PTSD After a Car Accident

PTSD After Car Accident

For most people, a car accident is a traumatic life incident. The more serious the crash and the more severe the injuries, the more likely it is for someone to suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, even minor car accidents can trigger PTSD in some people, especially if there are underlying issues.

Unlike other forms of injuries you might sustain in an accident, PTSD is often more difficult to prove. Because of this, you must prepare a solid case to receive the compensation you deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney often plays a crucial role in the successful conclusion of a case like this.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological response to a terrifying incident. What counts as terrifying differs from person to person, as individuals have different prior life experiences and process situations differently. Most people who experience traumatizing events take some time to cope with what happened. During this time, it is fairly normal to suffer from nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety.

Ideally, an individual receives help at the first realization that something is amiss, but this is not always necessary. If symptoms persist for more than a month, though, it is usually time to seek professional help.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

After a car accident, you may wonder if how you feel falls into the realm of PTSD or if it is just a normal and temporary response that will pass quickly. If you believe you have any of the following symptoms after a car accident, it is worth looking into.

Intrusive Memories

Otherwise known as flashbacks, many people relive the traumatic incident during the daytime. Sometimes, a specific factor can trigger the memory, such as witnessing another car accident. Other times, the recall may seem to happen for no reason. Intrusive memories may also disrupt sleep in the form of nightmares, which can then lead to chronic insomnia.


Avoidance is a common coping mechanism among people with PTSD after a car accident, though what people choose to avoid differs. Here are some examples:

  • Moving closer to work to avoid the need for driving or riding in a vehicle
  • Refusing to drive after dark
  • Refusing to drive altogether
  • Avoiding a specific street or part of town
  • Refusing to make a left or right turn

Negative Arousal

People suffering from PTSD are often in a constant state of awareness, which can make them seem on edge. For instance, you may be easily startled by a blaring horn or feel the need to check the rearview mirror for speeding vehicles every time you come to a stop sign or stoplight. Over time, people under such continuous stress can begin to feel irritable and overwhelmed, which contributes to trouble concentrating.

Mood Changes

The negativity continues in the form of mood changes that can severely impact a person’s quality of life. For instance, you may feel pessimistic about the future, lose interest in the things you love and feel detached from your family and friends. Some people struggle to enjoy even positive emotions and report feeling numb.

How Do I File a Claim Related to PTSD After a Car Accident?

There are several ways to file a PTSD claim. The specifics can come down to your role in the accident and what other damages you might decide to claim. Drivers tend to include PTSD in an existing claim that may also cover bodily injuries and damage to their vehicles.

Passengers who are not covered by insurance policies may sue only for PSTD and other personal injuries related to bodily harm. However, very few people file only for damages related to PTSD after an accident. Regardless of the route you take, here are some important steps to follow:

Step 1: Seek Medical Attention

After a car crash, it is important to seek medical attention. No matter how minor an accident is, the sudden jerking movement from the impact can lead to pain and minor injuries that need to be treated. Retain all records related to the visit and follow the doctor’s orders.

Step 2: Seek a Professional PTSD Diagnosis

If you begin to suffer from PTSD symptoms, even if there are underlying factors at play, seek a professional diagnosis. Note that it is virtually impossible to successfully pursue a claim for PTSD without such a diagnosis. Your psychologist may also testify on your behalf as an expert witness.

Step 3: Quantify All Damages

If there are other damages related to the incident, work with your doctors and a personal injury attorney to quantify everything. It is much easier to receive compensation for PTSD when it is grouped in with other damages. Some people also choose to include it as “pain and suffering.

Step 4: File a Claim

You may choose to first file a claim with the responsible party, such as the driver or insurance company, if possible. Responsible parties often opt to settle outside of court to avoid the legal hassle and bad publicity. If this is not successful or the option is not available to you, then file a claim in court. Be sure to check the statute of limitations in your state. Usually, car crash victims have two years to file a personal injury claim.

Do I Need an Attorney To File a Claim?

Of all the many types of personal injuries that car crash victims can seek damages for, PTSD is perhaps the most difficult one to prove. It may not manifest itself in any physical symptoms, so insurance companies and courts rely extensively on information from licensed psychiatrists.

An experienced attorney can also help you gather evidence to show the car accident was severe enough to trigger PTSD symptoms and that your symptoms are real. Should the case go to court, your attorney can also paint a vivid picture of what happened that day and how it may affect you for some time to come.

Because of how difficult these cases are to win, attorneys might feel reluctant to take them on if you do not also have severe bodily injuries. We can match you with a willing and experienced attorney to increase your odds of getting the compensation you need. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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