While motor vehicle accidents often lead to physical injuries, psychological impacts can equally harm one’s life. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in just one recent year, nearly 20,000 serious motor vehicle accidents took place. A striking percentage of these serious motor vehicle accidents—between 25 to 33 percent—leave car accident survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a standalone psychological disorder consisting of bouts of intermittent or persistent anxiety, depression, and panic attacks that often follow a traumatic event that threatens one’s safety, life, or integrity.
PTSD symptoms include:
- Re-experiencing the trauma (intrusive thoughts about the accident or nightmares)
- Avoiding thoughts of situations related to the accident (this can include the car accident survivor’s refusal to get behind the wheel of a car out of fear)
- Decreased emotional responsiveness or changes in emotional reactions to oneself and others (this can include emotional absence and feeling detached)
- Increased physical disturbances, such as irritability and unhealthy sleep patterns
- Perseverating and continually thinking about the accident, compounded by feelings of guilt (common feelings even if the car accident survivor is not at fault)
After a car accident, PTSD happens due to two factors. First, the individual may feel traumatized. A vehicle accident causes some degree of physical jolting to car occupants. The physical impact can cause concussions momentary loss of cognitive awareness, whiplash, or other major injuries.
Second, the thoughts and feelings experienced in the moments during and immediately after the accident can cause psychological damage. Fear that oneself or car passengers, such as children, may die or suffer from injuries, is a common example.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that nearly 70 percent of people involved in serious car accidents suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain symptoms often exacerbate the stress of PTSD, causing the car accident survivor to feel isolated, which gives them more opportunity to relive the accident.
Chronic pain associated with worsening PTSD can cause:
- The inability to work or enjoy life activities;
- The need to undertake often expensive medical treatment and pain medications; and
- Changes in routine to provide care for children or pets.
Coping With PTSD after Car Accident
Other injuries often accompany PTSD. You can get compensation for your injuries if you file a claim and reach a settlement or the court issues an award for damages against the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
People with PTSD must develop healthy coping mechanisms to address the disorder. These individuals often face debilitating symptoms affecting their mental health, physical wellbeing, and daily lifestyle. Survivors are susceptible to poor coping habits due to isolation and decreased sense of worth often brought on by PTSD.
According to the NIH, men who have PTSD are five times more likely than the general male population to develop a substance abuse disorder, while their female counterparts are one and a half times more likely to do the same. People living with PTSD are also six times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
Developing healthy ways to deal with PTSD symptoms can prevent the onset of an array of other health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
What Are Helpful Coping Mechanisms for PTSD?
According to Very Well Mind, socializing as an outlet is an excellent start to coping with PTSD. Since PTSD frequently leads to feelings of isolation, openly discussing your PTSD with family, close friends, and other trusted individuals can reduce, or even eliminate, feelings of loneliness. It can be daunting to discuss your PTSD symptoms, but expressing this vulnerability has immense benefits. Your friends and family members might be able to assist you by helping to reduce triggers that cause PTSD symptoms to heighten. They might also help you address PTSD symptoms should they arise, and lastly, they can plan events and activities to keep you occupied.
Participating in Support Groups
Another excellent method for coping with PTSD resulting from a car accident is to take part in a local support group. Support groups come together to discuss shared difficulties or struggles. This unique coping method allows you to feel understood and relatable due to the bonds developed with people who survived similar situations. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting with people face-to-face, virtual options may exist. Seeking the support of others in a professional setting is a significant step to healing.
Another form of coping is self-care. Self-care is any activity that we deliberately engage in to give undivided attention to our emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. You can and should tailor self-care activities to your needs.
- Mindfulness training, such as meditation or yoga;
- Any form of exercise, including cardio or weight training – Exercise helps regulate mood and emotions due to a release of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms resulting from your car accident, consult a physician before performing any exercise;
- Keep a journal – This may be challenging but re-approaching the accident that brought on your PTSD can help you reconnect with people or places you might otherwise want to avoid; and
- Pick up a craft or hobby.
A licensed therapist or psychologist can help you develop individualized methods for coping with PTSD. Professional help is similar to taking part in a small group setting, except that you would work with a therapist or psychologist one-on-one in a safe and peaceful space.
