My three children and I have had the “luck” to have experienced more than one car accident. Even when the traumatic event is “small” and not your fault, the response of children can often be challenging to deal with and all too often does not appear directly connected to the crash.
The extent of an injury is challenging to assess in children. An injury may seem minor at age 8, but rear its ugly head as the teenage years and increased growth of injured areas occur. It is highly recommended to hire a reputable injury-claim lawyer immediately, especially if children were involved. Remember that any payments should be from the future court ruling, not pay-as-you-go.
Be cautious in reporting injuries. An accident is very traumatic for most children and they may be unaware of the extent of injuries. ER visits are often good for documentation purposes, but remember that ER is primarily for emergencies of breathing, bleeding, and cardiovascular emergencies. It is vital to follow up with the family doctor or paediatrician the next day.
Children have a hard time being still, but it is important to treat any suspected concussion. Even “just” a soft-tissue injury can take months to recover, so rest and proper nutrition are key. Teachers can be an important member of your support team by giving unbiased feedback of your child’s abilities and behaviours before and after the accident.
They may feel it was their fault, especially if they acted out directly beforehand. It is important to remember that children process events more slowly than adults. Bad dreams and other stress-related challenges may persist for months. Documentation is important to have an accurate idea of the intensity and duration of such symptoms to ensure you get the right kind of support for your child.
Children who are less verbal, under 10 years, and/or have special needs (learning disability, ASD, ADHD) are more likely to react through challenging behaviour. My daughter began crying over a family pet that had been dead for years – but in reality she was associating the intensity of sadness and confusion with this previous event. My ADHD son couldn’t find words; his ability to follow directions, stay still and keep his hands to himself got much worse. When distressed I learned to stop and ask, “Is it really…, or are you upset about the car accident?” Usually the accident was the actual reason. Older children may fear future accidents or worry that they or someone they love will die in another car accident. If this persists he/she may need psychological support. A school guidance counsellor can be the first step to providing this for your child.
Delegate as much as you can to others. Do not be afraid to ask for support or take time to take care of yourself. Your children deserve the best advocacy you can give them, but they also deserve time from you at your best.