Many people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as something that combat veterans experience. However, you don’t have to be a combat veteran to suffer from PTSD. Did you know that PTSD can be caused by an auto accident or any other traumatic or violent event experienced by a person?
If another person’s negligence caused a violent car crash that resulted in a diagnosis of PTSD, that is a compensable injury that must be included in any fair settlement or jury verdict.
What are the symptoms of PTSD caused by an auto accident, what are the risk factors for PTSD, and how can you prove your damages if you are suffering from PTSD because of an auto accident?
Can PTSD be Caused by an Auto Accident?
PTSD is not limited to combat veterans – any person can develop PTSD following a car crash or other accident, physical assault, sexual assault, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, home fire, or any traumatic event.
Studies have shown that people who survive an auto accident are at an increased risk for psychological problems and that approximately 25-33% of motor vehicle accident victims who seek medical treatment (the studies are usually based on emergency room admissions or people who are admitted to hospitals) suffer from PTSD 30 days or more after their car crash.
Is PTSD a Compensable Injury?
Because PTSD is an “invisible injury” that cannot be seen with an x-ray or photograph, insurance companies will often resist paying full and fair compensation for it.
Psychological injuries such as PTSD are absolutely compensable, however, and an at-fault driver is responsible for not only the costs of treatment and therapy but also for the pain and suffering that is experienced by an auto accident victim with PTSD.
If you are suffering from symptoms of PTSD, you need to seek therapy immediately 1) to document what would otherwise be invisible to insurance adjusters and jurors and 2) to begin the process of recovering from your trauma.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD Caused by an Auto Accident?
According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD symptoms may begin to appear within a month of a traumatic event, or they may not appear until years after the event. The symptoms may last for weeks or they may continue for years after the auto accident.
Although different people may experience PTSD differently, the most common symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and “uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
Following an auto accident, the crash victim may experience persistent thoughts and nightmares that cause the person to relive the accident, a reluctance to drive or ride in a motor vehicle, and emotional disturbances:
…the symptoms of PTSD following a serious MVA may include psychologically re-experiencing the trauma (e.g., intrusive thoughts about the accident, distressing dreams about the accident), persistent avoidance of thoughts or situations associated with the accident (e.g., reluctance or refusal to drive, actively avoiding thoughts about the MVA), numbing of emotional responsiveness (e.g., greatly reduced or absence of emotions, feeling detached from others), and increased physical arousal (e.g., exaggerated startle, irritability, disturbed sleep).
The Mayo Clinic categorizes the symptoms of PTSD into four groups: “intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
- Intrusive memories: recurrent memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks (reliving the traumatic event), nightmares, and emotional distress when the person is reminded of the traumatic event.
- Avoidance: Avoiding thinking or talking about the event or avoiding things that remind you of the event (avoiding driving or riding in motor vehicles, for example).
- Negative changes in mood or thinking: feelings of hopelessness, emotional numbness, feelings of being detached, relationship difficulties, or lack of interest in activities.
- Changes in emotional and physical reactions: problems getting to sleep or concentrating, becoming easily startled, irritable behavior and angry outbursts, or self-destructive behavior.
Children can Experience PTSD Caused by an Auto Accident
The trauma of a car crash can be especially distressing for children. Additional symptoms of PTSD in children may include re-enacting the traumatic event while playing, bedwetting, becoming “clingy” or constantly seeking reassurance, and frightening nightmares that may or not be about the car crash.
If your child is showing any symptoms of PTSD after a car crash, you should seek psychological help for them immediately – there are therapists who specialize in the treatment of trauma in children who can help.
What are the Risk Factors for Developing PTSD?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), some factors that increase a person’s risk for developing PTSD include:
- Living through dangerous events and traumas,
- Getting hurt,
- Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body,
- Childhood trauma,
- Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear,
- Having little or no social support after the event,
- Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home, and
- Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse.
Most of these factors may be present after a serious car crash, which explains why the studies have documented such a high percentage of auto accident victims who develop PTSD…
If you are suffering from symptoms of PTSD following a car crash, you should seek therapy immediately. The costs of treatment and the pain and suffering that you are experiencing are a compensable injury for which the at-fault driver is responsible.