Can a Car Crash Cause PTSD?

Can a Car Crash Cause PTSD?

PTSD From Car Accident: What You Need to Know

A serious car accident can result in more than physical injuries. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 50 million victims worldwide suffer nonfatal injuries due to motor vehicle accidents in the form of cognitive dysfunction, psychological suffering, and the loss of quality of life.

More specifically, some car accident survivors will undergo post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Any person who believes they may be experiencing PTSD after a car accident must seek medical treatment. Here is a look into the correlation between car accidents and trauma.

male sitting on couch with posttraumatic stress disorder

About Car Accidents and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic accident. Many victims will experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the traumatic event.

What Causes PTSD?

Any event that causes trauma can cause PTSD. One of the leading causes of PTSD is car accidents, as many car accident victims suffer serious injuries, intensifying the severity of the event.

Every crash is unique, so it is possible that not everyone will experience PTSD after a car accident. In some cases, those who experience a traumatic event may not indicate PTSD symptoms, while others may develop PTSD closely following the event.

Signs of Car Accident PTSD

A serious accident has the potential to cause severe mental distress that impacts everyday life. Because a victim of a motor vehicle accident may respond to a crash differently than someone else, it is important to know the varying signs of someone who has undergone trauma.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), common symptoms of PTSD after a car accident can be displayed within 30 days of the event. Additionally, of the individuals diagnosed with PTSD, about 50% exhibited signs of major depression, which lead to substance abuse disorders and mood disorders.

What Are the Common Symptoms of PTSD?

The symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person, but the most common types of symptoms often include:

  • Flashbacks or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe anxiety or fear to operate or ride in a motor vehicle
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds the victim of the event
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability or anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling numb or detached from others
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

How Long Does PTSD Last?

The symptoms of PTSD can last for weeks, months, or even years. This is dependent on if a psychiatric disorder was sustained or if other types of mental disorders were suffered. It is vital that anyone experiencing any of the symptoms of PTSD seek help from a mental health professional.

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Why Auto Accidents Cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Though a minor fender bender might not always lead to significant psychological distress, any motor vehicle collision has the potential to develop into traumatic memories. The reason car accident PTSD is so common can be associated with the following factors:

  • Coping mechanisms: Everyone copes with stress, anger, and overall feelings differently. Until someone is faced with a traumatic incident, it may not be known how that person will react.
  • Individualized reaction to the accident: Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD, as some may be more vulnerable if they have a history of trauma or mental health disorder.
  • Severity of the accident: The more severe the car accident, the more likely of developing PTSD. Severe accidents are more likely to cause serious physical injuries, which directly correlates with "pain and suffering." Furthermore, if the injuries were life-threatening, fear and anxiety are more likely to develop.
closeup of two hands embracing to indicate support for PTSD from a car accident

Treating PTSD After a Car Accident

After an accident, seek medical attention, regardless if it appears a serious injury was sustained or not. Similar to a hidden injury, like a concussion, an anxiety disorder will not be immediately detectable. Only a qualified medical professional can diagnose someone and create a PTSD treatment plan.

A qualified physician can diagnose PTSD with a psychological exam outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. Examples of treatment for PTSD will range from group therapy to supportive therapy. In some instances, a physician may also prescribe anti-anxiety medications.

Depending on someone's condition, the range of treatment will vary. The ultimate goal is to find a treatment plan that is effective and helps victims overcome their PTSD after a car accident.

Treatment for PTSD Symptoms

The recovery process of treating car accident PTSD is not as straightforward as mending a broken bone, and the length of recovery time will vary for everyone. There are a number of effective treatments for PTSD, including:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CBT) - Multi-step treatment that trains patients to rethink the traumatic event
  • Exposure Therapy - Technique to overcome traumatic events by exposing a patient to the anxiety source without the intent to cause any danger
  • Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR) - Structured therapy where the patient focuses on the traumatic event while experiencing eye movements

PTSD Can Lead to Other Issues

PTSD after a car accident can cause victims to develop emotional symptoms and behavioral changes that did not exist before the car accident.

Similar to compensation for medical bills to treat physical trauma, damages for mental trauma can also be compensated in a personal injury case. Chronic PTSD after a car accident has the potential to lead to potentially lifelong psychological problems that require ongoing mental health counseling and medication. 

You need and deserve financial compensation to pay for such medical treatment in the weeks and months after the crash and also across posterity.  A personal injury lawsuit sets the stage to obtain that financial compensation.

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Can Compensation Be Recovered From a PTSD Car Accident?

Yes, a victim can seek compensation for an auto accident that caused the victim's PTSD. If it can be proven that the other driver's negligence caused the accident that ultimately lead to the victim's trauma, then the victim could be entitled to damages.

However, it will require strong legal representation from a qualified car accident lawyer. Losses for car accidents in Fresno, CA are characterized by the severity of property damage and injuries, both of which can be reimbursed based on repair costs and medical bills.

Another form of loss taken into consideration is pain and suffering, which can be associated with physical pain, as well as psychological pain. After a Fresno car crash, victims suffering from PTSD may feel nervous, depressed, or have a new fear of driving.  Even fear of riding in a vehicle as a passenger is an indication of PTSD.

While psychological pain and suffering cannot necessarily be measured in terms of monetary value, it certainly can be compensated, as the ramifications are still detrimental to victims.

Why Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Can Be Compensated

Alterations in sleep patterns, anything that triggers flashbacks, intrusive memories, or an increase in the frequency of nightmares are signs of car crash PTSD.  These symptoms can cause victims to withdraw from hobbies and daily activities.

Those suffering from PTSD after Fresno car crashes may also experience an increase in irritability and anger, impacting personal relationships, work, and overall outlook on quality of life.

When it comes to damages, experienced car accident lawyers will argue that victims suffered losses were a direct result of the motor vehicle accidents that ultimately led to PTSD symptoms.

Types of Compensation That Can Be Obtained

The amount of compensation and the various damages that can be compensated vary for every case and are dependent on the level of losses. Common examples of personal injury cases involving post-traumatic stress disorder include:

  • Lost wages: income that could not be earned due to PTSD interfering with performance or preventing actually getting to work due to the fear of getting into a vehicle
  • Medical expenses: cost of any medical treatment that was received to treat PTSD, such as group therapy, exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, or anxiety medication
  • Pain and suffering: emotional and physical pain experienced as a result of PTSD, affecting well-being
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Common Questions About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What Causes PTSD Symptoms after a Car Accident?

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of PTSD after a car accident, including:

  • The severity of the accident
  • The person's individual reaction to the car accident
  • The person's coping mechanisms
  • The person's history of trauma or mental illness

How Can a Car Accident Affect Mood?

A car accident can have a significant impact on a person's mood. These mood changes can be caused by a number of factors, including the physical and emotional trauma of the accident, the stress of dealing with the aftermath of the accident, and the fear of being in another accident. Some behavior changes PTSD can cause include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Loneliness
  • Hopelessness

What Can Be Done to Overcome PTSD From a Car Accident?

There are a number of things that can be done to overcome PTSD from a car accident. Some of the most effective treatments include therapy, emotional support groups, and self-care. However, the best course of action is to seek treatment from a qualified medical professional.

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Contact Our Fresno Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD or believe to have PTSD from a car accident, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. There are effective treatments available that can help you to manage your symptoms and recover from the trauma you have experienced.

You may also be able to recover compensation for your PTSD from the other driver's insurance company. Reach out to our Fresno car accident attorney today to schedule an initial consultation. At Central Valley Accident Lawyers in Freno, CA, we will review the details of your case and fight to get you the fair compensation you deserve.

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