Can Car Accident Victims Suffer PTSD?

Yes, car accident victims can suffer PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after a car accident. People who experience a severe car accident can have an increased risk of developing PTSD and other psychological problems. However, a car crash that involves minor injuries or no injuries could still cause the victim to suffer from PTSD.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The psychological injuries caused by a car accident are often overlooked. Physical injuries and financial losses are the two types of damages that most people focus on after a motor vehicle accident. 

Physicians can be guilty of focusing on physical injuries and overlooking the signs and symptoms of PTSD and other emotional distress. However, car accidents are a leading cause of PTSD.

An analysis of various studies showed that over 22 percent of car accident victims develop PTSD after the crash. Many of the victims experience PTSD symptoms that are similar to the survivors of floods and earthquakes.

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that develops after a traumatic event. The traumatic event generally involves a death, near-death, or serious injury. A person can develop PTSD from experiencing the traumatic event or witnessing the traumatic event.

Common causes of PTSD include motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, combat, and sexual assault. PTSD is a serious condition that requires treatment to overcome. It goes beyond feeling anxious or distressed.

PTSD is an injury, just like a broken bone, traumatic brain injury, or spinal cord injury. Without prompt treatment, the condition could become worse.

Common Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Each person experiences PTSD differently. A person could have one or more of the symptoms of PTSD or all of the symptoms. The degree and the duration of the symptoms also vary.

Symptoms of PTSD could take days or weeks to notice. You might not associate some of the symptoms with the car accident. Sometimes, a person might not develop symptoms of PTSD for years after a traumatic event. 

PTSD can last several months, years, or a lifetime. 

Common signs and symptoms of PTSD after a car crash include, but are not limited to:

  • Nightmares 
  • Flashbacks and frightening thoughts
  • Avoiding places, people, and situations that are reminders of the traumatic event
  • Refusing to drive a vehicle 
  • Avoiding thoughts of the car accident by staying busy and refusing to discuss the crash
  • Feelings of being on edge and being easily startled
  • Problems sleeping
  • Experiencing outbursts of anger
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Problems with memory or concentration
  • Having negative thoughts and no longer showing an interest in favorite activities

Individuals might also develop other psychological problems along with PTSD, such as depression and anxiety. A person might develop an eating disorder, insomnia, and mood swings. Some individuals use alcohol or drugs to cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose PTSD After a Car Accident?

It can be difficult to diagnose PTSD because there is not a diagnostic test a doctor can use. The doctor must use self-reported symptoms to diagnose PTSD.

A physician performs a mental health screening to diagnose PTSD. In most cases, a diagnosis of PTSD requires that the person displays the following symptoms for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom, such as nightmares or flashbacks
  • At least two arousal or reactivity symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping and feeling tense
  • At least one avoidance symptom, such as giving up driving or avoiding riding in a vehicle 
  • At least two cognition or mood symptoms, such as trouble concentrating and trouble remembering details of the car accident

The treatment for PTSD might include medications for depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and counseling are also used with medication to treat PTSD. Therapy helps patients learn about triggers that increase symptoms and coping skills to manage PTSD symptoms.

Living with PTSD After a Car Accident

Failing to receive PTSD treatment can have drastic consequences on a person’s daily activities and quality of life. Even with treatment, a car accident victim might be unable to work and have trouble functioning at home. 

PTSD can interfere with your ability to work after a car accident. You might have trouble focusing and concentrating at work. Loud noises and other triggers could result in debilitating fear and anxiety. 

PTSD can make it more difficult to care for your personal needs and your family’s needs at home. If you cannot drive a vehicle or ride in a vehicle because of PTSD, you cannot take your children to school, go to the grocery store, or run errands. The fear and anxiety caused by PTSD may make you want to stay in bed or hide in your home.

Can Children Develop PTSD After a Car Accident?

Yes, children can experience PTSD after car crashes. The symptoms and signs of PTSD for a child are similar to the symptoms that an adult might display. However, there could be other symptoms, such as bedwetting, potty accidents during the day, and attachment issues.

A child with PTSD could be mistakenly diagnosed as having ADHD because of the lack of focus, attention, and being anxious or fidgety. It is essential to work with a mental health professional with experience treating children with PTSD after a car accident. Obtaining the correct diagnosis is the first step in getting help for your child.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After a Car Accident

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a recognized car accident injury. However, many insurance companies downplay the extent of damages caused by PTSD. The insurance company might claim that you are exaggerating your symptoms to increase the value of your car accident claim.

A car accident lawyer can help you seek compensation for damages caused by PTSD after a car accident. Damages associated with PTSD include:

  • Loss of wages and income
  • Future loss of income and benefits
  • Costs of diagnosis and treatment, including the cost of mental health professionals, psychologists, counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists
  • Cost of mediations 
  • Reimbursement for travel expenses to and from treatment
  • Cost of in-patient treatment for PTSD
  • Compensation for the mental anguish and emotional distress caused by PTSD
  • Cost of treatment for other issues that can be associated with PTSD, such as substance abuse, insomnia, etc.

The party who caused the car crash and its insurance company will try to diminish the pain and suffering caused by PTSD. They might argue that your treatment and costs are not reasonable or necessary. They might also argue that you can work because you can function at home.

PTSD and other psychological disorders are difficult to prove in a car accident case. An experienced personal injury lawyer understands the evidence required to prove your damages and how to obtain that evidence. The lawyer also understands the tactics and defenses used by insurance providers and defense lawyers.

Working with an attorney gives you the best chance of recovering the compensation you deserve. Your lawyer also shoulders the burden of dealing with the insurance company so that you can focus on your continued treatment and recovery.