Car Accident Victims Can Suffer PTSDBy Stewart J. Guss on October 4th, 2019
When people read about severe car accidents or talk about them with others, the focus often lies on the physical injuries and perhaps the financial burdens that accompany a serious car accident injury. The emotional health of car accident victims is largely ignored to their detriment. In fact, those who have survived a car accident can suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even a non-fatal accident can have psychological consequences for drivers and occupants. Yet, insurance companies and defense teams WILL TRY TO DENY YOUR MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES and argue PTSD doesn’t qualify as a serious injury.
We put your health and safety first after a car accident, and WE KNOW PTSD CAN BE A REAL CONSEQUENCE in the wake of a car accident. Below we offer you more information about PTSD, how it related to car accidents, and what you can do if you are suffering from PTSD after a car accident.
What Is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder which can occur in those “who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.” Examples of traumatic events which might lead to PTSD include natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, terrorist acts, war violence, rape, assault, AND SERIOUS ACCIDENTS. The APA estimates 3.5 percent of adults in the United States suffer from PTSD, and a little less than 10 percent of people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Additionally, women are two times more likely to acquire PTSD than men.
Those who suffer PTSD after a car accident can have disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the accident which last for an extended period of time. They might have flashbacks or nightmares and feel a wide range of negative emotions, including detachment and alienation. PTSD victims might also have intense negative reactions to ordinary sights and sounds and accidental touch. People with PTSD often seclude themselves to avoid anyone or anything which might remind them of the trauma they experienced. For example, when car accidents cause PTSD, victims often struggle or refuse to drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
Symptoms of PTSD
Unlike many physical car accident injuries, you won’t notice the symptoms of PTSD in yourself or a loved one for days or weeks after a serious car accident. Symptoms might last for weeks, months, and sometimes years. Not all of those who suffer PTSD have the same symptoms or all of the possible symptoms. The APA states that symptoms of PTSD fall into one of four categories and can vary in severity depending on the person and the situation. The categories are:
PTSD victims can have intrusive thoughts which might present in a variety of different ways. They might have repeated memories they cannot control and distressing dreams. Car accident survivors might also experience flashbacks of the accident. Those who have experienced flashbacks often describe them as extremely vivid to the extent they feel they are seeing the accident before their eyes or reliving it all over again.
After surviving or witnessing a severe car accident, some PTSD symptoms manifest into physical actions. PTSD victims might avoid anything or anyone which causes them to think of the car accident. This includes avoiding people who might have been in the car with them, or friends and family members of those who were driving or riding in the car. This also includes avoiding driving or riding in a car altogether whenever possible and avoiding the location where the accident occurred. Additionally, PTSD victims might try to avoid remembering or thinking about the accident, as well as resist talking about the incident and their feelings about it. Although we are talking about PTSD in the context of car accidents, if you think of any war veterans you know, you might notice the same type of thing.
The way in which negative thoughts and feelings might manifest in car accident injury victims depends on whether they were driving or riding, and whether they were at fault. At-fault drivers might have ongoing feelings of self-doubt, shame, and guilt. Drivers who were injured and not at fault might feel they cannot trust anyone on the road, but they might also feel guilt and shame if a passenger was injured. Passengers, especially children, might struggle with trusting drivers and feel fear and horror for an extended period of time. In severe cases of PTSD, some might feel detached and antisocial.
Arousal and Reactive Symptoms
Sometimes those who suffer from PTSD have difficulty controlling their reactions. They might have angry outbursts over little things or behave in a self-destructive way. Many PTSD victims have trouble sleeping and focusing when they are awake.
Diagnosing PTSD After a Car Accident
While PTSD after a car accident is very real, doctors look for specific things before they make a diagnosis. Typical PTSD symptoms last for months, and in severe cases for years, but they must last more than a month for diagnosis. Most who develop PTSD after a car accident will do so within three months, but symptoms might appear later according to the APA. Additionally, doctors diagnose PTSD when any of the previous symptoms cause significant emotional distress and problems functioning in day-to-day life. Finally, PTSD doesn’t occur alone; other conditions such as depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and memory problems often accompany PTSD.
Your Health Is The Number One Priority
Post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t discussed in the context of car accidents as much as physical injuries which occur. One reason might be that survivors might not believe they can get PTSD from a car accident. In other cases, those who are suffering from symptoms of PTSD might be embarrassed, worry about the consequences of disclosing their struggles, and try to avoid telling anyone about their symptoms.
