Roughly 5 to 6 million people are involved in car accidents in the U.S. each year. Think about it—that number is higher than the number of people who are born (less than 4 million), die (less than 3 million), get married (2 million), or earn a bachelor’s degree (less than 2 million) in the United States each year. And the number of car accident cases continues to climb. Chances are, someone close to you will be involved in a car crash at some point in your lifetime.
How do you comfort someone after a car accident? What do you say to someone recovering from an injury? Being present, being willing, and being a good listener is a good place to start. It’s not always easy to know how to be the best friend you can be to someone who was hurt in a car accident. Remember—there is no one-size-fits-all solution, no one right thing to do or say that makes every recovering car accident victim feel better. But understanding your friend better than most people do, you know what will be the most benefit to them as they recover from an accident. We’ll discuss tips in the following article that can help you prepare ways to support your friend.
How Can I Help My Friend After a Car Accident?
It’s natural to feel inadequate or even uncomfortable when communicating with a friend who has experienced a traumatic event. Many of us feel tongue-tied and awkward in those moments when a friend expresses deep grief, pain, anguish, guilt, anger, shock, or devastation. But those moments are not about us. By shifting the focus from us to them, the goal becomes to ease a burden and relieve the suffering of another person. This can be done by:
- Providing a Meal. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” And accident recovery just as much needs a solid basis of good nutrition. If food is the universal language, cooking for another person is one of the most practical, caring, tried-and-true ways to show someone you care. Even if you are not able to cook the meal yourself, consider having a meal delivered from a local restaurant or food delivery service. You can further help provide for your friend’s future meals by organizing a meal train and scheduling meals to be delivered by a different person each night. Don’t forget to make a list of your friend’s preferences, allergies, and dietary restrictions to distribute to each person providing a meal.
- Offering Words of Encouragement. Words of comfort and encouragement, when offered sincerely, can go a long way. Telling your friend, “I’m sorry,” “I’m glad you’re safe,” and “I’m here for you,” may seem like a simple effort, but the impact may be more than you realize. Witness and affirm their feelings by telling them, “I hear you,” and “I understand what you must be feeling.” In being supportive, try to avoid any language that invalidates your friend’s feelings (“Don’t be so upset!”) or is pushy (“You should be taking better care of yourself!”) or even blaming (“I always told you to slow down!”). Asking the question: “What can I do to help you?” is one of the best ways to show support. Don’t be afraid to ask the question more than once!
- Being a Good Listener. Sometimes what your friend really needs is someone to lend an ear. A car accident is an emotionally taxing ordeal. Give your friend a supportive space to express their range of emotions, frustrations, and questions following the event. Ask open-ended questions like, “How did you feel after that?” and let your friend lead the conversation. If your friend shows anger or releases strong emotions, try not to become defensive of yourself or another person or situation, remembering that the emotion is not directed toward you.
- Taking Your Friend Where They Need to Go. Whether or not your friend’s vehicle was damaged in the accident, a good way to show support is by offering to drive them to appointments and errands. This could include doctor’s visits or trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. Or it could simply be a fun outing to get your friend out of the house, like a scenic drive, walk in the park, or trip to a place you know your friend likes. This can be helpful to your friend’s physical and emotional health, and gives you an opportunity to spend time together.
- Helping with Daily Tasks and Errands. If daily tasks are becoming a burden, allow your friend to rest while you take care of some of the chores. Identify the obligations that are burdensome to your friend during recovery. Some errands may have gone unnoticed by your friend, who is dealing with several other important matters. Look for ways you can fill in. This may mean picking up prescriptions, feeding pets, cancelling appointments, picking up kids from school, walking a dog, dropping a bill in the mailbox, cleaning the kitchen, making a necessary phone call, or mowing the lawn.
- Looking for Symptoms of Injury. A friend who was in a car accident needs to be given the support to prioritize their health. It’s easy for someone recently involved in a crash to give so much attention to getting the vehicle fixed, dealing with insurance adjusters, and rearranging work and transportation schedules that they neglect their own wellbeing. You can be a good friend by encouraging them to see a doctor, and by helping them be alert to any potential sign of car accident injury, such as back pain or whiplash.
- Supporting Psychological Health. Knowing the psychological consequences of a car accident can help you better meet your friend’s needs. It is common for accident victims to suffer PTSD. Many people require counseling or therapy to recover from the mental health injuries sustained in an accident. There could be additional complications if they were the cause of the accident, as feelings of guilt can be very difficult to cope with. Know your own limits. If you are not sure how to best support your friend’s psychological wellbeing, reach out to a qualified mental healthcare professional for advice, or encourage your friend to contact a professional they trust.
- Giving a Thoughtful Get-Well Gift. If you’re not sure what to get someone who was in a car accident, you’re not alone. Wanting to buy a gift is a natural response when you learn that someone you care about has been hurt, but knowing what to buy is less clear. Again, you know your friend better than others. Generic is never as meaningful as personal. And when selecting a gift, take your friend’s health into consideration. Some people appreciate practicality—food delivery service, a gift card, babysitting services. Others want fun or luxury to help them recuperate—a spa package, a day out on the town, art, fresh plants or flowers. Whether they want something distracting or need something practical, you as a friend are in the best position to find the perfect, personalized get-well gift.
- Supporting the Family. Your effort to support your friend’s family is especially important when your friend is an injured crash victim recovering at home or in a hospital. Seeing a loved one suffer is incredibly difficult on family members. Recognize that they are hurting as much as you are, and look for ways to ease their burden. In addition to emotional support, you can help them with your friend’s care schedules, and by taking your friend to appointments, meeting with doctors and car accident lawyers, and completing chores. Try to respect the family’s boundaries to know when you are needed and when to give them space and privacy.
Whether your friend was the driver or the passenger of the vehicle involved in the accident, they are depending on you for support. You, as a friend, have the ability to make a big impact on your friend’s recovery journey. And that journey can extend beyond your friend’s recuperation period. We have known many people who, after witnessing the suffering of a friend, took the initiative to become an advocate for road safety, working to make the roads of West Virginia better for all of us. If you have questions about West Virginia car accident law or what you can do if someone you know was injured in an accident, get in touch with our office for a free consultation.