Thursday, March 28, 2013

Emotional Wreck

The accident was Tuesday, in front of the high school. I was stopped at a red light, in a long line of cars. The impact was unexpected, forceful, and left me shaken, hurting, and unable to account for a moment... some minute time that feels lost. The other driver, freshly licensed, was apologetic, and breathlessly repeated, "I saw you, and I hit the brake, but the brake didn't work and my car just kept going! I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

I could not say. Am I okay? It was a weighty question. My hands were shaking, my teeth hurt. I kept asking Max, "Are you okay?" Then I asked him to find my phone. I was aware that something should be done. But what? Call someone. Who? Whom? I felt loopy. My phone record shows that at 3:25 I called 911. Three minutes later I called Geoff. I now know that was more or less the correct procedure. I checked that there were no obvious injuries to passengers. Max felt "fine." Maria was at home, safe, with Alex. Thank God. And so good, it seems I hit more of the what-to-do bullet points.

But as many times as I have read those bullet points about what to do in the aftermath of an accident, I was unprepared. I was more hurt than I could manage to express or cope with, more shaken than was ideal for managing clear thinking and all I really wanted was to go home, cry and sleep. I was dizzy. I was sad. I was muddled. And the other driver was so distraught, I felt this maternal urge to just ease his worries. He gave me his phone number, his dad's name and number, his mother's name and number. He said, "I'm sorry," every time he spoke. I felt bad for him. I still feel bad for him. It's a rough business being a new driver, making mistakes, learning the hard way.

The AAA page suggests staying calm, not venting, or blaming, being polite... and this is the part that I got too right. In the interest of getting home, having my cry, I told him, and his mother, who by this time was at the scene, that we would figure this out... I have your number(s)... I'll call you. And, by my phone record, I see that it was 3:42, and still no sign of a sheriff, or some kind of authority, and I called 911 and said... I'm going home. We exchanged numbers. So 911 cancelled. I sat in my van, gathered my thoughts, took a deep breath, asked Max, for the tenth time, "Are you okay?" And went home.

Then Alex took me to the ER, because Geoff, in San Francisco, was listening to me, and probably basically freaked out by my loopiness, and crying. No one wants to hear ER details, least of all me... what a year! Quick version: CT Scan came back with "no breaks, no blood," but the doctor did say something about asymmetrical bits to your head, prescribed strong medicine, and said, "Tomorrow you will hurt a lot more than you do now. If anything changes, come back."

Here's the thing:

*Never leave the scene of an accident, no matter how minor, without a clear-headed person of authority taking numbers, making notes, doing the right things.
*Never let sympathy or compassion cloud the fact that there are procedures, and there is protocol, and those will save and protect you from a car wreck becoming an emotional wreck.

Yesterday, I was an emotional wreck. My misguided attempt at being "nice" and "cooperative" was received with hostility, accusations, and confusion (for me.)

Now we are back on the prescribed track, I hope. I am hurting, and still shaken. I don't feel quite as naive... something tells me getting my car repaired, unraveling medical bills, and dealing with two insurance companies is not going to be a walk in the park. And I hope that my lesson is something that can save you from bad turns, and unnecessary upset. Read the article in this link. Print it out, and stick it in your glove compartment. Read it, know it, refer to it, depend on it. And be safe.


Rachy said...

Oh no, I am glad you were not hurt too bad xxx

It's so difficult to do the right thing when you hurt, shaken and glad to be alive xx

PamKittyMorning said...

I hope that you're feeling better soon. I know it takes time to recover both physically and emotionally. xo

Dianna said...

Feel better. I'm glad no one was hurt too bad, but it is an awful thing to go through. When I went through this many years back dealing with the insurance companies was one of the most stressful things I've done in my entire life. Be strong. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

A hug is needed. Please take two!

Jenn in California

Jennifer said...

Oh my friend I am so sorry to hear all this, and do hope that you will be all right. I know too well that all over unbearably sore aftermath, as well as the confusion in the moment about the right thing to do (including the desire to SO believe that everything is all right that you can't even imagine that you are really hurt). Take care, hang in there, and be well....

Sylvia said...

Sorry you had to experience that. Hope you recover quickly.

Nancy said...

Hope you feel better soon. So sorry that the emergency people didn't get there as quickly as they should have! Blessings of healing to you!

Miriam said...

