In many cases, a car accident leaves you with minor injuries that you can recover from quickly. However, some car accidents cause catastrophic injuries that could leave you with long-term or permanent disabilities.

In either case, the accident could cause post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a very real, and very damaging, phenomenon commonly encountered following traumatic events like a car crash.

Read on for more information about PTSD, and what you can do to help you or a loved one recover following a traumatic car accident.

Why Would a Car Accident Cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

A car accident could cause post traumatic stress disorder for several reasons. While the pain and fear following a severe injury are obvious, even “minor” accidents can trigger an extreme stress response.

In other cases, you might see a loved one in a different vehicle get into a wreck. If you are following your spouse or adult children, and someone hits them, most people will not think of anything except the well-being of the person who was hit. Knowing that a loved one could suffer severe or catastrophic injuries, or could die because of the accident, could lead to post traumatic stress disorder.

In other cases, you could suffer from depression and anxiety because you are worried about providing for your family when injuries take too long to heal or if you learn that your car accident injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities. Even if you don’t exhibit symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder but exhibit anxiety or depression symptoms, you could still recover compensation for psychological issues caused by the car accident.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

In short, post traumatic stress disorder, which is triggered by a traumatic event, is a mental health disorder that includes anxiety and depression. Symptoms vary widely for each person and include nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety. In some cases, those affected cannot control unwanted thoughts about the accident.

The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder could start within weeks or months after a traumatic accident, or they could take years to manifest. The symptoms often interfere with doing daily tasks, interacting with people at work, and might cause problems in your social life. Because you can recover compensation for post traumatic stress disorder after an accident, take heed if someone close to you comments on changes in your behavior or if you notice it yourself.

What Are the Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder are many and diverse.

Mental health professionals group them into four types, including intrusive memories, changes in mood and thoughts, avoidance, and changes in emotional and physical reactions.

  • Intrusive memories include reliving the accident—often referred to as flashbacks. You see the accident as if it were happening all over again. It is very real. Additional intrusive memories include unwanted memories of the accident, nightmares or upsetting dreams about the accident, and exhibiting emotional distress when something reminds you of the accident.
  • Changes in your mood or thinking might include thinking poorly of yourself, the inability to remember some or all of the accident, feeling hopeless, feeling emotionally numb, pulling away from family and friends, not experiencing positive emotions, pulling away from your spouse and children, difficulty getting into and maintaining a close relationship with someone, and losing interest in your favorite activities.
  • Avoidance symptoms include changing the subject whenever someone brings up the accident, trying to change your thinking if thoughts about the accident enter your brain, and avoiding places, people, and activities that remind you of the accident.
  • Changes in your emotional and physical reactions include thoughts of guilt or shame because of the accident; you can’t concentrate, you are easily frightened or startled, you have trouble sleeping, you become irritable for no reason, your behavior becomes aggressive, you are prone to angry outbursts, you are always looking for danger, or you exhibit self-destructive behaviors, such as driving too fast or drinking too much.

Any one or a combination of these symptoms could mean you have post traumatic stress disorder. If you have not seen a mental health professional yet, you should do so as soon as possible, especially if these symptoms interfere with your ability to work or spend time with your family and friends.

You Are Not Sure Whether You Should See a Mental Health Professional

You might think you have symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome on some days, while on other days, you might feel fine. The intensity of the symptoms vary, so if you or a loved one notices the symptoms, you should make an appointment with a mental health professional.

In some cases, you might not notice the symptoms unless you feel stressed or until you run across something that reminds you of the accident. Even seeing a report on the news about a car accident could trigger more intense symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder when you thought you were fine.

Why Should I See a Mental Health Professional Sooner Rather than Later?

Some people might put off seeing a mental health professional for symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder as part of avoidance. This is a symptom of PTSD. The sooner you can see someone about post traumatic stress disorder, the sooner you can start getting your life back on track.

