The days and weeks after a car accident are many things, but “calm” isn’t one of them. The physical toll can be hard enough to bear, but it gets even worse when you add the possibility of something like post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health says PTSD occurs while people are dealing with a “shocking, scary, or dangerous event,” and a major car crash certainly qualifies. Try to stay focused by asking yourself some questions after the crash.
How long will recovery take?
No uniform definition exists for recovery. Because of that, you should talk to your doctors about what to expect as you try to heal from whatever injuries you sustained in the accident. When will you be able to resume normal everyday activities? For some people, “everyday activities” means taking a walk three times a week. For other people, it means performing in ultramarathons. You need a realistic recovery window so you don’t get discouraged when you have inevitable setbacks.
A lot depends on the nature of your injuries, but mental recovery might well take longer than physical recovery. A physical therapist can help you do things like regain muscle function, but you may need a counselor to help yourself cope with whatever is going on in your head. Don’t let stigma stop you from getting the assistance you need.
That assistance may also include hiring a personal injury attorney. You’ll need to find one in your specific area, so if your wreck occurred in southern Alabama, you should search for an auto accident lawyer in Mobile, AL. A free consultation isn’t a binding contract for legal representation. It just means you’re checking out your options.
Can I handle appearing in court?
Your attorney might say you have a strong car accident case, assuming you want to file and go to court. You shouldn’t answer right away if you aren’t sure. Instead, you need to think about what going to court would require of you. Would it help you get closure? For many people, the answer is yes, while others get anxious at the thought of waiting months or even years for court proceedings to play out.
Ask your attorney what it’s like to appear in court. They’ve done it hundreds or even thousands of times. They can tell you what the judge does and doesn’t do. You should also be prepared for the presence of Fort Lauderdale court reporters. Court reporters use a stenotype machine or sometimes talk into a mask that records them, and it can all seem very mysterious if you don’t know what’s going on.
What do I want to happen?
This might be the biggest question of all, and it’s one you’ll wrestle with a lot throughout the recovery process. Figuring out what you want to do with your life is hard enough even if you aren’t processing trauma — that’s why so many people change careers or read books about figuring out their “real” identity. Some of the same advice still applies here, though. It may help to think of where you want to be in a year or two. If you want to be happy and healthy, then how exactly are you defining those terms?
Sometimes, a car accident can provide a startling moment of clarity. It can inspire people to quit their jobs or leave unhappy marriages. If you don’t have a dramatic moment where everything comes together, then that’s okay. Trust yourself to figure out what you need. Talking to experts can be illuminating, but you’re the one who gets to make the final call about where you want (and need) to go next.