PTSD And Car Accidents
When people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they might imagine a person returning from war or surviving a violent attack. However, PTSD and car accidents sometimes go together. Car accidents are often near-death experiences that can leave a significant psychological injury long after the physical wounds heal. If you believe that you may be suffering from PTSD following a recent car accident, you might consider contacting a personal injury lawyer with The Mark Casto Law Firm at (706) 940-4030 to schedule a consultation.
What Is PTSD?
The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as “an anxiety disorder that often follows a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.” PTSD is a serious medical condition that can bring on anxiety and depression. It can last for many years to come and affect survivors long after the triggering event occurred.
Why Car Accident Victims Suffer from PTSD
According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals who are involved in a serious motor vehicle accident are at an increased risk for psychological problems, especially PTSD. Research published with the National Institutes for Health report that approximately 25 to 33 percent of motor vehicle accident survivors suffer PTSD 30 days after the accident. Research published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that 46.5 percent of research participants had at least three extremely severe symptoms of PTSD following a motor vehicle accident.
Traffic accidents can be extremely traumatic events. PTSD often follows such traumatic events, especially when there is actual or perceived risk of death. Many accident victims are terrified during these events, which often involve high speeds, crushing metal, injuries, and other frightening factors.
What Are Risk Factors for PTSD After a Car Accident?
Some of the risk factors for developing PTSD after a car accident include:
- The perception that the victim's life was in danger at the time of the accident
- Dissociation during or right after the accident
- Family history
- High levels of emotions
- History of previous trauma
- Lack of social support following the accident
- Prior psychological adjustment problems
Symptoms of PTSD
While it is natural to experience fear, anger, shock, guilt, and myriad other emotions in the moments after a car accident, prolonged high levels of emotions may indicate that a car accident victim is suffering from PTSD. Watch for these signs following a car accident, as they may indicate PTSD:
- Avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding driving or getting in a vehicle following a car accident
- Suppression of thoughts about the car accident
- Constantly thinking about the accident or intrusive memories
- Dissociation about the accident
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Distressing dreams about the accident
- Sleep disturbance
- Changes in emotional reactions
- Numbing of emotional responsiveness
- Feeling detached from others
- Exaggerated startle or irritability
Treatment Options for PTSD Following a Car Accident
If a car accident victim does not already have a mental health provider, he or she can ask for a referral from a primary care doctor. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for PTSD following a car accident, including:
- Talk therapy, exposure therapy, or play therapy
- Group therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Cognitive processing therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
- Medication, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotics
How To Cope with Trauma After an Accident
In addition to seeking professional help following a car accident, the accident victim might be able to cope better with trauma stemming from the accident by taking some of the following actions:
- Talking to a friend, family member, or other trusted person—Sometimes, simply expressing unease and difficult emotions helps a person deal with them.
- Staying active—Exercising and getting around can help release feel-good chemicals and improve a person's overall health. Getting back to a regular routine as quickly as possible and trying to do the same things as before the accident can be beneficial since many people with PTSD tend to avoid familiar people and behaviors, potentially making the situation worse.
- Becoming a defensive driver—Part of the problem with PTSD is that the sufferer tends to focus on things he or she cannot control. By becoming a defensive driver, the accident victim can decrease the risk of being involved in another motor vehicle accident. Minimize distractions, avoid driving while tired, keep a safe distance from other vehicles, and always wear a seat belt.
- Practicing good self-care—The Anxiety & Depression Association of America states that when people feel distressed or anxious, they are more likely to neglect their basic needs like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and staying social. Practice good self-care following a traumatic event like a car accident to avoid potential problems.
Potential Damages in Car Accident Cases
An individual who was injured in a car accident and suffered PTSD as a result may be able to obtain compensation from the various losses suffered, including those losses directly stemming from PTSD, such as:
- Expenses related to diagnosis, such as visits to a primary care physician and/or specialist
- Lab work and diagnostic tests
- Therapy costs
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- Mental anguish
A personal injury attorney from The Mark Casto Law Firm may be able to provide more information about the potential value of a claim.
Seeking Compensation for PTSD and Car Accidents
Anyone who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident should not have to go through the traumatic experience alone. Prompt diagnosis and treatment for PTSD can help minimize the mental distress following an accident. An experienced personal injury lawyer with the Mark Casto Law Firm can answer any questions you have about PTSD and car accidents. An attorney can deal directly with insurance companies, handling communications with the insurance company or companies involved with the claim to remove one stressor from the accident victim. The attorney can also help to ensure that any medical treatment is properly documented so the accident victim can pursue full compensation for the damages suffered. Consider contacting a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer with The Mark Casto Law Firm at (706) 940-4030 for a free consultation.