PTSD is not something you may associate with car accidents, but the truth is that many car accident victims develop this debilitating condition after a motor vehicle collision. If so, they may seek compensation from the at-fault party.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a common condition that can occur to individuals that experience traumatic events in their lives. The disorder can manifest itself in many ways and affect the way a person can function and live each day. For some victims, the condition can resolve over time, but for others, the feelings and reactions in living with the condition can last for years, if not their lifetime.
In recent times, PTSD has gained much attention due to the prevalence amongst individuals suffering after a distressing event in their lives. While many correlate PTSD to those that have gone to war or other large-scale events, the reality is that anyone can suffer from PTSD. Any personal event that creates intense fear or trauma can result in post-traumatic stress disorder. For some people living with PTSD, the condition comes up after a singular event, but for others, it can develop after time or exposure to continuous experiences.
Can a Car Accident Cause PTSD?
A car accident can be terrifying and shocking to anyone who experiences one. One moment you are in a vehicle traveling on the road, and the next, you can find yourself unsure of where you are and suffering from painful injuries. A car accident is a traumatic experience, and for some victims, that trauma is overwhelming and lingers for long after the accident is over. PTSD can happen to any victim of any car accident. While severe injuries and devastating destruction can contribute to the likelihood that you will suffer from the condition, even a seemingly minor accident can have powerful effects on the mental and emotional wellbeing of a car accident victim.
Some people living with PTSD may suffer physical injuries in a car accident that contribute to or lead to the development of the disorder. However, some car accident victims may develop PTSD without any physical injury. Studies show that as high as 39 percent of motor vehicle accidents victims can develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Considering that over 6 million traffic-related crashes are occurring each year in the U.S., a staggering number of people can be living with PTSD after an accident.
Warning Signs of PTSD After a Car Accident
PTSD does not happen instantaneously. Most accident victims take some time to realize they live with the condition. Delaying the diagnosis of PTSD can cause victims to suffer from the condition in silence for some time before seeking help and treatment to support their recovery. On average, an individual with PTSD will begin to show symptoms of the condition within three months from the date of the accident.
PTSD often develops over time and, in some cases, slowly. What may appear as just a few signs or symptoms here and there can develop into a much more intense experience for the victim suffering from the condition. In some instances, individuals may not initially realize that their struggles have something to do with a prior motor vehicle accident.
It is important to seek help for PTSD from a qualified healthcare professional as soon as possible. The timeline for recovery from PTSD can vary widely, with some people able to recover in a matter of weeks or months, while others must work on their recovery for years or throughout their life.
There is no one common indicator or symptom of PTSD. Rather, PTSD is a combination of signs or symptoms after a traumatic event. Symptoms and their intensity can change over time. Understanding the warning signs or symptoms of PTSD can help a car accident victim get the help they need sooner rather than later.
Possible warning signs and symptoms of PTSD in a car accident victim include:
- Flashbacks or replays of the car accident
- Constant reminders, memories, or nightmares of the accident
- Triggers that cause intense emotions or physical symptoms reminding you of the accident
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Changes in mood or behaviors; becoming more irritable or aggressive
- Feelings of detachment or numbness
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or other negative emotions or thoughts
- Anxiety or frequent periods of fear
- Avoidance of anything related to the accident, including people or memories of it
How Is PTSD After a Car Accident Diagnosed?
Usually, a healthcare professional will make a PTSD diagnosis based on their observations of you and your experiences after a car accident. In most circumstances, a doctor will not diagnose PTSD until some time has passed after a motor vehicle accident. Understandably, an individual may feel on edge or nervous in the days following an accident. It is necessary to seek medical attention immediately if the signs and symptoms of PTSD persist for over a month or become overwhelming for a victim to the point that they cannot function.
A mental health doctor such as a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose PTSD. Usually, the doctor will engage in conversations with you about your experience to help determine whether you are suffering from the condition. A doctor will often look at the symptoms of the condition you are experiencing and the frequency of those symptoms. A common distinction in individuals who have PTSD is the recurrence of the symptoms over time.
Will PTSD Go Away After a Car Accident?
