Notification of loved ones after an accident?
June 18, 2010 8:52 AM   Subscribe

If someone is in a serious accident and are incapacitated, how long does it take for police/EMT/hospital to contact his or her loved ones?

Say my husband gets into a horrible accident on his way home from work. It's bad enough that he cannot personally contact me or instruct others to contact me.

Assume there is ample identification because of car registration or driver's license. In Ohio, where I live, you can file emergency contact information with your driver's license as well, so the appropriate people would have my phone number.

How long after the accident (and we'll also assume that it's called in to emergency services right away) would I receive a phone call/knock on the door that the accident occurred?

(Silly reason for asking: I'm a worrier, and if someone's running late and I can't reach him or her, I assume they're dead or dying. Yes, I know it's ridiculous.)
posted by ferociouskitty to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A friend recently lost a family member in a car accident, and it took them about 6 hours from the time of the accident to reach her. I'm not sure about the ID situation as the two lived in separate states. I suspect they probably found my friend through the contact list on her relative's cell phone.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2010

Oh, and now that I think about it, my first husband was in a car accident (early 80's, small town Ohio.) We didn't have a phone at the time, and it was probably 3-4 hours after the accident that a cop showed up at my door to let me know he was in the hospital.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:16 AM on June 18, 2010

There's no way to say. It most likely depends on the seriousness of the injury, the seriousness of the accident and possibly even the seriousness of the person you care about's relative injury level compared to others - if there are several fatalities in a major pile up and your husband is sporting a cut on his arm, he'll be well down the list of priorities.

If the car has gone any distance off the road and it wasn't witnessed, it could be many hours. If the crash is in front of many people and near an intersection that has an ambulance/police station, it could be very quickly. If there are lots of other people involved and your husband is more seriously injured it may be soon, if he is one of the minor injuries it could be a long time.

Perhaps their phone was stolen and they are trying to fill in a police report - that could take ages. Maybe they broke down in an area of minimal service of minimal battery life and can't risk taking a non-essential call (no matter how important you deem it) until they have organised help.

So, basically, the situation is so random that there is no way for you to assume that there is an issue, nor for you to come to any conclusions based on time elapsed. The problem is not one that can be dealt with by rationalising the time that has passed, really, as adding false importance to a nominal time elapsed - "I'd know by now" - will neither be helpful or necessarily accurate.
posted by Brockles at 9:18 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

"I'm a worrier, and if someone's running late and I can't reach him or her, I assume they're dead or dying. Yes, I know it's ridiculous."

I do this too. This is why I'm training my husband to text me before he leaves to come home. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:26 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

The few death notifications I have had to do (a few too many) have been within an hour of me receiving the information. The time elapsed between when the accident occurred and when I was notified varied. I very rarely get requests from the hospital to contact next-of-kin in the case of non-fatal accidents, as the hospital usually can make that contact.

In my experience, death notifications are always made by law enforcement, and always in person. So in this case, not being home when an officer tries to make a notification will delay the notification.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2010

When I was in a serious car accident in 2006, the accident happened at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon. I was knocked unconscious and had a crushed vertabrae--my family knew nothing (despite loads of i.d., an "emergency contact" card, etc. in my wallet) until I became conscious enough at around 11 pm to use a nurse's cellphone to call home. The cops were long gone and the nurse was acting out of kindness. I have no memory of making the call or of the first visit by my Mom/sister-in-law.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2010

When I got hit by a car while riding my bike and lost consciousness, EMTs found the driver's license in my back pocket and called the one of the two emergency numbers (both my parents' cell phones) I had handwritten on it right away.
posted by halogen at 10:20 AM on June 18, 2010

My mother was hit in a crosswalk on her way home from the grocery store and the police called just about when we were getting antsy about her being late but not late enough that we actually started thinking something had happened to her. The lateness of a long conversation with a friend rather than late because she'd been in an accident (and we're a family of worriers).

Anyway, she didn't have a cell phone but either she regained consciousness quickly enough to give the police (not EMT and before she got to the hospital) her home phone number or a neighbour recognized her. I think about 20 minutes passed between the accident and when we were called. We met her at the hospital just after she had arrived.
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:47 AM on June 18, 2010

My daughter was in a serious accident a few years ago and a bystander used her cellphone to call me. I was able to get to the scene of the accident before the ambulance left for the hospital and ride with her. It all depends on the situation.
posted by tamitang at 3:36 PM on June 18, 2010

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