CRASH! 4 Car Accident Conversations and Lessons Learned

The loud BANG and subsequent smoky haze emitted from a car’s driver seat airbag going off makes for a jarring experience. You’re bound to be launched into a state of confusion and anxiety, especially if it’s your first accident.

Toward the end of last year, a handful of National Life employees separately got in car accidents in an eerily short time span. While thankfully we’re all safe and sound, our experiences were frightening and stressful.  The silver lining was that each of us learned a great deal and we want to share our experience with you.

To read each author’s story and tips, please click on their names here: Maddy Dickinson, Justin Schwartz, Dena Jackson and Desiree Day.

Justin Schwartz

On what was typically a smooth ride home from work, I rear-ended someone. They’d slammed on the brakes when we were about to exit the freeway. While I thought we weren’t going that fast, the impact was strong enough to deploy my airbag and badly damage my front-end, leading to a totaled vehicle even though the damage wasn’t immediately apparent. We were able to drive off the road when first responders arrived, helping ease the crazy traffic jam we’d created. Thankfully, neither I nor the other driver was harmed…or so I thought.

Here are my two biggest takeaways from the experience:

  • Don’t ignore your health – As it turns out, mental or physical symptoms from a car accident can be delayed. While I didn’t suffer much back pain aside from stiffness, I did fall into a powerful depressed state where I had trouble focusing and remembering things for a period starting a couple weeks after the accident. It was frightening as I’d never felt that way before and it impacted my ability to work. Thankfully after a brain scan, no serious trauma was reported and my symptoms subsided, but I’m glad I got checked out by a doctor to make sure there wasn’t a serious issue.
  • Don’t rush your replacement vehicle – If your car is totaled, needing to acquire a new vehicle quickly can be stressful, especially when you may not have many days of rental coverage. While you will want to act fast to avoid wasted cash on rentals or rideshare, be sure to carefully research cars you’re interested in, new or used. If you’re going to buy a used car, be sure to Google your car’s history — don’t just trust a dealer-provided Carfax. A quick search may reveal unreported accidents. You’ll also want to do a pre-purchase inspection– most dealers will let you drive to a nearby mechanic you can trust. Check out our recent blog post by Maddy Dickinson on buying a car.  

Maddy Dickinson

I recently purchased a new car in Connecticut and was driving back to Vermont on a Sunday evening when I encountered some of the scariest driving conditions of my life. Along the way, I considered getting off the highway and staying the night at a coworker’s house in Montpelier, VT, because of the weather. But I decided against it as the road conditions seemed to clear. Little did I know that the quick temperature drop and rain would create the perfect storm for the Vermont driver’s worst nightmare: black ice.  In a particularly windy section of the drive from Montpelier to Burlington, I could feel my tires losing traction and myself spinning out. Even in all-wheel drive, I couldn’t really gain control and was scared when I saw three other cars go off the road ahead of me due to snow squall conditions.

I quickly managed to get off to the side of the highway and call 911 to report the road conditions/accidents when I was suddenly hit from behind. Due to the black ice on the roads, most cars were trying to pull off on the side of the highway, but because there was little to no traction, many of them slid into other cars. I was rear-ended by another driver who was just trying to pull off on the side of the road as well. This was my first time being in a car accident, and I was terrified. My brand-new car had just been hit! To make matters worse, that wasn’t the only accident I was in that night. State police arrived on the scene soon after and stopped all traffic on the road while they tried to de-ice. After a couple of hours, the state police determined that they could only clear one lane of the road and decided to bring in tow trucks to tow drivers on the side of the road into the left lane. While one of the tow trucks was being directed by the state police, it ended up sliding off the road and side-swiping my vehicle! Now, I was faced with not one but two separate accidents to resolve….

Four tips for winter travel

  • Play it safe.  Personal safety is of huge importance in situations like these. Even though I needed to gather insurance and contact information from both parties that hit me, I stayed in the car and gave my contact information to the state police as the roads were too slippery to walk on. I also risked being hit by another vehicle sliding if I had left my car.
  • Stay gassed up. Always make sure to leave at least a quarter of tank of gas in your car. This will allow you to idle on the side of the road and keep the heat on for several hours if need be.
  • Become a weather fiend.  When preparing to drive in winter conditions, make sure to check the forecast ahead of time. Had I done so, I could’ve left earlier or worked from home for a day. Better safe than sorry!
  • Be prepared.  Make sure to keep an emergency kit stocked with essentials such as granola bars, water bottles, a blanket, flashlight and portable charger handy for situations like these. 

Most importantly – follow your gut. If I had gotten off the road to stay with my coworker, the entire situation could have been avoided. I was lucky to come out unharmed and with some minor cosmetic damage to my vehicle, but car accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere. Focus on what you can control and know that you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Dena Jackson

It was a sunny winter in Dallas, TX. Not a snowflake to be found. My day started off just the same as any other Wednesday. I was on my way to work, singing loud in my car. I had the music turned up just enough so I could not actually hear my voice when I sang.

It wasn’t until I stopped at a stop light and looked down to turn the radio station that a Tacoma truck rammed right into the back of my Tahoe. No airbags were deployed and as far as I could feel in the moment, I was fine.

I then turned on my hazard lights and got out of the car to make sure that the person in the Tacoma was alright. We both concluded that we were physically okay.

This was the first accident I had ever encountered and I learned a few key lessons:

  1. Take pictures! 
    1. Of the scene, from all angles
    1. Of the other party’s license plate
    1. Of the other party’s insurance
  2. Immediately call your insurance company and file a claim
  3. If you are never sure how to proceed in an accident, call the police

Desiree Day

What’s worse than one accident within a year? Try TWO! I was involved in two accidents in 2019 that we 9 months apart and both yielded two completely different experiences.

First Accident- February 24, 2019

We were on our way from church, which is a lengthy drive, so when we were about 1.5 miles from our house an accident was the last thing on our minds. All I can remember is handing my then one-year old daughter a slice of an orange and when I turned to sit front facing, the air bags deployed. My husband (who was driving) and I were both in a state of confusion and disbelief. Soon after I realized what happened, we hit the car in front of us, which was coming to an abrupt stop

Second Accident- November 21, 2020

I had just picked up my daughter from school and was stopped at a red light in the left turn lane. Suddenly, we were hit from behind and my water goes flying everywhere. I looked to see if my daughter was okay and she just had the biggest smile and said, “mommy car go boom BOOM!” The perfect comic relief in a completely unexpected moment. Someone hit us.

My advice:

  1. When in doubt get a police officer on the scene: Our car was completely inoperable in the February accident and we were in the middle of a busy intersection. Having officers on the scene kept traffic moving and organized the chaos that can happen with an accident.
  2. Think about consulting an attorney: Sometimes dealing with the residuals of an accident can be overwhelming, especially when serious injury is involved. Having an experienced advocate to navigate and facilitate the process helps in these sometimes-stressful situations. This was especially needed for our second accident. The insurance company of the person that was at fault told us that our car would have to be totaled out. The car was in perfect working condition. Having our attorney advise us through the process led to full repair of our car and just compensation.

For more information on the above authors, please check out their author bios by clicking on their names here: Justin Schwartz, Dena Jackson, Desiree Day