The sooner a car accident victim receives a PTSD diagnosis, the sooner they can get the help they need to get their life back on track. PTSD is not an instant fix, and not every treatment will work for everyone. PTSD treatment is a process that takes time, effort, and patience. Doctors can help patients find treatments and strategies that can help reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms and improve an individual’s overall quality of life after a car accident.
For some victims with PTSD, they may be able to achieve a full recovery, but for some victims, the process of recovery will take years and require constant treatment to deal with the recurring symptoms and challenges of living with the condition. The approach to treating PTSD is to help a victim improve their life and learn to cope with the symptoms that can occur. Treatment options can include a combination of strategies such as medications, lifestyle changes, and therapies.
Who is Susceptible to PTSD?
Any person in a car accident or other traumatic event can develop PTSD. Children, teens, and adults are all susceptible to developing this condition. However, not everyone in a car accident will get PTSD, and some risk factors can make a person more susceptible to its development than others.
There are many theories on why PTSD develops in some individuals but not others. One factor that can cause PTSD is the victim’s perception of a car accident. While one person may perceive an event in one way, another may see things differently. For example, if several members of a family are in the same motor vehicle accident, some individuals may develop PTSD while some may not. That can be affected by the individual’s perception of danger and the life-threatening fear that one might experience but not the others.
Various other factors can influence whether a person will develop PTSD, including:
- Prior mental health concerns
- Witnessing a destructive accident or severe injuries to yourself or others
- Lack of a support system
- Past traumatic experiences
Is PTSD an Injury?
Whether a court or an insurance company will qualify a PTSD diagnosis as a car accident injury will depend on the facts of your case and the laws and precedent in the state where the accident occurs. Not all states will consider PTSD a stand-alone injury after a car accident. In some states, a car accident victim can recover damages for PTSD through pain and suffering damages, but only if they prove they have also suffered a physical injury due to the accident. Some states, like Florida, do allow PTSD as an injury after a car accident. This means that you could claim PTSD as an injury in Florida even if you have no other physical injuries that arise from the accident.
When Can You Sue for PTSD in a Car Accident?
When you suffer an injury due to a car accident caused by another party’s negligence, you can file a claim for damages against the parties responsible or their insurer. In Florida, you can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit for PTSD that arises from a motor vehicle accident.
As a victim with PTSD, you can seek recovery for both economic and non-economic losses that relate to your PTSD diagnosis or any other injuries and damages you sustain due to a car accident. In most car accident cases, you could likely resolve your insurance claim successfully with the help of an attorney through negotiations. If, for any reason, you cannot reach a settlement agreement, you can file suit in civil court in many circumstances for the recovery of your damages against an insurance company or other liable party.
Damages for PTSD after a car accident can include:
- Medical expenses for treatment currently and in the future
- Loss of income due to your inability to work now and in the future
- Pain and suffering due to your physical or PTSD injury
What Should You Do if You Think You Have PTSD?
If you were recently in a car accident and you are experiencing signs that you believe could be posttraumatic stress disorder, there are some steps you should take to protect your health and your case.
Seek Help From a Doctor as Soon as Possible
When you are in a car accident, it is common to have feelings of fear, nervousness, and anxiety. In most cases, those feelings will begin to subside in the days and weeks after a crash. However, if you continue to experience worrying symptoms affecting your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, you could have PTSD. Once you begin to feel any signs and symptoms of PTSD, you must speak with your doctor.
If you raise your concerns to a primary physician, you will likely get a referral to a mental health doctor for further treatment and care. Follow up with the referral to a mental health specialist to discuss your condition and the options available for your care. Do not put off getting the help you need because you think that, eventually, the condition will go away. PTSD can make life very difficult for those suffering and can continue to worsen if you do not get the care you need.
Contact a PTSD Car Accident Attorney
Do not wait for a PTSD diagnosis to contact a car accident attorney. You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident. Insurance companies will try to get you to settle or begin to ask questions about the accident and your injuries that can jeopardize your case. When you hire a lawyer, they will manage all communications with your insurance and negotiate damages on your behalf.
Settling too soon or making a statement to an insurer too early in your case can cause you to lose out on compensation that you are likely eligible for. PTSD does not happen overnight, and it can take time to figure out the severity of your condition, injuries, and their effects on you. Contact a PTSD car accident attorney for a free case evaluation after a car accident.