Auto Accident

What to do after an auto accident?

Knowing who to call and what to do in the few minutes after an accident protects you and your loved ones:

  • Move all involved vehicles off busy streets. Use extra care when moving injured passengers; call an ambulance, if necessary.
  • Exchange names, addresses, phone numbers and insurance information with all involved parties, including any witnesses.
  • Make notes of how the car accident happened while it is fresh in your mind.
  • Call the police.
  • Call your auto insurance company.
  • Call us for an immediate consultation and examination.

Severe injuries can, and often do, result from relatively low-impact force. The fact is that many people do not notice symptoms of neck, back, arm or leg injuries–even severe injuries–for days or even weeks after an auto accident.

The longer you wait to get examined, the longer it can take to restore your health. It is important to have a physical exam immediately following any accident, even if the accident seemed minor.

Seemingly minor spinal injuries often go undetected by routine emergency medical examinations. If left untreated, these injuries can become permanent, causing degeneration of the spine and leading to a life of constant pain.

If you have reason to believe you or someone you know may have whiplash as the result of an auto accident, immediately stabilize and protect the head so that it cannot be exposed to further injury.

For temporary relief (the first 12-24 hrs), apply an ice pack to the area to help reduce inflammation and decrease the pain. Apply the ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, allowing at least 30 minutes between applications. It also crucial to move areas affected with small controlled movements.

Car Accidents – Q&A’s

If I’ve been injured in a car accident, who pays for the treatment?

I have decided to write the following information below because I realize very few of us are aware of what to do regarding our injuries after an accident. The following information is not legal advice and not a substitute for speaking with an attorney specializing in PIP law.

What is PIP?

All Oregon car insurance policies have what is called PIP (personal injury protection) as part of your car insurance- even if you only have basic liability insurance instead of full coverage insurance, and even if your car was at fault in the accident.

PIP gives each person in the involved car up to 1 year of treatment and pays up to $15,000 of all necessary medical expenses to treat your injuries related to the car accident. Medical expenses include: Acupuncture/Chinese Medicine treatments (which includes: Tuina Massage, TDP heat lamp, Cupping, Chinese Herbs and E-Stim), chiropractic treatments, emergency room visits, medical doctor visits, and the ambulance bill to name a few. Also, your car insurance deductible does not apply to your PIP as there is usually no deductible to pay with PIP.

Although Oregon law gives all auto insurance policies $15,000 of PIP for each occupant of the vehicle, some Oregon drivers elect to buy more PIP coverage from their insurance agent.

If you were a pedestrian or a bicyclist and you were hit by a car, your own PIP policy will cover you first. If you were a pedestrian or bicyclist and you don’t have your own car insurance, then the PIP policy of the car that hit you will cover your medical expenses.

What percentage of people involved in low speed crashes are injured?

A study by Foret-Bruno et al. (1) of over 8,000 automobile crashes revealed that 36% of people involved were injured when the change in the vehicle velocity was less than 9.3 mph. 9.3 mph is how fast many of us drive in a parking lot!

I was involved in a car accident where my car did not even get damaged, why do I have pain now?

A study by Chapline et al. (2) revealed that 38% of women and 19% of men were injured after a car accident, even though their car was not damaged.

You have to understand that most modern vehicles are made to withstand crashes up to 8-10 mph without damage to the car, while the average, healthy, adult man can get a neck injury with the change in velocity of 2.5 mph to 5 mph. Therefore, modern cars can crash at speeds that are fast enough to injure you, but not enough to damage your car.

Is it safer to sit in the front seat or the rear seat of a car, or does it matter?

A study by Lovsund et al. (3) found that rear seat passengers were slightly more likely to be injured than front seat passengers.

My child was involved in the automobile accident with me, is it possible my child was injured as well?

A study by Lovsund et al. (3) found that children’s risk of injury in a car crash are 2/3 that of an adult in the same car crash.

How many people are injured in car accidents each year in the United States?

U.S. Census data for 2003 (4) estimated the number of people injured in an automobile accident that year to be 1,472,867.

Is the number of people getting injured in car accidents each year decreasing?

No, actually many studies show an increase each year in neck injuries from car crashes (5). This is probably due to a number of factors including number of drivers on the road, car seat stiffness, overall vehicle stiffness, etc.

Should I ignore my neck pain after my car accident?

I wouldn’t. A study by Freeman et al. (6) found that 45% of the entire American population that had chronic neck pain attributed the cause of their pain to a previous car crash!

When and how do most car crashes happen?

Most rear end collisions occur during daylight hours, mostly during rush hour traffic, on straight, flat, dry roads. Driver inattention and slow recognition is the leading cause of rear end car accidents.

Does it matter if I braced for the car accident or if it totally caught me by surprise?

Yes, A lack of awareness in rear end crashes increases the probability of chronic whiplash pain 15 times!


1) Foret-Bruno JY, Dauvilliers F, Tingvall C: Impairment pattern in passenger car crashes, a follow-up of injuries resulting in long-term consequences. Presented at the 14th International Technical Conference on Enhanced Safety of Vehicles, Munchen, 1994.
2) Chapline JF, Ferguson SA, Lillis RP, Lund AK, Williams AF. Neck pain and head restraint position relative to the driver’s head in rear-end collisions. Accident Analysis and Prevention 32:287-297, 2000
3) Lovsund P, Nygren A, Salen B, Tingvall C: Neck injuries in rear end collisions among front and rear seat occupants. International IRCOBI Conference on the Biomechanics of Impacts, Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany, 319-325, 1988
4) Hell W, Schick S, Langqieder K, Zellmer H: Biomechanics of Cervical Spine Injuries in Rear End Car Impacts: Influence of Car Seats and Possible Evaluation Criteria. Traf Inj Prev 3(2): 127-140, 2002
5) Jakobsson L, Norin H, Isaksson-Hellman 1: Parameters influencing the risk of AIS 1 neck injuries in frontal and side impacts. International Research Council on the Biomechanics of Impact (IRCOBI) Conerence Proceedings, Montpellier, France, Sept 20-22, 2000
6) Freeman MD, Croft AC, Rossignol AM: Chronic neck pain and whiplash: a case-control study of the relationship between acute whiplash injuries and chronic neck pain.