There's Been an Accident...
Check to see if everyone is okay, don't move the vehicles, call 911, take photos, get immediate medical treatment.
These were all ideas swirling through my head in the aftermath of the automobile crash I was involved in the week before last. Hey, I do this for a living so you would figure I'd know exactly what to do.
In real life, however, we attorneys are just regular people who often are not sure exactly what to do and often are more concerned with the fact that their left arm is numb than with taking photos.
Let me back up a bit. Thursday March 1st was a long and stressful day for me. I had a series of depositions planned in Joliet, which would take the entire day. At best it was going to be a 10-12 hour day excluding travel, prep time, or breaks.
I was on the road headed back toward the city by 5 o'clock, about the best that could be hoped for considering the day had begun before dawn. I was thinking no matter what I would hit serious traffic on I-55, something to which I was not looking forward!
I was driving along, just about to get onto I-55 and entered an intersection on a green light dreading how bad the unseen traffic would be, when, out of nowhere, there was a car coming toward me fast making a left turn directly in my path. The car appeared as if it was a wall or window shade that had been pulled down in front of me.
All I could think of was that the sky and the light pole up ahead seemed to be accelerating toward me and through my windshield. I knew this would be a tremendous impact and I had absolutely no chance. In those milliseconds before the crash, I kept thinking that this can't really be happening. It was surreal and frightening.
My immediate thought was that I might very well die in this collision.
The other car hit me with such force I was catapulted into another car stopped for the red light perpendicular to me.
When the crash was over, I was sitting in my car trying to take stock of things. My left arm was numb, my right hand had a fingernail ripped off and the entire hand was really sore and swollen. But overall, I seemed to be functioning at least.
However, I was also terribly confused. I wondered, "why is my car on fire?" It just didn't make sense since there was this smoky smell inside my car and the air was thick with what appeared to be smoke. It took a few minutes for it to dawn on me that this was the powder and other materials released when the air bags deployed. "Oh," I thought, "so the air bags deployed. This must be pretty bad."
Thinking through my list of things I tell my clients to do, I was still pretty foggy so I did what seemed to be the most important thing I could think of, which is to try to reassemble my notes (2 entire legal pads full!) from the day's depositions that had flown all over the passenger side floor spewing out of my now upended briefcase.
When I got out of the car after what could have been 2 minutes or 10, I tried walking around. Time and space were not making much sense to me at that point. It was difficult just to stand upright and I kept having to lean on my knees to get some balance--I was really woozy and my left arm was tingling all the way to my hand and my neck was really sore, especially on the left side, as I noticed I couldn't turn my head at all to either side.
Taking my own advice, I started taking photos of the vehicles involved, but noticed they seemed out of focus after snapping a few. I returned to my car to sit down but looked down to discovery my glasses on the floor on the driver's side. How had they gotten there and why hadn't I noticed they had been missing? I tried taking some more photos but took some really lousy photos, including several of my feet and the ground. Guess it's not as easy as I tell my clients after all!
I finally wandered over to the woman with the two children standing on the corner. I asked if everyone was okay but do not remember hearing a response and wandered off again, still in a daze. I was still very foggy and was having a difficult time concentrating or standing. Just then, it occurred to me that I was starting to shiver, usually a sign of shock.
As I strayed back toward my car, a man started asking me questions, which I didn't quite comprehend. It took me some time to understand that he was the owner of the vehicle stopped for a red light on the cross street when my car got pushed into his after the other driver turned in front of me.
Now the lawyer in me finally kicked in when I heard sirens and it occurred to me I had not exchanged insurance information with anyone. The police officer arrived, the paramedics came, and the next thing I knew I was calling my wife from the backboard as they loaded me into the ambulance.
As it turns out, my injuries turned out not to be as serious as they could have been and I am on the mend slowly, although still extremely sore. It still feels like someone tried to rip my head off my body and even typing or gripping a pen still hurts my hand.
It was a truly bewildering experience, complete with lots of stress, confusion, pain, discomfort, and no ready-to-go list of what to do next. The experience continues with other things to attend to, including insurance claims, automobile evaluation, medical treatment, and rental cars.
To be continued...