A great deal of emphasis is placed on a car accident victim’s physical injuries. Physical injuries are generally known immediately after a car wreck. For example, a victim knows if the accident caused a broken bone or severe burn.

However, a car accident victim can also sustain psychological injuries that might not be known for weeks or months after an automobile accident. PTSD is a common car accident injury that many people sustain, but might be unaware of for some time following the crash.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition. It is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person experiences a traumatic event or witnesses a traumatic event. Common causes of PTSD include motor vehicle accidents, sexual assaults, dog attacks, natural disasters, and active military combat. 

A person might develop PTSD even if the person is not a victim of the traumatic event. For example, a person could develop PTSD after witnessing a wrongful death caused by a car accident. The same could be true if the person witnessed a violent assault.

Studies have shown that people who experience a severe car accident have an increased risk of developing PTSD. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of PTSD.

Unfortunately, most physicians focus on the victim’s physical injuries. However, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an injury that needs to be addressed. It is as serious as a brain injury, amputation, or other car accident injury.

How Do You Know if You Have PTSD After a Car Accident?

PTSD can be challenging to diagnose because some of the symptoms mimic other mental health conditions. Also, each victim experiences PTSD differently. Therefore, you might experience some of the symptoms of PTSD, but not all symptoms. 

The symptoms of PTSD could take weeks or months to develop. You might not notice all of the symptoms because of other conditions. However, your friends and family members might notice the symptoms and mention them to you.

Common signs that you could be experiencing PTSD after a car accident include:

  • You have a fear of riding in vehicles or you avoid riding in a vehicle whenever possible
  • Flashbacks of the accidents or nightmares
  • You avoid situations, places, and people that remind you of the accident
  • Hearing an ambulance or other siren causes panic attacks or extreme fear and anxiety
  • You refuse to drive an automobile
  • You have problems sleeping 
  • Being on edge and easily startled
  • You experience outbursts of anger or mood changes
  • You keep yourself busy to avoid thinking about the crash
  • Refusing to talk about the car accident
  • You isolate yourself, withdraw, or have no interest in favorite activities
  • You experience problems with concentration and memory

You could experience other psychological problems in addition to PTSD. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and insomnia may accompany PTSD. In some cases, a person might self-medicate with drugs or use alcohol to cope with PTSD after a car accident. 

It is also important to remember that children can have PTSD after a traffic accident. The symptoms of PTSD for a child are similar to the symptoms of an adult. However, younger children could regress in some areas, such as schoolwork or potty training.

Children with PTSD might develop attachment issues and lose focus or attention. PTSD in children can be mistaken for ADHD if the child is anxious or fidgety due to PTSD. Talk to your child’s doctor immediately if your child displays any signs of PTSD or other psychological conditions after a motor vehicle accident. 

Diagnosing and Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After a Car Accident

If you experience any of the signs of PTSD, talk with your physician immediately. Failing to treat PTSD could cause the condition to become worse. Some individuals could experience suicidal thoughts.

PTSD is diagnosed based on self-reported symptoms. Your family and friends might be able to help by providing their observations of your behavior since the car accident. 

For a diagnosis of PTSD, the doctor must find that you display symptoms of PTSD for at least one month. Symptoms that the doctor looks for when diagnosing PTSD include:

  • Two or more symptoms related to mood or cognition, such as trouble focusing or remembering details of the car crash
  • One or more symptoms related to re-experiencing the traumatic event, such as flashbacks and nightmares
  • One or more symptoms related to avoidance issues, such as refusing to drive a vehicle
  • Two or more symptoms related to reactivity or arousal, including sleep disturbances and feeling anxious

Treatments for PTSD vary. Your doctor develops a treatment plan based on your symptoms and other factors. 

The treatment for PTSD could include medications, behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, counseling, and cognitive therapy. Medication can help control some of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Counseling and other therapies help the patient learn to identify triggers and use coping skills to manage the effects of PTSD.

PTSD After a Car Accident Can Impact Daily Life

Car accident victims with PTSD can find it difficult or impossible to perform daily tasks. They may be unable to care for their children or themselves. If you cannot drive a car, it can be difficult to care for your family. 

The symptoms of PTSD could make it impossible to function at a level to maintain a job. Problems with concentration and focus may cause you to make mistakes at work. Your fear and anxiety could cause you to act irrational or respond negatively to specific sounds or situations. 

Filing a personal injury claim can help you recover compensation for your car accident injuries, including PTSD. The money cannot cure PTSD, but it can provide for continued mental health treatment. It can also replace the loss of income while you receive treatment for PTSD after a car crash. 

Filing a Personal Injury Claim for PTSD Caused by a Car Accident

PTSD is included in damages when filing a car accident claim. However, insurance companies might fight claims of PTSD because these claims are subjective. The medical evidence is based on self-reported symptoms.

Some companies might allege that you are making up the symptoms or exaggerating the symptoms. For that reason, make sure that you report all symptoms to your doctor so that he can note the symptoms in your medical records as they occur. Your car accident lawyer can work with you to obtain statements from employers and other individuals who have witnessed your symptoms. 

Damages that you may receive for a PTSD claim include:

  • Cost of diagnosing PTSD, including bills from physicians, counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists
  • Cost of medications and treatment for PTSD, including in-patient treatment and outpatient counseling and therapy
  • Travel expenses to and from medical appointments and therapy sessions
  • Loss of income and benefits if you are unable to work
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish caused by PTSD
  • Cost of treatment of associated disorders caused by PTSD, including insomnia, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, etc.
  • Loss of quality of life 

The person who caused your car accident can be held financially responsible for the damages caused by PTSD. Working with a car accident lawyer can help you build a strong case for maximum compensation for your damages. 

PTSD cases can be complicated. Contacting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident is generally in your best interests. Your lawyer focuses on building a legal case while you work with your physicians to treat and recover from PTSD.