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Helping your teen deal with their first crash

It’s been estimated that about one-fifth of all teen drivers are involved in a crash within a year of first getting behind the wheel. A crash – even one that doesn’t result in serious or long-term injuries – can be traumatic for anyone.

However, a teen’s first crash can seriously affect their confidence and even their mental health. That’s true even if it was someone else’s fault.

Caring for your teen’s emotional health after a crash

As a parent, your priority is getting the best possible care for their physical injuries. However, don’t neglect their emotional injuries. Even if they say they’re fine, it’s crucial to watch for signs that maybe they aren’t. These can include:

  • Changes in sleeping habits (insomnia or sleeping too much)
  • A change in school performance
  • Lack of interest in their extracurricular activities
  • New behavioral issues – at home, school or elsewhere
  • Talking about the crash constantly

While talking about the crash is important in helping your teen process what happened, replaying it over and over in their head isn’t healthy – particularly if they’re feeling guilty about something that wasn’t their fault.

Getting in the driver’s seat again once their injuries are healed is also important. The longer they wait, the harder it will be. Don’t let them go alone until you and they are sure they can do it, and let them take things slowly if they need to.

Dealing with the insurance company

This is something you don’t want your teen to handle on their own. Don’t let them talk to anyone from the at-fault driver’s insurance company (or yours) alone. Even the smallest expression of remorse or guilt can be used against them.

It’s a good idea to have them write out exactly what happened (which also helps with the healing process). However, remove any extraneous details before using that as a reference when talking to anyone from an insurance company. By no means should they communicate with the at-fault driver – even if they’re contacted.

It can be tempting to agree to a settlement to put the whole thing behind you. However, make sure you know the full extent of your medical costs (including mental health care if needed) and other expenses before you sign away your rights to further compensation. If you believe you’re not being offered a fair settlement, it may be worthwhile to get legal guidance.