I think sometimes people tend to underestimate the emotional and psychological consequences of an accident even when it doesn't result in serious physical injuries. Shock is a real thing. I am so glad things seem to be on track now from a practical point of view, but please don't try to be strong for everyone around you - this may be a good time to let others care for you. Let Max tuck you up with a blanket, and let Alex bring you a cup of tea, and let Maria read you a story and bring you a bunny to snuggle.

Thank you for sharing, in the middle of everything you're experiencing, your good advice with all of us.

Big hugs from all of us at Mucky Boots. XOXO

Rae said...

Been there, though I got put in the hospital overnight (t-boned by a suspended license methhead that ran a light at 50mph+). Learned that my skull is thick enough to take out a side window and only come away with a cut and a mild concussion. Was always told I was thick-headed! Lol.

It's a horrible pain in the butt to deal with insurance. They grill you over what happened, and want stupid details that seem like they shouldn't matter. They're just being thorough, and they do that to everyone. Just keep your cool and treat it like just another chore.

Keep good records of doctor visits, etc. Let insurance pay for everything (that's what it's there for), and don't "sign off" and take a settlement check until you are sure all is back to normal. If it's anything like mine, they will want to push to just give you a check. Make sure you're well first.

Glad everyone is "ok".

Kim said...

Natalie! I'm sorry you were in that accident. I totally empathize with you about not knowing what to do to how to act afterwards. I have been there myself. What is it about us? or how our society raises us? that makes our knee-jerk reaction be to not make a fuss? Sigh.
Once I got into a fender bender backing out of my stall in the Costco parking lot. We were both backing out and & saw the other car and stopped, but they didn't see me, so I honked but their windows were up and they hit my car. When I got out to inspect the damage (I was 8 months pregnant) the other people were NICE AS PIE and apologized, gave me their insurance info etc. I let them talk me out of the hassle of calling the police. And lo and behold by the time I'd driven home and called my insurance company the other people had already called, filed a claim and blamed me for the entire thing.
Learning the hard way stinks!
I am relieved that you weren't seriously injured, but am hoping you're healing (emotionally & physically) fast.
oh hugs to you!

Stephanie Barrett said...

I'm so sorry and hope you feel better soon. But I am glad no one was seriously injured. I had a "both cars backing up at the same time in a parking lot" accident a few years ago. The other driver was in a rental car and kept trying to get me to give him money right then and there. I was so flustered but at least had the presence of mind to refuse that.

judy in ky said...

Oh, I am so sorry for your pain and confusion. One time I was knocked silly by a minor collision and couldn't even remember my own name. It's good to hear that you did the right things, even in your confused and dazed state; you certainly didn't deserve any hostility or accusations, you were completely innocent. That makes me angry. I will read the article you reference and I will keep a copy in my car. Thank you for thinking of helping us after your experience.
I wish you comfort in both the emotional and physical realms.

nikkipolani said...

Oh, my poor Natalie! I'm so sorry about the accident and the headaches that followed. I know your family is giving you TLC and I pray that you'll be healing very soon with all the medical help you need (I've found it's better to see a chiro sooner rather than later).

Anonymous said...

Last summer while test driving a Civic, we were t-boned by a kid who ran a red light. What I learned was take the time to be quiet, don't hurry out of the car, don't be too pulled in by the hysterics of the other driver. On the other hand, I bought a 2012 Civic the next day, cause all I (the passenger) had was bruises wherever a seat belt crossed my body and my husband (the driver) didn't have a mark.

We still cringe at that intersection.

Glad that you are safe.

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

Glad you're okay but that's quite scary for sure. I like to keep a disposable camera in my glove box to take pictures. (Of course nowadays everyone has camera phones so you can use that too.) I'm sorry that it's being a pain in the butt to handle this. Hopefully all will end well. Keep detailed records of all phone calls etc until this is solved. Glad that Geoff is back home to help you through all of this mess.

I too had a two cars backing up in parking lot accident. I stopped but the other lady kept going and hit my car. I didn't call the police but I did call my insurance agent at the time. It was a big hassle but fortunately since I took pictures at the scene before any cars were moved I was able to prove what happened. Can you believe that a low-speed collision like that did $2500 worth of damage to my car?!

Jenny said...

Oh geez Natalie. I'm a little behind in my blog reading and just now found out about your accident. I'm so sorry this happened and that you were scolded for leaving the scene and being too nice. I know I would've been the same way in an incident like that. Plus, it sounds like you really were hurting and scared by it all. My sympathies and best wishes for healing.