Working with the same dedicated therapist or psychologist over some time is better than switching healthcare providers. Doing so will allow you to develop a relationship founded on trust so you can speak openly to derive the most benefit from your appointments.
This can cost a significant amount of money, but a car accident claim can help you recoup the funds needed to pay for the help you deserve after a negligent driver hurt you.
PTSD From a Car Accident: What to Do
PTSD is just one of many components that you can seek compensation for after a driver injures you in a car accident. If you have PTSD due to a serious motor vehicle accident, the following steps can help you find a successful resolution to your case:
Obtain Necessary Medical Assistance
Seek the proper medical and psychiatric assistance to jumpstart your recovery from the car accident and begin PTSD treatment.
Once established with a medical professional, seek a diagnosis of conditions you developed due to the car accident. Medical conditions you’re suffering from can include physical, psychological, and emotional injuries.
Getting a professional diagnosis will support your PTSD claim when you file a lawsuit because it will substantiate how the negligent driver directly contributed to or caused PTSD that affects your daily life.
You can help by documenting the following symptoms and presenting them to the attorney handling your PTSD car accident case:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of time at work due to increased medical and psychological demands
- Personality changes
- Physical manifestations of PTSD, such as tense muscles, digestive upset, and fatigue
- Trouble performing day-to-day activities
Seek an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
A knowledgeable car accident attorney can provide you with legal solutions and justice after your car accident. A car accident attorney well-versed in cases involving PTSD can help appropriately seek the compensation you deserve for your psychological and physical conditions. You need a lawyer who knows how to initiate and argue a claim involving psychological damages and can assist with concerns you might have throughout the legal process.
An experienced car accident attorney can also fight to obtain compensation for losses resulting from property damage, other financial damages, and noneconomic burdens you might face related to the accident.
Seek out Medical Treatment
You should always consult and seek a medical provider’s support as soon as possible after a car accident to address your possible physical and psychological conditions, even if you feel fine. Sometimes, injuries don’t produce immediate symptoms, and you put yourself at risk the longer you wait. Additionally, the more time that passes between the accident and your diagnosis, the more difficult it becomes to link your injuries to the car crash. PTSD is a serious ailment and requires professional treatment to begin recovery.
Put Together the Necessary Documentation
An experienced car accident lawyer can help gather relevant documentation to strengthen your case when assessing your claim.
Try to keep:
- Medical records
- Photos of the accident scene and injuries you sustained
- Logs of any mileage and time traveled for medical treatments
- Logs of time missed from work
- Receipts related to expenses resulting from the accident and onset of PTSD, such as:
- Medical and psychiatric bills, prescription pills, and transportation to and from medical or psychiatric appointments; and
- Childcare or household care costs resulting from your inability to take on such tasks you previously could.
You can get compensation for the costs associated with each of the financial losses listed above. Keep all documentation and records relating to the accident. These logs are essential in calculating the total compensation you deserve.
How PTSD Might Affect Your Settlement Amount
Accident victims most often pursue car accident claims under negligence laws, which hold people to a reasonable standard of care when engaging in certain activities, such as operating a motor vehicle. Negligence claims need to prove that the at-fault driver caused the accident that led to your injuries, including PTSD.
You may also recover non-economic damages.
In a car accident, noneconomic damages compensate a plaintiff for non-monetary damages and injuries, including:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium;
- Emotional or mental pain or anguish; and
- Loss of enjoyment.
You may recover economic damages for any monetary loss you suffered because of your PTSD, including loss of future earnings. Sometimes, you can also recover exemplary damages, which penalize a defendant’s gross negligence or willful recklessness, if established.
When Should I Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer for PTSD?
Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a car crash. If you don’t bring your claim within the statute of limitations—the length of which varies from state to state—you cannot sue the driver who caused the accident. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate these complex legal processes before that deadline expires.
When you have PTSD from a car accident, you never want to settle without understanding the severity of the damages the driver caused you. You must demonstrate a full picture of how the driver’s actions affected you and caused your PTSD. Contact a car accident attorney to discuss your case and take the next steps to receive the compensation you deserve.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501