What To Do At A Car Accident?
How to manage a car accident and report the road crash can be confronting for most people to happen across. Being the first one on the scene to discover multiple injured people needing different levels of First Aid can see some people freeze up in terror or quickly speed off and pretend they didn’t see anything.
Sometimes in life, it may be presented to you that you are the stranger to whom someone is forced to rely upon your kindness and altruism. Stop for one moment and put yourself in the position of the people in the accident. Would you want you to stop and do everything you could to try and save as many lives as you can?
There was once a time when First Aid training was a costly undertaking that the average person could not afford. However, those times have changed, and with the advent of the internet, there is no excuse for not taking one day out of your life to learn basic First Aid and CPR. That way, if life threw the worst possible situation at you, you would know how to handle it, what to do, and how to save lives.
For as little as $85.00, you can gain a Skills College Training HLTAID011 – Provide First Aid certificate that is nationally recognised, fully accredited, and can be modified to fit even the busiest schedules. Upon completion of the course, you will be the First Aid Responder with the vital CPR and triage skills to treat the most urgent in need at the scene and work backwards. Those without training may not know what to do at the scene of a car accident and could be reluctant to do anything.
Elements Specific To Vehicle Accidents
Calling for emergency services or assistance as the first thing you do means that help will arrive faster. In a panicked state, it can be tempting to help first and then think about calling 000. Once you commence the First Aid DRSABCD protocol, you don’t have time to stop and call for help. So, the first thing you do is dial 000 for an ambulance. Even if the scene needs other emergency services, the operator and the Ambulance crew will order those en route.
Time is of the essence when it comes to vehicle trauma and triaging the people and what medical attention they require. There is an order that things need to be carried out in. A calm and controlled responder is in the interest of everybody concerned. Panicking has never helped anyone. A First Aider can ensure that help arrives quickly, and emergency services can gain access to treat the casualties efficiently. By managing the scene and utilising bystanders, you can ensure more lives are saved.
What To Communicate To Emergency Services
Accident scenes commonly have more than one casualty needing First Aid. You may not know who to help first, and you can’t help everyone immediately. People who are bleeding heavily but conscious and breathing can treat themselves with verbal commands from you and help others until you can get to them. Your priority should always be to assess who is the most critical and in the most life-threatening situation.
ABCs are always the priority, even over an arterial bleed. Obviously, in the heat of the moment, some might choose to tourniquet the arterial bleed to save the person bleeding out and then dying while you perform CPR on the person who has technically stopped breathing.
It takes a while for the body to pump out four litres of blood, and that person is technically still alive. Other people on the scene can assist that person and stop them from bleeding out by applying pressure. Your role as the First Aid responder is to attempt to restore a heartbeat and breathing to the person who has stopped doing both.
Restoring the ability to breathe by lifting a seated casualty’s chin and moving the jaw forward will open up their airway and allow them to breathe. That is enough to allow you to move on to the next casualty to assess them and so on until you have your list of priorities in order. Having this information will assist emergency services when they arrive.
Priority Order To Follow When Assessing Casualties
The following is called the primary assessment of the scene. It looks at the most immediate priorities to keep a casualty alive. There may be situations where you are required to choose one person to focus on, knowing that the other person will die. Unfortunately, that is out of your control, and until help arrives, you can only do what you can. You can’t save everyone all of the time. What you can do is assess the following:
- Are they conscious or unconscious?
- Are casualties breathing?
- Can they maintain their airway unassisted?
- Are they bleeding, and is it an immediate life-threatening arterial rupture?
A noisy, demanding casualty is, in most cases, the lowest priority and last to be treated. A silent casualty is generally unconscious and will probably present with a blocked airway and possibly no heartbeat. Anyone with the air in their lungs to yell is not in a life – threatening situation that they cannot fix themselves under instruction, or wait until the more seriously injured have been assessed and treated.
The first protocol of DRSABCD is Danger. You need to ensure the scene is safe for you to assist before you leap into danger and end up becoming another person who needs assistance. There are multiple dangers to contend with at an accident scene. Another accident is not uncommon as rubbernecks try to get a look at the accident and wind up creating their own secondary accident.
Don’t forget to consider parents and partners who are injured but able-bodied may become extremely distraught and may interfere with treatment believing they can do it better or want to hold their loved one. Where possible, use another bystander to remove them from the scene and watch them for shock. Adrenaline is a powerful chemical and can give people extraordinary strength and courage they do not normally possess. It can also make grieving people hyper-aggressive and even violent. They have just been through a traumatic experience and will be in shock or close to going into shock and not at their best or most logical and rational.
Ongoing Management Of Injuries
Accident scenes present some common injury types that are life-threatening. The four major injuries to look for are:
- Airway blockages – not breathing may or may not have a weak heartbeat.
- Head injuries – unconsciousness and being non-responsive is highly likely.
- Chest injuries – Crush injuries to the chest can cause a range of internal conditions and hamper CPR and Airway management.
