PTSD After a Car Crash: Signs & Symptoms

April 8, 2019 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
PTSD After a Car Crash: Signs & Symptoms

A car crash is undeniably traumatic, with potential for not only physical but also psychological effects. One such potential effect is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that can develop after any traumatic event, including car accidents.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that about 9 percent of car accident survivors develop PTSD.

Contact us for a case review with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Symptoms of PTSD for Car Crash Victims

Compensation may be available if you've suffered PTSD after a car accident, depending on the situation.

PTSD symptoms can vary greatly among individuals but tend to disrupt daily life significantly.

Recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks and Nightmares: These are intrusive memories that make the victim feel as if they are reliving the traumatic event. They can cause intense emotional reactions, such as fear, anger, guilt, or shame. Flashbacks and nightmares can be triggered by anything that reminds the victim of the accident, such as sounds, smells, sights, or words. They can also occur spontaneously, especially at night or when the victim is stressed.
  • Avoidance: This is a coping strategy that involves avoiding anything that reminds the victim of the trauma. This can include places, activities, or even thoughts that are associated with the accident. For example, the victim may avoid driving, riding in a car, or going near the scene of the accident. They may also try to suppress or numb their emotions or distract themselves with other things.
  • Social Isolation: This is a feeling of detachment or estrangement from others, leading to difficulties in maintaining relationships. The victim may feel that no one understands them or that they are different from others. They may also withdraw from social situations, lose interest in hobbies or friends, or have trouble trusting or communicating with others.
  • Anxiety: This is a state of excessive nervousness, worry, or fear that affects the victim's daily functioning. The victim may experience symptoms such as racing heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, or nausea. They may also have trouble sleeping, concentrating, or relaxing. They may be easily startled, irritable, or restless.
  • Depression: This is a mood disorder that involves a persistent feeling of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. The victim may lose interest or pleasure in activities they used to enjoy or feel worthless, guilty, or suicidal. They may also have changes in their appetite, weight, energy, or sleep patterns. They may isolate themselves, neglect their hygiene, or abuse substances.

These are some of the common symptoms of PTSD for car crash victims, but they may vary from person to person. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek professional help as soon as possible.

Do Personal Injury Cases Consider Psychological Trauma?

Personal injury cases arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm. The responsible person's insurance company will pay money to the injured person for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other ongoing medical expenses. If the case involves medical malpractice, the doctor's insurance company will pay damages as well.

One of the types of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury case is emotional distress. Emotional distress is the mental suffering that results from a traumatic event, such as a car accident, that causes physical injury or death. Emotional distress can manifest in various ways, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, or PTSD.

Psychological trauma can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, affecting their ability to work, socialize, and enjoy activities. Psychological trauma can also require extensive and costly treatment, such as medication, therapy, or other interventions. Therefore, psychological trauma can be considered as a form of harm that deserves compensation in a personal injury case.

However, proving psychological trauma in a personal injury case can be challenging, as it is a subjective and invisible type of injury. Unlike physical injuries, psychological trauma cannot be easily measured or observed by objective tests or evidence. Therefore, the victim of psychological trauma must provide sufficient proof of their condition, such as medical records, expert testimony, or personal testimony.

Additionally, the victim of psychological trauma must show that their condition was caused by the defendant's negligence or intentional wrongdoing and not by other factors, such as pre-existing mental health issues, personal stressors, or unrelated events. The victim must also show that their psychological trauma is severe and lasting and not just a normal or expected reaction to a stressful situation.

Is a Diagnosis of PTSD Required for My Personal Injury Claim?

"It's important to get diagnosed and begin treatment when seeking compensation for PTSD after a car accident." -Gene Riddle

A formal diagnosis of PTSD is necessary to prove that you have suffered a serious psychological injury as a result of the car accident. Without a diagnosis, you may not be able to establish that your emotional distress is beyond the normal range of reactions to a traumatic event.

A diagnosis of PTSD must come from a qualified medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident and be honest and thorough about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life.

Treatment for PTSD may vary depending on the severity of your condition and your personal preferences. Some common forms of treatment include medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, to help reduce the negative emotions and physical reactions associated with PTSD. 

Another form of treatment is psychotherapy, or talk therapy, which can help you process the traumatic event, cope with your feelings, and change your negative thoughts and behaviors. Some examples of psychotherapy are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Additionally, you may benefit from making some lifestyle changes, such as exercising, meditating, joining a support group, or avoiding triggers that remind you of the accident.

A diagnosis of PTSD is also important for your personal injury claim, as it can serve as evidence of the extent of your damages and the causal link between the accident and your condition. You will need to provide documentation of your diagnosis, such as medical records, prescriptions, or bills, to show that you have sought and received treatment for PTSD. 

You will also need to provide testimony from your medical expert, who can explain the criteria for diagnosing PTSD, the methods used to assess your condition, and the prognosis for your recovery. Your medical expert can also give an opinion on how the accident caused or contributed to your PTSD and how your PTSD has affected your ability to work, socialize, and enjoy life.

However, you should also be aware of the potential challenges and defenses that you may face when claiming PTSD in a personal injury case. For example, the defendant may argue that your PTSD was not caused by the accident but by other factors, such as pre-existing mental health issues, personal stressors, or unrelated events.