Once you start visiting a mental health professional for symptoms caused by post traumatic stress disorder, try to keep every appointment. Besides caring for your mental health, you may also collect the cost of the sessions as part of future medical expenses following a car accident. Should you not attend those sessions, you will have a hard time claiming that the accident caused serious enough PTSD to add it to your claim.

Other Injuries You Could Expect in a Car Accident

In addition to psychological injuries such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder, you could suffer minor to catastrophic physical injuries. Often, severe and catastrophic injuries lead to these mental health issues.

Injuries include:

  • Scratches, cuts, scrapes, and bruises.
  • Road rash.
  • Burns
  • Strains and sprains.
  • Pulled and torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
  • Simple and compound fractures.
  • Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
  • Traumatic brain injuries.
  • Back and spinal cord injuries.
  • Internal injuries.
  • Face and eye injuries.

You could develop secondary injuries, such as post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and infections. While cuts and scrapes do not sound serious, any open wound, whether from the accident or because of surgery on injuries you suffered in the accident, could develop into an infection if you have underlying conditions that make it difficult for your wounds to heal.

Immunodeficiencies, diabetes, and taking treatments or drugs for another condition, such as chemotherapy for cancer, all affect your white blood count, which makes it harder to heal and easier to pick up an infection.

Because you would not have suffered the secondary injuries if it weren’t for the car accident, the defendant should be responsible for the medical expenses you incur for these injuries. Even if the initial accident did not cause you to exhibit symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, the secondary injuries could for the simple reason that you might become anxious about the recovery time, or in some cases, recovering at all.

Recovering Damages After a Car Accident

After an accident, one of the first things you do is to get medical attention. Even if you believe your injuries are not serious; you should have a medical professional check you from head to toe. Some injuries do not manifest for hours or even a couple of days after an accident. The other thing you do is to notify your insurance company.

Discussing the Accident With Your Insurance Company

When you let your insurance company know about the accident, the representative will ask you questions about the accident. Give only your name, contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information, regardless of how hard the representative pressures you for information.

Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Any claim they pay out decreases their bottom lines. If you say anything to them, even if you are not at fault, they may twist your words in an attempt to deny your claim, or at the very least, offer you a low settlement. It is better to let your attorney give the insurance company the facts surrounding the accident.

Recoverable Damages

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you might recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those with a monetary value, while non-economic damages do not have a monetary value.

Economic damages. Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, include:

  • Past medical expenses, for those incurred during and after the accident, but before a settlement or a trial award.
  • Future medical expenses, for those incurred because of the accident, but after a settlement or a trial award.
  • Past lost wages to replace those you lost during the time you couldn’t work after the accident and before a settlement or a trial award.
  • Future lost wages to replace those you will lose after a settlement or a trial award. Future lost wages might include partial future lost wages if you can work but cannot return to the same job at the same salary you had before the accident.
  • Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property such as your vehicle and personal property inside your vehicle.
  • Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a car accident.

Medical expenses also include ambulatory aids, home health care, vehicle conversions, and upgrading your home to accommodate your disabilities. For example, adding a wheelchair ramp, widening doors, adding grab bars in the shower or near the toilet count as medical expenses as you would not have had to incur those costs if the defendant had not hit you.

Non-economic damages. General damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, include:

  • Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you suffered injuries in a car accident.
  • Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in a car accident.
  • Loss of quality of life.
  • Loss of companionship if you cannot take part in family events and activities, including sitting at the dinner table, going to the movies with your family, or taking part in physical activities such as sports, hiking, fishing, and hunting.
  • Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
  • Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand, finger, or foot.
  • Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight.
  • Excessive scarring.
  • Amputation.
  • Disfigurement.
  • Inconvenience.

If you suffer from post traumatic stress disorder after a traumatic car accident, a combination of future medical expenses and pain and suffering or emotional distress helps to cover the cost of therapy. Contact the May Firm for more legal advice.