What You Should Know About PTSD From A Car Accident

car accident causing post traumatic stress disorder

Most people have heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, but many do not know all that it entails. 

For example, most people associate PTSD with veterans due to the very traumatic things they experience during combat and war. And while combat is traumatizing, one of the leading causes of PTSD in the United States is actually motor vehicle accidents. 

Unfortunately, because driving a car and even getting into an accident seems so normal, most people do not even think about having PTSD after a car accident. This means car accident victims might even ignore or not recognize symptoms of PTSD, which could lead to mental health issues.  

But treating PTSD is just as important as treating the physical injuries that can result from a car accident. So let’s dive in to learn a bit more about PTSD and car accidents. 

And if you or a loved one think you might be suffering from PTSD and need help with an Indiana car accident claim, don’t hesitate to reach out to Poynter & Bucheri for assistance. 

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental or psychiatric disorder triggered when a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Such events can include natural disasters, combat or war, sexual assault, abuse, or a car accident.

Though PTSD is considered a mental disorder, people who experience PTSD can suffer both mentally and physically, and they may even develop severe anxiety or depression. 

How Does PTSD Differ From a Standard Response to a Traumatic Event?

It’s important to understand that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will suffer from PTSD. It is “normal” or standard for people to have temporary difficulty coping after a traumatic incident. 

This temporary stress may be referred to as PTS (post-traumatic stress) versus PTSD. Normal responses to a stressful event or situation can include:

  • Feeling “shaky”
  • Emotionally numb
  • Excessive crying
  • Distraction or inability to focus
  • Trouble sleeping

However, if these symptoms continue for more than a month or two, get worse, and interfere with your daily life, it is likely that you have PTSD and need to seek treatment. 

What are the Risk Factors for Suffering From PTSD?

PTSD can affect anyone, but some factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing PTSD after a traumatic event, which include:

  • Existing mental health issues
  • Having previously experienced another trauma, such as assault or abuse
  • Lack of support from loved ones
  • Existing high-stress life or job situations

PTSD and Car Accidents

According to studies, being involved in a motor vehicle accident can put people at an increased risk of developing a range of psychiatric disorders, including PTSD. 

More than 50 million people experience trauma due to car accidents, and the likelihood that they will develop PTSD as a result of that trauma increases without timely and effective intervention. 

Thus, it is believed that diagnosis and treatment for PTSD should be more common in those who have been involved in an accident to prevent the disorder from becoming a public health issue. 

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Everyone processes trauma differently, and even being in a relatively minor car accident can result in PTSD. It is important to understand the signs of PTSD in order to seek medical attention before they begin to alter your life.

Some of the common symptoms of PTSD include the following:

  • Flashbacks resulting in panic or severe anxiety
  • Nightmares and/or difficulty sleeping
  • Intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts about the incident
  • Physical reactions to triggers (reminders of the traumatic event) such as increased heart rate, sweating, and nausea
  • Amnesia or difficulty remembering aspects of the traumatic event
  • Avoidance of activities linked to the traumatic event, such as driving on the highway or being a passenger in a car
  • A heightened or overactive startle response, such as jumping when someone touches you or after hearing an unexpected noise
  • Lack of enjoyment of everyday activities and favorite pastimes
  • Irritability, changes in mood, and aggression

Unlike some injuries that will be readily apparent at the scene of the accident, PTSD from car accidents may not make itself known right away. Sometimes it may take weeks or months to appear or may not appear until a particular trigger occurs or even until the anniversary of the accident.

How is PTSD Treated?

To initially diagnose PTSD, doctors may perform a physical exam or order a psych evaluation. Once a patient is determined to have PTSD, the treatment options can vary depending on the individual situation. 

Common PTSD treatments include:

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety meds
  • Prazosin (nightmare suppressant)

Doctors may also recommend patients go to group therapy for support or to seek support and help from family and loved ones. Isolating yourself while experiencing PTSD can make the disorder worse. 

Can I Be Compensated for PTSD After a Car Accident?

If you develop PTSD from a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against them to recover damages. PTSD damages you can recover compensation for include:

  • Medical bills and other expenses related to the treatment of your PTSD and any other injuries that resulted from the accident
  • Lost wages if you miss work while recovering
  • Loss of future earning capacity if your PTSD affects your ability to work in the future
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium if your PTSD affects your personal relationships

It’s important to note, however, that while you may deserve to be compensated for these damages, there is no guarantee that you will be awarded the settlement you deserve. To recover damages, you must first be able to prove that you have PTSD from the car accident, which can be challenging. 

To prove your case, you will need to work with an attorney who has experience handling PTSD personal injury cases. They will know what it takes to prove to insurance companies, or even the court, that you are suffering from PTSD and deserve to be fully and fairly compensated. 

Resources for PTSD

The risks of suicide, substance abuse, and self-harm are higher in individuals suffering from PTSD than in others. If you suspect you are experiencing PTSD after a car accident in Indiana, please speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. You are not alone in your suffering and you deserve help without shame.

If you are in need of immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Additional helpful resources include:

Indianapolis Resources:

Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery — Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD after a car accident, our Indianapolis personal injury attorneys can assist you. We understand how debilitating PTSD can be and are here to help you file your claim and ensure you get the compensation you deserve so you can recover and get the treatment you need. 
Don’t hesitate—one of our experienced attorneys can assist you right away. Call (800) 265-9881 for a free case review.