Help ! I’ve Been Injured In a Car Accident. What do I do?

steps to take if injured in a car accident in alberta

What do I do following a motor vehicle collision?

  • Remain calm, if you are hurt or have significant neck pain, do not move and wait for an ambulance to arrive.
  • If you are not seriously injured and it is safe to do so, get out of your vehicle and determine if there are serious injuries to others and call an ambulance if required
  • Exchange insurance and personal contact information
  • Proceed to the closest police station and report the accident
  • Make an appointment to see your physiotherapist who will assess your injuries and screen you for potential serious injuries, and start appropriate treatment immediately.
  • Fill out a notice of loss and proof claim within 10 day of your accident and submit it to your insurer.

How can Physical Therapy help me after an accident?

Physical therapy following a motor vehicle collision will help decrease pain, headaches, enhance the healing process for damaged muscles and ligaments and decrease reliance of pain medication. Research indicates that attending physical therapy following a motor vehicle whiplash injury reduces healing time and more importantly decreases the likelihood of chronic symptoms later in life. (1-4)

How long after the accident should I come to therapy?

Sooner rather than later. The body’s initial response after a whiplash injury is inflammation and muscle spasm. The body reacts by initiating spasm to splint the injured area ( often the neck), thereby limiting active movement and decreasing joint movement.

Early physical therapy will:

  1. Assess for safety concerns and serious injuries not visually apparent
  2. Enhance the inflammation process.
  3. Minimize muscle spasm and maintain joint mobility until the inflammatory process is complete.

What are the immediate safety concerns after an accident?

Excluding broken bones and major trauma, the cranial nerves and the ligaments of the neck and head need to be checked prior to commencing neck treatments of any kind. There are 3 ligmaents that help connect your head to your neck, two Alar and one Transverse ligament. The other major concerns following an accident are the vertebral arteries. These two arteries are in canals in the cervical vertebral bones in your neck and travel into your brain. These need to be checked as they can be comprised during an accident reducing the blood flow to the brain creating the possibility for delayed problems.

Who pays for Physical Therapy treatments?

If you have been injured in an automobile accident in Alberta, you are entitled to accident benefits coverage regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident.

The benefits you receive depend on the type of injury you have:

• If your injury is a sprain, strain or a whiplash associated with disorder I or II, your primary health care practitioner (chiropractor, medical doctor or physical therapist) does not have to seek approval of the insurer for payment for treatment of these injuries if you provide notice of your claim. Your primary health care practitioner will be able to bill the automobile insurer for all treatment services outlined in the “Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols” that are not covered by Alberta Health Care Insurance. These protocols have been developed in consultation with primary health care practitioners and are based on the best research and evidence currently available.

• For all other injuries, if you choose not to follow the diagnostic and treatment protocols, you will need to pay the health service provider for any services not covered by Alberta Health Care Insurance. You will be reimbursed for eligible expenses from your extended health care benefits (e.g., Blue Cross or similar employee benefits plan) and then by your automobile insurer.

How long will I be in treatment?

The length of treatment will vary from 4 weeks to 2 years depending on the extent of your injuries. Treatment length is usually 10-12 weeks in length. The first six weeks is the acute healing phase, where treatment consists of pain management, manual therapy, and exercise. The last 6 weeks is focused on return to normal activity, and pain management if required. If more than 90 days is required, your therapist will determine the appropriate course of treatment taking into account your objective and subjective findings, and your personal goals and expectations.

What should I look for in a therapist and a clinic?

If you do not currently have a physical therapist, you will need to choose one. Choosing your therapist and a clinic are very important in your rehabilitation. It is best not to ask you insurance company where to go, as they have agreements with large chain clinics to provide discounted services in exchange for timely discharge. If you would like further information on this topic, please refer to ” Injured in an Accident? Know your rights!”

First, choose a clinic that is both reputable and convenient to either your home or office, as you will require several treatments.  When choosing a clinic, ensure it is professional in appearance and attitude. The clinic should offer many rehabilitative options and host a variety of exercise equipment.  You should then choose a therapist who can perform manual therapy, can offer extra services such as manipulation , acupuncture or IMS, and who will provide you with an extensive exercise program. A good therapist will use a combination of techniques to help guide your healing process. A great therapist will listen to your concerns, reassess your injuries, and adjust your treatment plan according to your progress.