When you’re in a car accident, physical injuries aren’t the only problem you’ll need to worry about. Even small crashes can be traumatic enough to leave you with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
The mental health effects of car accidents can stop you from living your normal life. Knowing about car accident-related PTSD and whether you may be able to seek compensation for the mental anguish another driver caused you can help you put together a claim and seek mental health care after an accident.
What Is PTSD?
Many people think that PTSD only affects combat veterans who went to war. But PTSD can develop in anyone who’s witnessed or experienced a traumatic incident, including a car accident.
Many people feel “shaken up” or rattled in the days that follow a car accident. PTSD, though, is much more serious than that. People with PTSD may find it hard to work, drive a car, or sustain relationships with family and friends.
PTSD does not discriminate. Anyone can develop this debilitating condition regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity.
Why do some people develop PTSD after a car accident and not others? People who have experienced previous trauma, such as abuse or domestic violence, have a higher chance of developing PTSD. Those with a personal or family history of mental health conditions may be more likely to develop PTSD, too.
A crash’s severity heavily contributes to the mental health effects of car accidents. For example, if you witnessed someone die during the accident, it’s possible for you to develop PTSD. This is especially true if you lost a loved one in the accident.
Symptoms of PTSD and Mental Anguish After a Car Accident
PTSD symptoms don’t always show up immediately after a car accident. It can take weeks, months, or even years to realize something’s wrong.
Experiencing intrusive memories is a hallmark symptom of PTSD. You may relive the accident through flashbacks or have recurring nightmares about it.
You may feel emotionally numb or detached from the world around you. You might also remain in a state of constant hypervigilance, which causes irritability, trouble sleeping, and a compulsion to scan your surroundings for threats.
People with PTSD frequently avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event. They might refuse to drive or ride in a car, for instance. They may also isolate themselves at home and avoid contact with others.
You may feel overwhelming guilt or shame if you survived an accident and your loved one didn’t. This can happen even if you did nothing to cause the accident. You may repeatedly think, “Why did I survive and they didn’t?” and keep replaying the accident in your mind, wondering over and over again if you could have saved your loved one if you had done something differently.
PTSD can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well. You may feel hopeless or avoid activities you once enjoyed. Some PTSD victims self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. This can lead to substance use disorder, which comes with its own set of problems.
PTSD Treatment Options
PTSD may fade on its own given enough time. For some people, however, the effects can linger for years if they don’t seek treatment.
If you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms, a doctor may prescribe you antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication to help you feel better. Doctors commonly offer a drug called Prazosin for people suffering from PTSD-related nightmares.
Your doctor might also suggest therapy, where you’ll learn coping strategies to guide you during recovery. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular PTSD treatment method. This method allows patients to reframe their negative thought patterns in a more positive way.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has shown promise as an effective treatment for PTSD. This technique implements rapid eye movements to help PTSD victims cope with painful memories.
Exposure therapy, which enables patients to gradually face their fears in a safe, supportive environment, can be helpful too.
If you’d like to seek compensation for the pain and suffering you experience due to the accident, you may wish to seek an official PTSD diagnosis from a psychiatrist.
Holding the At-Fault Driver Responsible for Your Mental Distress
If you’re struggling with PTSD symptoms after a car accident, can you hold the at-fault driver financially responsible for your distress? If you can prove that the accident led to your condition, then it’s possible that you may be able to collect compensation. Statements from your doctors or therapists will go a long way as evidence in your case.
You can seek compensation to cover your medical and therapy bills, emotional distress damages, and lost wages if you’re unable to work because of PTSD.
When determining your damages award, the court will consider:
- How likely you are to recover from PTSD
- How PTSD symptoms affect your quality of life
- The financial impact of PTSD, such as lost wages because you feel too distressed to work
- Whether the accident caused serious injuries or deaths and how this may contribute to your PTSD
Compared to proving liability for physical injuries, though, proving that you developed PTSD or other mental traumas from your accident may not be so straightforward. An experienced car accident attorney can build a case that demonstrates how psychological injuries affect your quality of life.
Contact a Lawyer Who Understands the Mental Health Effects of Car Accidents
It’s usually easy to spot physical injuries after a car accident, but PTSD and other mental health conditions can remain hidden for months or even longer. People with PTSD may feel frightened, irritable, and fatigued from a lack of sleep. Symptoms like these can make it hard or even impossible for car accident victims to lead fulfilling lives.
If you believe that you’re experiencing PTSD or other mental health effects of car accidents, call the car accident lawyers Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 for a free consultation on your case today. We will put together a case and work hard to pursue compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.