PTSD IS REAL! If you or a loved one has experienced any of the previously listed symptoms, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You don’t have to suffer through PTSD and its social and professional consequences. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other scientists who study PTSD after motor vehicle accidents have come to a consensus on a few different treatments to help you through your struggles. They include:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a form of psychological treatment which mental health professions use to treat many disorders, including PTSD. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that CBT relies on several core principles, which include:
- Faulty and unhelpful ways of thinking contribute to psychological struggles.
- Learned patterns of unhelpful behavior contribute to psychological struggles
- Those struggling can learn better ways to cope, which will relieve their symptoms.
Ultimately, CBT helps those who struggle with PTSD after a car accident by learning how to be their own therapist and encourage themselves to change patterns of behavior and face their fears. CBT also teaches them how to calm their minds and relax their bodies to help alleviate or eliminate any symptoms. The length of time a car accident must undergo therapy depends on the circumstances of the accident, the severity of injuries, and whether or not a fatality was involved. When someone dies in an accident, survivors must deal with massive amounts of guilt as part of PTSD.
This treatment is often used in conjunction with CBT. The goal of supportive psychotherapy for those who treat PTSD car accident victims is to help patients cope with their mental anguish and the ways it impacts their daily life. Therapists focus on providing comfort, advice, and encouragement. Additionally, supportive psychotherapy provides an outlet for those who are struggling with PTSD to vent their frustrations openly to a sympathetic ear. Therapists can use the time they spend with PTSD patients to teach them how to manage their symptoms and work through them.
Seeking Compensation for PTSD After a Car Accident
After suffering injuries in a car accident caused by another party’s negligence, you have the legal right to sue them for damages related to your injuries, hospitalization, treatment, and recovery. YOU DESERVE COMPENSATION when someone else causes you harm. Damages you might recover in a settlement or verdict in your favor include medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages, and non-economic damages for emotional distress, loss of consortium, and others which might apply to your case. Some examples of damages related to PTSD after a car accident include:
- Cost for visits to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional
- Travel to and from doctor appointments related to PTSD diagnosis and treatment
- Prescription medications your mental health professional might prescribe to aid you
- Treatment for other issues accompanying the PTSD, such as substance abuse treatment
- Cost of inpatient mental health and treatment programs related to PTSD when applicable
- Compensation for mental anguish
You can be sure the insurance company and/or at-fault party named in the lawsuit will go out of their way to avoid paying a claim. Your attorney must be diligent and aggressive to prove negligence. Causation is one of the most contested elements of negligence—that is, your attorney must prove that the accident led to PTSD, and you suffered harm as a result. Psychological disorders are more difficult to prove, because you can’t take pictures of them and show them to a court. Also, symptoms often don’t show up for days or weeks after the car accident. The defense will use this to their advantage and make outrageous arguments to devalue your claim and avoid as much financial liability as possible.
If your regular physician has referred you to a mental health professional because they suspect PTSD after a car accident, it’s in your best interest to visit a psychiatrist or psychologist, let them diagnose you, and begin treatment immediately. As you continue to visit your therapist, he or she will document your visits, your symptoms, your progress, and help you through your struggles.
Not only is this the best action for your emotional health, but your medical record will provide valuable evidence to insurance companies and the court to help prove causation, show that you have PTSD, and show how it links to the car accident you experienced. You might also consider keeping a daily journal of your experiences, symptoms, feelings, and anything associated with the car accident. This provides another tool for your attorney to build your case.
Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer ASAP!
If you’re fighting for a fair settlement from a stubborn insurance company, look for a car accident law firm that knows the defense tactics and strategies insurance companies and legal defense teams use to avoid financial liability—and one that understands how PTSD has harmed you. A skilled legal team will uncover all the facts of your accident and diligently pursue the compensation you deserve.
When depression, anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD cause you to miss work, withdraw from your daily life, and damage your ability to function, don’t shoulder the financial burden on top of the emotional distress you’re already suffering. A car accident attorney can handle the bothersome details of your case and develop the best strategy to seek the justice you deserve, while you focus on therapy and learning how to cope with or eliminate your PTSD symptoms.
YOUR PTSD IS A REAL INJURY! DON’T LET INSURANCE COMPANIES TELL YOU OTHERWISE! More importantly, you shouldn’t be forced to recover from the trauma of a car accident alone. By working closely with trusted treatment professionals, and entrusting your case to a skilled personal injury advocate, recovery from the symptoms of PTSD and a return to a better life is within your reach.