What to Do If You Have Car Accident PTSD

woman curled up in chair reflecting PTSD

Car accidents are frightening experiences that can leave a lasting impact on those involved. While physical injuries are often the immediate focus, the psychological effects can be equally significant, leading to conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD following a car accident is a complex mental health issue that can affect anyone, regardless of the accident’s severity. And, just like physical injuries, you deserve compensation for your mental health needs.

What is Car Accident PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops after a person experiences a traumatic event. In the context of car accidents, it can arise from the fear, helplessness, or extreme pain experienced during the collision or its aftermath. PTSD can manifest in various ways and is characterized by a range of symptoms that persist long after the accident.

Symptoms of Car Accident PTSD

In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, an individual must meet the following criteria:

At Least One Re-Experiencing Symptom

“Re-experiencing” can be re-living the event (“flashbacks”), recurrent thoughts or dreams related to the accident, intrusive or distressing thoughts, and physical symptoms, such as sweating and rapid heartbeat.

At Least One Avoidance Symptom

Avoidant behavior is very common after a traumatic event. People with PTSD will go out of their way to avoid situations that remind them of the accident and attempt to shut down thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma. People with car accident PTSD may avoid the area where their accident occurred or even refuse to drive all together.

At Least Two Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

These include small but pervasive habits that affect your ability to function normally. A person with PTSD might startle easily, for example, or be especially irritable for no reason. Other arousal and reactivity symptoms include difficulty sleeping, feeling “on edge,” problems concentrating, sudden bursts of anger, and engaging in reckless or self-destructive behaviors.

At Least Two Cognition and Mood Symptoms

Patients with PTSD often have difficulty remembering details of the traumatic event. This is considered a “cognition” symptom and is thought to be a defense mechanism. Car accident PTSD sufferers may also exhibit the following mood and cognition symptoms:

  • Intense self-deprecation and feelings of blame toward themselves or the world
  • Loss of joy in things they use to love 
  • Feelings of guilt or shame related to the accident
  • Difficulty feeling happy or satisfied with anything
  • Feeling lonely or isolated from former social groups

An individual must have been experiencing all of the above for at least one month in order to receive an official psychiatric diagnosis of PTSD. 

Why Even Minor Accidents Can Cause PTSD

Contrary to common belief, PTSD doesn’t solely result from catastrophic accidents. Even seemingly minor fender-benders or near-misses can trigger the condition. Factors contributing to PTSD include:

  • Perceived Threat: the brain’s response to a perceived threat is what triggers trauma, not necessarily the actual severity of the accident. A feeling of helplessness or being out of control during any car-related incident can lead to PTSD.
  • Prior Trauma: past experiences of trauma or stress can make an individual more susceptible to developing PTSD after an accident.

Legal Options for Car Accident PTSD

When PTSD arises following a car accident, seeking compensation for the associated damages is more than warranted. It is a truly devastating condition that can severely impact an individual’s quality of life and ability to do even simple tasks without fear. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD in the wake of a car accident, you should know your legal options. These may include: 

  • Insurance Claims: if diagnosed with PTSD, filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company can help cover economic damages, including medical expenses, therapy costs, lost wages, and other damages.
  • Personal Injury Lawsuits: in cases where insurance coverage is insufficient (as is often the case), a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver might be necessary to obtain fair compensation. A personal injury lawyer can also help you secure non-economic damages, like pain and suffering and loss of quality of life.

Car Accident Attorney in Colorado

Car accident-related PTSD is a serious condition that can profoundly affect an individual’s life. Seeking professional help from mental health experts is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. Once you are safe and receiving treatment for your physical and psychological injuries, schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney.

In Colorado, the experienced and compassionate lawyers at the Roth Group are the best in their field. They will fight for you in and out of the courtroom to hold those responsible for your injuries accountable. Call or go online today to schedule a free consultation.