Advice for Dealing with Car Accident Stress
January 21, 2006 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday I caused a car accident. I'm a college sophomore and I've never been in a car wreck before. I have liability insurance so it only covers the other persons car and its going to cost $1250 to fix my car which I have no choice but to fix. I also have to appear in court next month to deal with the ticket or whatever. The whole incident has just weighed on my heavily. I can't get any work done, I am having trouble sleeping. I just feel awful. Does anyone have any advice on dealing with this kind of situation?
posted by icespide to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total)
If you're a student, your university almost surely has mental health services that can give better advice than we can. Consider contacting them.
posted by duck at 2:30 PM on January 21, 2006

Car accidents are stressful, but this one doesn't sound too bad.

$1250 of damage means you didn't do anything too terrible to your car, and I'm presuming that you didn't hurt anybody.

If you're stressing about the financial issue, I suggest putting together a realistic plan to deal with the money so you'll know what you need to do to handle that.

Glad to hear that your first accident was sufficiently minor that your biggest concern is stress!
posted by I Love Tacos at 2:34 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: The very fact that you feel bad about it indicates that you're a good person. I worry a lot more about the people who don't give a shit.

What part weighs most heavily? Guilt, finance? Was someone injured? Something else?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:38 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: I second what duck said about finding help through your university's mental health services.

I've unfortunately been in my fair share of car accidents, and I'm always shaken up and very upset for at least a few days after. I'd consider that to be normal. I think the biggest piece of advice I can give you is that you need to realize they are called accidents for a reason. You didn't mean to do this... it was an accident. And accidents happen. Give yourself some time and I do think you'll be alright.

Much luck.
posted by viachicago at 2:43 PM on January 21, 2006

the serendipity of two car crash related posts one after the other......

my advice - take some time out - meet up with some friends for a meal or stay all day in bed, whatever

things will sort themselves out.

just take care not to let your 'fizzing' nerves get the better of you
posted by juniorbonner at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2006

Just remember that accidents happen to everyone. Use this as a reminder to pay attention, drive defensively, wear your seatbelt, and buy more insurance.
posted by MrZero at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2006

If the costs are part of your issues, you can check with your university about short term crisis loans. Both of the universities I've attended would give out fixed amount loans with very generous repayments plans. Generally they give these loans if you are at a point where you may not be able to pay tuition due to your other problems.

And please do consider talking to a counselor at your university. It's free and it really can help to have someone listen to you vent for a little while.
posted by divka at 2:52 PM on January 21, 2006

Seek professional assistance (not from a web forum) as you may be experiencing post traumatic stress. It's perfectly normal to get this from even minor events that shake your day to day life - i.e. it doesn't have to be a deady car wreck that resulted in the death of a dozen cute puppies, you might just as well hit a tree @15mph.

The above advice about seeking out your college/university's mental health services is very sound advice.
posted by tiamat at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2006

things will sort themselves out

And remember -- two weeks from now you'll have resolved -- or will be on the way to resolving -- most of the issues in which you are now knee-deep. Two months from now it'll all be a recent memory; by the end of the year, a distant memory.
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: Been there, done that.

Know that the court appearance will be a formality. It's no big deal. You will end up paying a fine. Your ticket will, in all likelihood, be plead down to a lesser charge if you plead guilty. It will take an hour, and will be nothing.

So don't stress about that.
posted by teece at 3:12 PM on January 21, 2006

Response by poster: How much of a fine do you think it would be? the ticket says "Improper Lane Change"
posted by icespide at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2006

Best answer: I rear-ended someone on the Verrazano bridge as a freshman in college, my first accident- I was busy staring at the great view of the NYC skyline instead of noticing cars in front of me were coming to a stop, braked too late, and ended up putting someone's trunk just about into their backseat. No one was hurt, fortunately, but I was hysterical- the cop that came to the scene ended up having to take me to get lunch and some coffee to make sure I was calm enough to drive the rest of the way to Hofstra. I was stressed and upset for a couple weeks and didn't sleep well... so I know what you're going through.

If you are close enough with your parents to talk to them about this, do. I called my Dad as soon as I got home, and he calmed me down and gave me advice on how to deal with the situation financially and legally, and I felt much better about things. If you don't feel that talking to your parents will help, I agree with the above advice to talk to a school counselor. Not only will it possibly help you mentally, but they may also be able to give you information on short term loans for the cost, or at least direct you on who you should talk to about it.

Above all, try and keep in mind that this happens to just about everyone at some point in their lives, it is far from uncommon. You aren't hurt, and (I assume) the other person is not hurt. You have insurance. The damage to your car is really not that costly to fix, comparatively speaking- it could be much worse.

Glad you are alright, and good luck!
posted by Meredith at 3:18 PM on January 21, 2006

How much of a fine do you think it would be? the ticket says "Improper Lane Change"
posted by icespide at 3:16 PM PST on January 21

$144.50, according to some sites I Googled up. Unfortunately, like all state legislature websites, appears to be down more often than it's up.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2006

Dunno if it helps, but these days cars are built to absorb as much impact as possible - which is to say that the front and back crumple like crepe paper if you touch them too hard. This is a good thing - keeps the people inside safe, but it makes accidents look much more messy than you might imagine. It probably wasn't as bad a crash as it looks, if you know what I mean.
posted by cogat at 4:10 PM on January 21, 2006

Advice about the worry:

A year from now this will situation will be over.

