Proving PTSD After an Accident

how to prove ptsd after an accident

Auto accidents are always traumatic events that can cause significant damage and injury to the body. Such events can also affect mental health. For some car crash victims, their mental health and well-being can remain damaged long after a crash occurred.

In fact, auto accidents are a leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that causes a severe decrease in quality of life. After a car crash or similarly traumatic situation, PTSD causes lingering abnormal reactions and feelings long after the danger has ceased.

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Understanding PTSD Symptoms

After a car accident, it’s common and expected to be shaken up. You might feel physically numb and also fearful, distracted, and unable to focus. Such feelings usually fade within a few weeks, as the body and brain recalibrate to a more normal state.

However, if such feelings continue beyond a few weeks, or if they intensify, you may be experiencing PTSD. Signs of PTSD can also show up months after a crash, even if you appear to have recovered. 

PTSD symptoms can manifest in many ways. Drivers experiencing PTSD may feel panicky and anxious when getting behind the wheel again or riding in a car, especially if riding on the same or a similar road to where an accident occurred. Common PTSD symptoms include recurring intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, frequent dreams and nightmares about the event, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and other debilitating conditions.

Disruptions and Treatment

PTSD can also cause disruptions with work, school, and relationships. People with PTSD may avoid people and places that remind them of the traumatic event, and those who have experienced other trauma or mental health issues may be more likely to have PTSD following trauma.

Treating PTSD often involves cognitive behavioral therapy and sometimes medication. A trained mental health professional can and should help you to manage and mitigate PTSD and your symptoms because, if untreated, PTSD can be a lifelong condition.

Proving PTSD with Witnesses

In the courtroom, while PTSD may be generally understood, the specifics and medical parameters of the condition are considered beyond the scope of most jurors. When seeking compensation after an accident, proving PTSD isn’t always straightforward.

One or more expert witnesses—in this case a qualified mental health expert—will often be required to testify in order to support your case. In a civil lawsuit, facts that are considered beyond the comprehension of an average juror require an expert witness to testify and explain the facts and issues. An expert can provide an explanation of PTSD, its symptoms, and the requirements for diagnosing PTSD.

Witnesses may also give an opinion on the circumstances of the case and on whether the issue at hand exists or does not exist. Testimony might be used to assess whether a plaintiff suffers from PTSD and if the related car accident caused the condition.

However, testifying experts do not necessarily provide testimony supporting the fact that a plaintiff has PTSD. Rather, they may testify about what facts must be proven to establish PTSD. If an expert witness was also the mental health professional who provided treatment to the plaintiff, the expert will also likely testify as to whether or not the car crash victim had sufficient symptoms for PTSD diagnosis.

Supporting Your Case

In some cases, and depending on circumstances, sharing a testifying expert’s ultimate opinion as to whether or not a plaintiff has PTSD might not be permissible. The question might be left entirely for the jury to decide. Further, both the plaintiff and defendant teams could call their own experts and witnesses to testify in an attempt to refute the other side’s claims.

As PTSD court cases can be complicated, Poynter & Bucheri’s experienced legal team can work with you to evaluate your PTSD symptoms and establish and strengthen your case for compensation. Beyond ensuring that the right experts and witnesses can support your case, our team will help obtain the accident report, medical bills, hospital data, witness accounts, and other crucial documentation and information for your case.

Contact Poynter & Bucheri to find out more about how we can help you receive just compensation if you’ve been in a car accident and are experiencing PTSD. We’ll always answer your questions, and we’ll always fight for you.

Video Transcript
Hi, I’m Rich Bucheri from Poynter and Bucheri and today I want to talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and how that is often something that is overlooked in a person’s auto accident claim or any type of injury claim.
If you are in a car accident, let’s say you’re driving on the interstate and somebody bumps you and your car spins and hits the embankment, maybe you have your children in the car, something like that, then obviously that’s going to be a very traumatic experience that could have long-term ramifications for you, even though maybe physically you did not sustain injuries because maybe your airbags did a good job of keeping you from getting hurt or you’re generally in pretty good physical shape.

But the way this post-traumatic stress disorder manifests itself is that maybe later on down the road when you are driving, you start to get panicky and you start to relive the situation where you were in the car accident before. It’s maybe easier for you to get extremely upset or angry. You have a hard time going to sleep at night. You have a hard time being ability to concentrate. And maybe you’re jumpier than usual.

So it’s very, very important that if you think that you have this post-traumatic stress disorder, that you go get checked out by a professional, because you need to have this diagnosed, preferably by a psychiatrist, so that they can identify what symptoms qualify you to have this post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, and then also to get you on a treatment program of some sort to be able to deal with it.  Obviously physical things eventually, most usually, are able to heal themselves over time with physical therapy, but an untreated post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis can linger with you for the rest of your life if you don’t do something about it, and so it’s very important that you get that diagnosis.

It’s very important that if this did happen to you as a result of a car accident, that you seek fair compensation for that, and that is an element that your attorney is making sure that the insurance company is aware of in determining what your total damages are.

If you have any questions, please give us a call at Poynter and Bucheri.