Accidents are a fact of life, no matter how careful you are.
The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show accidents cause 39.5 million doctor visits and 29.4 million trips to the emergency room per year.
And aside from the physical injuries, an accident can take a serious toll on your savings. Whether it’s medical expenses, rising insurance premiums, time off work or an ugly repair bill, you could find yourself on the hook for a hefty sum you haven’t budgeted for.
These surprise costs might take months or even years to bounce back from. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the impact an accident has on your bank balance.
1. Speak to a lawyer
If you’re injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, it’s important to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
With the help of a good lawyer, you can avoid paying unnecessary damages, being overcharged for medical services and being turned down for an insurance claim you’re entitled to.
Many personal injury lawyers operate under a “no fee unless you win” policy, so you won’t need to worry about scraping together the cost of your legal counsel upfront. However, it’s still important to look for someone who charges reasonable contingency fees, as your lawyer will be taking a cut from any settlement you might receive.
It’s common to lose around a third of your settlement to your lawyer, although some may charge as little as 15% or as much as half, depending on the case.
2. Take out a personal loan
Did you damage someone’s property, cause an injury or rack up a sizable medical bill? See whether you can work out a payment plan. If they’re agreeable, come up with a monthly payment schedule you know you can comfortably afford.
But if they’re not flexible, and you’re light on cash, you may need to take out a personal loan to help cover the cost of your accident.
If your credit score is decent, you may be eligible for a loan with a low interest rate and a repayment term you’ll be able to cover without too much financial strain. You can check your credit score for free online.
If your score is below average, you might only qualify for loans that will end up costing you a lot in the long run. That said, a pricey personal loan might still be your best option.
3. Adjust your budget
If you can’t get compensation from someone else and you’re faced with one or more unexpected bills, you’ll need to examine your budget and look for opportunities to reduce your monthly spending.
A good place to start is canceling any subscriptions you don’t need or rarely use. Automatic or recurring charges are easy to forget about when tightening your belt.
You may be able to shave some money off your weekly grocery bills by using a cash-back rewards program and comparing prices at different stores in your area. You can use a free browser extension to make sure you’re don't overspend when you shop online.
Another smart way to cut your recurring costs is to shop around for cheaper car insurance. By comparing rates from multiple insurers, you may be able to find the coverage you currently have for up to $1,110 less per year. However, if your accident was car-related, you can expect your premiums to rise no matter where you go.
4. Pick up a side gig
So long as you’re physically able, you may want to consider bringing in some extra income with a side gig.
An online marketplace can help you find eager buyers for your talents. That can be anything from writing to voice acting to graphic design.
Once you start completing gigs and accumulating positive reviews, you can raise the price of your services and bring in even more money.
If you don’t feel your skillset is relevant for gig work, you can bring in some extra cash by filling out surveys and completing other simple tasks online.
5. Prepare for the future
The best way to offset the cost of an accident is to prepare for the unexpected.
Make sure you have a solid emergency fund in place that will cover at least six months of your normal expenses, including your rent, groceries and other monthly bills.
If you don’t currently have a health insurance policy you should look into getting coverage immediately, before an accident happens.
Lastly, even desk workers should consider purchasing disability insurance. It’s very affordable — often pennies per day — and will protect your income if an accident or sudden illness affects your ability to work.