What to do if You’ve Been in an Accident

July 16, 2011 No Comments

So, you’re sitting at a red light and you look in the rear view mirror and see that a car is coming toward you at a speed that doesn’t indicate that he or she is going to stop.  It’s apparent that the person doesn’t see you.  Within seconds you put your foot on the break and brace yourself for impact.  Just then you hear the collision and feel your body lunge forward toward the steering wheel and as quickly, you’re tugged back into your backrest.

What you should do next:

  1. Make sure to find a safe place to pull over.
  2. Exchange driver’s license and insurance information with the other person involved in the accident.
  3. Take photos of the accident, such as, dents, scrapes, and other damages.  Do this for each car involved in the accident.  If you feel uncomfortable taking pictures of any other car besides your own, then definitely take pictures of your own car.  If you have physical injuries that are noticeable on your body, take a picture of that as well.  If you don’t have a camera handy, find your cell phone.  It probably has a camera on it.
  4. Talk with the police and tell them what happened at the accident.  Tell the truth or it will pinch you in your you-know-what later.
  5. Write an assessment of your initial car damages.  Sometimes the photos aren’t as clear as your description and vice versa.
  6. Call your insurance company and report the accident.  Make sure to write down your claim number.  This comes in handy later.
  7. When you get home, take a 45 minute epson salt bath, ice any sore areas for 20 minutes, take deep breaths and rest for at least 24 hours, doing nothing strenuous.  Most people can’t rest for that long, but do rest as long as you can.

After you’ve rested, you may ask yourself, “Now what?”

Find a healer – Acupuncturist, Chiropractor, Yoga Therapist or a Massage Therapist.  Or, all of the above.



Once your mind calms down from the accident, which may take a day or two or maybe even a week or so, your body remains in a shock like condition.  In this state your body releases chemicals into the bloodstream, into the muscles, and into the brain.  Two of these chemicals are called adrenaline and cortisol, which are known to put your body in a fight or flight response.  This is good if you’re running from tigers or lions and you need the extra boost to survive.  It’s not good, however, if you’re at a desk job only weeks after an accident and your body continues its shock process and releases chemicals into your body, tightening your muscles at every passing moment.

If, over time, you haven’t found a way to help and heal your body after an accident (even a 5 mile an hour car collision has been documented to cause whiplash), your body will continue to get more and more tense, painful, and uncomfortable.  Unless you know of a way to positively think this away, it’s only going to get even worse from there.  You may think, “In time, it’ll just go away.”  Most of the time that doesn’t truly happen.  In reality, your body doesn’t respond well to “non-action”, so sitting around and waiting is the opposite of what you want to do.  Your body responds to positive movement and flow.

If not dealt with, within days, weeks, or months, you may start feeling pain arise from areas that were never painful before.  You may think, “Why do I hurt there?  I don’t remember doing anything to that portion of my body.”  It doesn’t get better, either.  Once those painful areas show themselves, they create pain in other areas as your body tries to compensate and cope with the major change that’s happening to you and your body.

Then what?

It’s time to seek bodywork.  It’s your best ally and is paid for by the insurance company.  It’s a win-win scenario.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Locate your claim number, date of incident (when the car accident happened), and write down any areas in your body that are causing you pain.
  2. Find an experienced chiropractor and/or acupuncturist that knows the in and outs of dealing with insurance companies.  They’re a diamond to have.  They’ll help you with any calls from the insurance company that has your claim.  In fact, a good chiropractor or acupuncturist will do all or most of the talking for you, dealing with the insurance company themselves.
  3. Get a prescription from your acupuncturist or chiropractor for massage therapy.
  4. Find a Massage Therapist who has experience with both auto insurance claims and bodywork (massage).  They’re rare to find, but are out there.  Hence, I’m one of those massage therapists that does both and I do both well.
  5. If you’ve found a great massage therapist that’s not in the same office as your chiropractor or acupuncturist, then don’t worry.  Ask them to write a prescription for the massage therapist that you want to use and give it to him or her at your next massage session.
  6. Find a way to move more.  Be it Yoga and/or following the stretching and strengthening homework your bodyworker(s) have assigned you.
  7. Think positively.  Your brain releases certain “positive” chemicals when you think in a positive way.  The chemicals, negative or positive, directly influences your body.  It’s been studied and shown that people with negative attitudes get sick more than those who have a positive outlook on life.  Hence, your body will get better much faster if your mind focuses in a “positive” direction.
  8.  Drink lots of water.  Find out how much you weigh and divide that number in half.  Drink that amount in ounces every day.  For example, if you weigh 180 lbs, then drink 90 oz of water every day.  Hydration is key in a quick and healthy recovery.
  9. Eat well.  You are what you put in your body.  Put down the six pack, do your best to quit smoking (I know, it’s a grind, but my Mom did it after 20 years, so you can too), stay away from fast food, and eat your fresh organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, etc.  In other words, eat nutrient rich food as they hasten the recovery process after a car accident as well.
  10. Don’t forget the bodywork.

I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me any time.

Brandon Ellis is a Licensed Massage Therapist in Portland, Oregon – OBMT #12645. To contact Brandon, email him at ellismassage@gmail.com.



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“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” - Chinese proverb