assistance from others. Ask a professional. This might include people in the auto body shop, your care givers, or even a lawyer. Make sure you educate yourself and don’t sell yourself short.
6) Do your other homework
If your care givers offer “homework” do it as well as you can. It will only speed up your recovery. This could include stretches, exercises, Epsom salt baths, Ice, dietary changes, etc.
7) Ultimately, the medical bills are your responsibility
The auto insurance pays for your treatment and care. If you have Personal Injury Protection it pays for the treatment of your condition as you receive it. If you don’t have PIP (it is required in Oregon) then the insurance may not pay until the case is closed. As this can take months it may put your provider in a difficult financial situation. You will need to discuss this with your provider and come up with a mutually agreeable arrangement. Become aware of what your coverage offers. Do they cover rental? How much? Do you have PIP? How much? Also, if your PIP runs out or the insurance company decides you are done (for example after an IME – See below) then they may stop paying your providers and the responsibility becomes yours. They won’t necessarily tell you when you are close to running out of PIP money so be proactive and make sure you know where things stand. This protects you and your providers.
8) Check your PIP now
Make sure you have PIP in your insurance plan. In Oregon it is required but in other states it is not. This is NOT an area to skimp. Your body is your most valuable possession. Make sure you can get better if you have an accident. Also…most people have about $15,000 in PIP. You may be surprised how quickly medical bills can add up. If you have a very bad accident and end up in the ER you can use most of that immediately. Check out options and weigh the value of a few dollars for a higher PIP.
9) Alert your team about any IME
If your insurance company wants to send you to an “Independent Medical Examination” please notify your care team as soon as possible. If you are sent to an IME it could mean the end of your treatment and it may mean that your bills will stop being paid. Discuss options with your treatment providers and possibly even a lawyer.
10) Be gentle with yourself and give yourself plenty of time to heal!
It can be hard to not be able to do as much as you did before the accident. Overstressing yourself may slow down your healing process. Be patient. Oh… and drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep…Because that can never be said enough!
Hope this helps! Stay safe and get lots of massage! 😉