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March 8, 2018

Car Accidents and PTSD

Some Crash Victims Develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After Serious Accidents

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.

call 1-866-832-9300 today for a free consultation

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