- Spinal injuries – Unless absolutely necessary – the vehicle is leaking fuel and might explode, or the accident is on the edge of a cliff, or in a place where other vehicles might crash into the existing scene due to environmental conditions – do not move a patient until help arrives as it could lead to further injury.
Continue to monitor any breathing but unconscious casualty, as they can rapidly deteriorate and stop breathing. This may occur while you are treating another casualty requiring you to stop treating that casualty and return to the other to give CPR.
If the casualty is conscious, continue to reassure them and explain what is happening. Let them know that help is on the way. Hearing your voice can be reassuring even if they can’t see you as you work on other people.
Can Bystanders Help
If you are not the first person on the scene and another First Aider has taken control, you can still assist in many ways. If you are the first on the scene, you can control and direct any bystanders to help other people. Sometimes people want to help but have no idea what to do. They take orders well, and many hands make miracles happen. Bystanders can:
- Call 000 if this hasn’t already happened. (Not everyone carries a mobile phone.)
- Warn and direct oncoming traffic either around and away from the scene or bring it to a stop and direct the first person you stop to take over traffic management. Clear the way for emergency service vehicles to attend with as free a path as possible.
- Assist with the other casualties or relieve the person giving CPR.
- Make the scene as safe as possible.
- Calm down and reassure loved ones or less injured people.
- Find a First Aid kit or other supplies and materials to assist with bleeding control and shock.
- Provide First Aid to other casualties and watch for onset shock.
- Gather the casualties’ belongings for the emergency services to identify the people.
Panic and hysteria can quickly spread. If you are calm and controlled, you take charge and issue other people direct commands and assign them specific tasks. They will be more likely to follow your lead and remain calm and helpful. People intrinsically desire to help, but if they do not know what they are doing, they can be more of a hindrance than a help making the role of a First Aid responder even more difficult.
What To Do If You Are Involved In A Motor Vehicle Accident
- Check yourself for injuries: Call 000 or ask someone else to do so if you’re injured. If you’re seriously injured, try not to move and wait for emergency personnel.
- Check on the well-being of any passengers: If you are able to move, check on the other passengers in your car. If anyone is injured, call 000 for help.
- Get to safety: If you can, move to the side of the road or a sidewalk. If your car is safe to drive and is causing a hazard where it is, pull it to the side of the road. Otherwise, leave it where it is and get yourself and others to safety.
- Call 000: Whether an accident is considered a minor fender-bender or a major collision, calling the police is important — and in some states, it is legally required. The responding officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. If the police can’t come to the accident scene, you can go to the nearest police station and complete a report. When you file a claim with your insurer, they may ask for a copy of the police report to help with the claims process.
- Wait for help: Turn off your engine, turn on your hazard lights and use the road flares in your emergency car kit to warn other vehicles to slow down.
Exchange information: After ensuring you and any passengers are not injured, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. These are the most important information drivers should exchange after an accident:
- Full name and contact information
- Insurance company and policy number
- Driver’s licence and licence plate number
- Type, colour, and model of vehicle
- Location and time of the accident
Avoid discussing the fault with the other driver. When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster reviewing your claim will determine who is at fault based on an inspection of the vehicles/property damaged, the information provided by you and the other parties involved in the accident, and any supporting documentation, like the police report or photographs from the scene.
Document The Accident
To help protect yourself, take the following steps:
- Identify the officer who attends and get their card or contact details to follow up.
- Ask the police officer/s present where you can obtain a copy of the accident report. Your insurer will ask for a copy of the report when you file a car insurance claim.
- Take your own pictures of the damage and the accident scene.
- Document the accident thoroughly by taking pictures of your vehicle from different angles, showing the damage done to both cars and any people or property. It might also be a good idea to take pictures of the other car’s licence plate, make, and colour. You may be able to share photos with your insurer during the claims process to help support your claim.
- Write down the names and addresses of all parties involved, including any passengers in the other vehicle.
- If there were any witnesses to the accident, take down their names and contact information.
- Notify your insurer and start the claims process. You may want to call your insurance provider while you are at the scene or report your claim using your insurer’s mobile app or live call centres if they have one. That way, they can tell you exactly what they will need from you to process your claim and what to expect during the claims process. If your vehicle is damaged, your insurer can arrange for it to be towed directly to a certified body shop. Be aware of unsolicited tow trucks, as they can be a costly scam and hold your vehicle hostage for a huge release fee.
What Happens After Filing The Claim With The Insurance Company
When you file an auto insurance claim, your insurance company will need the above information. They will likely assign an adjuster to inspect your vehicle for the damage to help determine fault in the accident and repair costs for your vehicle. If it costs more to repair your vehicle than to pay out your insurance amount, they will pay you the money agreed in your specific policy and deem your vehicle fit for the scrap pile. You then go hunting for a new vehicle.
Further Reading MaterialThis is the last article of six on How To Give Emergency First Aid.
The fifth article in this series of six articles is: How To Use A Cold Compress Or Ice Pack.
Start at the beginning with the first article in this series called: How To Give Emergency First Aid – Vital First Aid Courses.