It's common knowledge that a severe motor vehicle accident can leave victims grappling with a devastating array of physical injuries.
What's less well known is these unfortunate events can also have serious psychological consequences.
A growing body of research shows that while most people who survive harrowing car accidents don't go on to develop mental health issues that require professional treatment, a substantial minority of accident victims suffer from psychological problems. These include major depression, anxiety disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
If you were hurt in a car accident caused by another person's negligence, you may be entitled to collect compensation for a broad range of damages, including whatever physical and/or psychological injuries you sustained in the crash.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
As the name suggests, PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur after someone experiences a particularly traumatic event. Though in the United States much of the discussion about PTSD has centered around combat veterans, PTSD can happen to anyone who's witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, such as a terrorist attack, violent personal assault, sexual abuse, or a serious car, truck or motorcycle accident.
PTSD can cause a number of psychological and physiological symptoms that range in severity from uncomfortable to debilitating. While the exact symptoms of PTSD varies, common symptoms associated with the disorder include:
- Reliving the traumatic event through intrusive memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
- Avoiding situations, people, or other factors that trigger reminders of the trauma
- Refusing to talk or think about the traumatic event
- Having more negative thoughts or feelings, including guilt, shame, anger, fear, or distrust
- Feeling numb or uninterested in previously-enjoyed activities
- Feeling keyed up, jittery, or always on alert
- Having trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Experiencing mood swings
- Engaging in unhealthy activities
PTSD symptoms can be particularly unpredictable. In some cases, symptoms may emerge shortly after the triggering traumatic event; in other cases, symptoms may take weeks, months, or even years to present. Additionally, PTSD symptoms can come and go over a period of many years, and may wax and wane in intensity.
Car Accident-Related PTSD Symptoms
After a serious car accident, PTSD may present in the following ways:
- A fear response or severe anxiety when reminded of the accident
- A fight-or-flight response to common traffic sounds, such as honking horns or screeching tires or brakes
- Anxiousness or unease behind the wheel
- Increased vigilance while driving, such as constantly scanning one's surroundings for potential threats
- Avoidance of situations similar to those in which the accident occurred, such as not driving on a highway
PTSD Risk Factors
Not everyone who witnesses or experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. However, the following factors are linked to an increased risk of developing the disorder:
- Having previously experienced a traumatic event
- Having preexisting psychological issues
- A family history of mental health problems
- The trauma was life threatening
- Losing a loved one in the traumatic event
- Whether the victim received sufficient support following the event
- Emotional responses, such as guilt, shame, fear, and so on
- Dissociation during the trauma
Treatments for Car Accident-Related PTSD
Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available for accident victims with crash-related PTSD. Effective options include:
- Behavior therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Prescription medications
These treatments may be administered individually or in conjunction with one another. Additionally, crash victims suffering from PTSD may benefit from working with a chronic pain specialist.
Consult With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
If you developed PTSD after being involved in a serious car accident caused by someone else's negligence, McGartland Law Firm's award-winning legal team can help you pursue the compensation you need and deserve. Contact us today to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your car accident case.