The defendant may also challenge the validity or reliability of your diagnosis by questioning the qualifications or credibility of your medical expert, the methods or tests used to diagnose you, or the accuracy or consistency of your symptoms.

The defendant may also try to minimize the severity or duration of your PTSD by pointing to evidence that contradicts or undermines your claim, such as your social media posts, your activities, or your interactions with others.

Therefore, it is essential that you have a formal diagnosis of PTSD from a medical professional if you want to pursue a personal injury claim based on your psychological trauma.

A diagnosis can help you get the appropriate treatment for your condition and also support your claim for compensation. However, you should also be prepared to face some opposition and scrutiny from the defendant, who may try to dispute or deny your diagnosis of PTSD.

Damages for PTSD in a Personal Injury Case

If you have suffered from PTSD as a result of a car accident or any other traumatic event caused by someone else's negligence or intentional wrongdoing, you may be entitled to compensation for your psychological injury.

There are three basic types of damages that you can claim for PTSD in a personal injury case: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

  • Economic damages are the quantifiable and objective losses that you have incurred or will incur as a result of your PTSD. These include medical expenses, such as the costs of diagnosis, treatment, medication, therapy, or other interventions for your PTSD. They also include lost wages if your PTSD has prevented you from working or reduced your earning capacity. Additionally, they may include other out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation, childcare, or household services, that are related to your PTSD.
  • Non-economic damages are the subjective and intangible losses that you have suffered or will suffer as a result of your PTSD. These include pain and suffering, which includes the physical pain, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, or other negative feelings that you have experienced or will experience due to your PTSD. They also include loss of enjoyment of life, which refers to the diminished ability to participate in or derive pleasure from activities that you used to enjoy before your PTSD. Furthermore, they may include loss of consortium, which refers to the adverse impact of your PTSD on your relationship with your spouse or partner.
  • Punitive damages are not intended to compensate you for your losses but rather to punish the defendant for their wrongful conduct and deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages are only awarded in rare and exceptional cases where the defendant's actions were especially egregious, malicious, or reckless and caused you severe harm. For example, if the defendant intentionally harmed you or acted with a disregard for your safety or rights, you may be eligible for punitive damages.

The damages that you can recover for your PTSD will depend on the severity and duration of your condition, the extent and impact of your losses, the strength and credibility of your evidence, and the laws and limits of your jurisdiction.

To maximize your chances of obtaining fair and adequate compensation for your PTSD, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case, gather and present your proof, and negotiate or litigate on your behalf.

Why You Need a Lawyer and How Contingency Fee Structures Work

If someone else's negligence or wrongdoing injured or harmed you, you may recover compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. However, pursuing a personal injury claim can be a challenging process, especially if you are facing a powerful and well-funded opponent, such as an insurance company, a corporation, or a government entity. You need a lawyer to represent you and protect your rights and interests.

A lawyer can help you by:

  • Evaluating your case and advising you on the best course of action
  • Gathering and preserving evidence to prove your claim
  • Negotiating with the other party or their insurance company to obtain a fair settlement
  • Filing and handling all the necessary paperwork and court procedures
  • Preparing and presenting your case at trial, if necessary
  • Enforcing and collecting your judgment or settlement

You may think it will cost you a lot of money to hire a lawyer, but contingency fees make legal services affordable and accessible.

A contingency fee is an arrangement where you only pay your lawyer a percentage of the money you recover from your claim if you win or settle your case. This means that you do not have to pay any upfront fees or costs to your lawyer and do not owe anything if you lose your case. Your lawyer assumes the risk and cost of taking your case and only gets paid if they obtain a favorable outcome for you.

Contingency fee structures offer several benefits for clients, such as:

  • Providing more access to legal services for people who cannot afford hourly or flat fees
  • Aligning the interests and incentives of the lawyer and the client, as both want to maximize the recovery
  • Encouraging the lawyer to work efficiently and effectively, as they only get paid for results
  • Reducing the financial stress and risk for the client, as they do not have to worry about paying legal bills or losing money

Contingency fee structures are most commonly used in personal injury cases, such as car accidents, slips and falls, medical malpractice, product liability, or wrongful death. However, they can also be used in other types of cases, such as employment discrimination, civil rights violations, or class actions. 

The percentage of the contingency fee can vary depending on the type and complexity of the case, the lawyer's experience and reputation, and the state and local laws and regulations. Typically, the contingency fee ranges from 25% to 40% of the recovery, but it can be higher or lower depending on the circumstances.

If you are considering hiring a lawyer on a contingency fee basis, you should make sure that you understand the terms and conditions of the agreement before signing it. You should also compare different lawyers and their fees and choose the one that best suits your needs and expectations. 

A contingency fee structure can be a great option for you if you have a strong and valuable claim and you want to hire a lawyer who will work hard and fight for your rights.

Contact us for a case review with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Seeking Help and Moving Forward

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of PTSD, encourage them to seek legal help.

A lawyer can help you:

  • Evaluate your case and determine your eligibility for compensation or other legal remedies.
  • Gather evidence and documentation to support your claim or defense.
  • Negotiate with the other party or their insurance company to reach a fair settlement.
  • Represent you in court or arbitration if a settlement cannot be reached.
  • Protect your rights and privacy throughout the legal process.

Seek legal help to move forward with your claim and learn more about your legal options.