5 years from now it won't mean anything.

100 years from now you won't be blue.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 5:18 PM on January 21, 2006

It sounds like neither you nor the other person was hurt, and that's what really matters. As long as everyone walked away... it's just stuff. You can always get more stuff. (although I bet that $1250 is way no fun in college. :( )

In the overall scheme of things, that's the IMPORTANT part... nobody is sick, hurt, or dead. The rest is urgent and unpleasant, and of course you feel awful, but from the long view, it's not that big a deal. It's a terrible shock to discover that you're fragile and can make bad mistakes in a split second, but you paid very little for that knowledge. This is not worth losing sleep over. You didn't cause any irreparable harm to anyone.

A silver lining, too... you're young and indestructible, which is a good time for fender-benders. I bet you'll never, in your entire life, make that specific mistake again. You may be carting a family around someday, and that little bit of extra caution may save someone you love from being hurt.

I'm sorry I don't have any knowledge of how to get past the shock in the short term. It may sound a little strange, but you seem to be handling it well... you're not denying it, you're talking about it, and you're asking for help. You're not lying about it, trying to hide from it, or blaming anyone else. This all seems healthy to me, and I think once you're past the initial shock you'll be just fine.

I'm sorry you had the wreck, and hope you feel better soon.
posted by Malor at 6:31 PM on January 21, 2006

Don't go into a fetal position and not pay the fine. You need to pay the fine. I could tell you the horrible things that happened to me when I didn't pay a fine or two, but I won't - I'll just say: pay the fine, please.

And relax, chalk it up to experience, etc. etc.
posted by Slap Incognito at 7:52 PM on January 21, 2006

I was in a pretty bad accident last July. In this case it wasn't my fault and I was in a heavy funk for the next several days, at least. These events are traumatic and WAY out of the ordinary for ordinary people. It's natural to be a bit shaken up when one gets a glimpse (even slight) at mortality.
posted by wsg at 12:09 AM on January 22, 2006

If no one was hurt, you can justifiably write it off as an expensive, miserable driving lesson. If you promise to take this high-risk, high-responsibility task much more seriously from now on out -- ie. always actively developing better driving habits -- then consider it a lesson learned and relax. It's all okay.

On the other hand, if you don't smarten up when you're behind the wheel, I can only hope that your next accident isn't deadly. I hates me a careless driver. There is just no excuse for it. The costs to innocent others is too damn high.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:16 AM on January 22, 2006

And I'm afraid I gotta respond to all the "accident" language in this thread: bullshit. Real accidents are few and far between.

Poor choices are the root cause of almost all automobile collisions. You choose to look at the skyline instead of the next car, you choose to change lanes without a full mirror- and shoulder-check, you choose to roll a four-way stop, you choose to speed in the rain.

Calling it an "accident" is a lie.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:21 AM on January 22, 2006

Best answer: Calling it an "accident" is a lie.

Yes, but having one or two of these poor choices in a lifetime is human, which, as long as the poster acknowledges the poor choice and learns from it, is what should be emphasized. Maybe this isn't a fact of life for fish, but all the adults I know have had a couple of these incidents in their past, usually in and around the college years, and have grown up to be fine, empathetic, responsible people. The poster's horror at the incident is a good sign -- I'm sure s/he will adjust and try to actively avoid having another humanesque moment. Fish perfection is a worthy goal, but hardly ever met.
posted by dness2 at 7:21 AM on January 22, 2006

I've caused my fair share of rear-enders. It's why I bike now.

Like others have said, the court date is a formality, thanks nobody was injured, take the advice of the public defender, and this bears repeating:

If you promise to take this high-risk, high-responsibility task much more seriously from now on out -- ie. always actively developing better driving habits -- then consider it a lesson learned and relax. It's all okay.

also, you should expect your car insurance to go up a bit. don't let that be a surprise to your finances in a couple months.
posted by carsonb at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2006

Yes, but having one or two of these poor choices in a lifetime is human, which, as long as the poster acknowledges the poor choice and learns from it, is what should be emphasized.

My wife was run over by a kid making one of those "poor choices." He came within inches of killing her.

Her injuries will cause her continuous and intense pain for the rest of her life. Her single passion, other than myself, was piano, and she was within a year of reaching a paid-professional level of skill: that, too, is destroyed. Her professional work, which she loves, is also at risk because her injuries prevent her from full involvement. And she will suffer crippling arthritis within the next decade.

That is a consequence of a careless driver's "poor choices." He gets to get over what he did and sleep well at night for the rest of his life. My wife gets to wake up in agony for the rest of hers.

Forgive me for being a little irate at the idea that a person's careless stupidity should be discounted as a mere "accident."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on January 22, 2006

fff, check your email
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:37 AM on January 22, 2006

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