Serious injuries caused in a road crash can severely affect a person’s life and work. For some, this could just be during their treatment and recovery, but for others it may mean ongoing or even lifetime complications and disabilities.
Whatever your situation, a Support Worker is available to help and support you, and your family or whānau, for as long as you need it. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
A road crash that causes serious injury is always investigated by police. They have a duty to try to find out exactly what happened, including if there was anything that suggests a crime was committed in causing the crash.
Police will gather all available evidence and take statements from those involved in the crash and any witnesses. This may mean they will ask to interview you. Police may also ask for permission to take photographs of any injuries and to obtain copies of medical records relating to the injuries.
The police investigation can be very technical and may take several months. The officer in charge of the investigation will let victims and their immediate families know if they have or haven’t decided to charge anyone. If any vehicle involved in the crash belonged to a business or organisation, they are likely to also undertake an investigation into the crash.
If the road crash involved a work vehicle, other agencies (such as WorkSafe New Zealand) or businesses may also begin an official investigation and inquiry into the circumstances of the road crash and resulting injuries.
Go to WorkSafe New Zealand website.
When police visit you after you have been injured, they will organise for a Victim Support Worker to come with them or will arrange for a Support Worker to be in touch as soon as possible.
We have highly trained Support Workers who have in-depth knowledge of the impact a sudden road crash and injury can have on people, the services available, and the official processes that can follow.
We offer support to immediate families and whānau, as well as witnesses. Police can introduce you to a Support Worker or you can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
If police decide to charge someone with criminally causing injury or death, they will inform you and explain the next steps in the justice process A Victim Support Worker can also answer any questions you might have about this. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
You can learn more about Understanding the Justice System, Going to Court, After Sentencing and The Parole Board in the Practical Information section of our website.
Early reactions to a crash causing injury or death can be found here, but in the coming weeks and months you are likely to experience some strong reactions to the actual crash itself and the impact of injuries caused by the crash. Your family, whānau, and friends may also have reactions as they see someone they care about going through this.
Your recovery journey will take the time it needs and may involve ongoing treatment and rehabilitation. You may need considerable time off work or additional care at home. The official investigation and coronial processes can take a long time, and there might be ongoing media interest in the crash. This all means that what happened can continue to be on your mind, making it hard to move forward.
Everyone’s different and will react in their own ways
Everyone is different, but it can be reassuring to know some of the normal reactions that others injured in a road crash commonly experience. These may be intense at times.
If you were seriously injured, your reactions will probably begin once you have become well enough to understand what has happened to you.
Emotionally, it can be hard to believe it happened. You may feel anxious about your situation and worried about its impact on your daily life, work, family, and whānau. Many victims feel guilty for not preventing the crash, even if the situation was out of their control, blaming themself or others. Injured victims often feel very frustrated, angry, and resentful about their situation. You may feel helpless, grief, sadness, or worry for others also involved. You may feel gratitude for surviving the crash and for the rescue, but guilty if others haven’t been so lucky. You may be grieving for anyone who was seriously injured or who died in the crash, especially if they were close to you.
You might have difficulty concentrating, find you’re thinking more slowly, having difficulty making decisions, and more forgetful. It may be hard to remember the crash – it might seem a blur and details could come back to you later. You may experience some disturbing images or memories, nightmares, or troubling flashbacks – reliving what happened again. You may find you try to avoid things that trigger painful memories of the crash, such as avoiding going past where it happened, or if you must pass it often, trying not to think about it at all.
You could be dealing with your injuries, which may include the effects of any medication you are on. Other physical reactions that you might have include difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, body tensions and aches, shakiness, a tight chest, breathing problems, stomach and digestion problems, or headaches.
You might want to be near other people more or want more time on your own. It can be hard to make sense of what happened. Life can feel unfair and you may find yourself thinking about some big life questions.
All the reactions listed above are normal responses to a traumatic situation. They often can affect people more than they expect.
Looking after yourself is important
Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.
If you have a flashback, it feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.
Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what happened, such as a trusted member of your family or whānau, a close friend, your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Support Worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional about these things. Talking honestly about how things are for you can help release the stress and emotional tension inside.
More tips for coping with your reactions
To understand more about trauma and grief, and to learn ways to manage your reactions, please see:
Your reactions are normal responses to a traumatic event.
Even though it may not feel like it now, they will gradually lessen in the weeks and months to come.
If they don’t lessen, or get worse and disrupt your daily life and work, it is best to seek the help of a professional who has experience supporting people after trauma. Some people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have concerns, see your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, or ask a Support Worker about help that is available to you. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
If your reactions trouble you
Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, flashbacks, or depression.
Consider talking with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the impact the crash has had.
Find a doctor, counsellor, or psychologist here https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/find-a-gp-or-counsellor/
If children or young people have been affected by the death
See our information sheet for parents and caregivers about Supporting your child or young person after a crime or traumatic event.
ACC can help cover the costs of recovery after a road crash
Your doctor can explain this to you and any forms that will need to be filled in. You can also read about what they cover here.
You may also have an insurance policy that covers accidents and injury
If you do, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They’ll explain what you need to do. Every company has different terms and conditions for their policies.
Managing media interest
The information sheet Managing media interest can help guide you.
See also suggestions from Brake, a NZ road injury and bereavement charity http://www.brake.org.nz/victim-help2/1487-dealing-with-media-and-social-media
If the road crash happened overseas
Advice and information is available from embassies in the country concerned and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They can also liaise with authorities from the country where it happened.
Other useful websites and information
Helpful support information for witnesses and/or discoverers of a traumatic incident is available to download here.
Brake - a NZ road injury and bereavement charity