Can Car Accidents Cause PTSD?

After a car accident, victims often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Being diagnosed with this disorder can significantly impact the value of a resulting personal injury claim due to its potential long-term effects. High-speed impact car accidents or those that result in severe injuries tend to leave victims with PTSD that can alter their quality of life for months or years after the accident occurred. One of The Barnes Firm’s best car accident lawyers provides valuable information that can influence your car accident claim if you’ve been in a car accident that resulted in PTSD.

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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that’s triggered after people experience or witness a particularly harrowing, traumatic, or fear-inducing event. This condition was first called “shell shock,” and initially named after the first World War. Soldiers would return home having flashbacks from the battlefield and difficulty dealing with everyday events. We know now that PTSD can affect anyone, not just veterans. Today, the American Psychiatric Association has identified PTSD as a pathological anxiety disorder that arises when the brain can’t turn off the fight-or-flight reactions and anxieties linked with a stressful experience.

What are Some Symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms vary from one person to the next, but four main categories characterize this disorder:

  • Intrusion: the victim suffers persistent memories of the traumatic incident
  • Numbing: the victim detaches from the world around them and their own emotions
  • Avoidance: the victim may avoid places, people, or anything that reminds them of the traumatic experience
  • Arousal: the victim has trouble focusing and can’t turn their brain off as it’s perpetually alert

A car accident lawyer says PTSD symptoms could manifest as nightmares that feel like real life, anxiety when in crowded places, or flashbacks that take victims to the scene of the event; they vary considerably from one person to the next.

Severe PTSD symptoms after a car accident may arise a couple of hours after it occurred, or it could take days, weeks, sometimes years before victims realize their anxieties are linked to the accident. It’s not unheard of for symptoms to develop and grow increasingly worse for accident victims who don’t seek appropriate psychological treatment after the accident.

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toy cars simulating an accident where on is flipped on its side

Statistics on Car Accidents Linked to PTSD

The American Psychological Association revealed in a study that serious motor vehicle accidents that cause severe injuries are the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder for the general population in the United States. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs assesses that PTSD is common in adults and about 7-8% of Americans experience PTSD symptoms at some point in their lives. They added that about 8 million experience PTSD symptoms in any given year.

What is Complex PTSD?

In recent years, a similar malady, called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is becoming more accepted among doctors and scientists. This condition results from repeated exposure to traumatic events that cause acute behavioral challenges, including:

  • Trouble managing emotions
  • Mental complications
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • and sometimes amnesia.

This complex is not likely to occur after a car accident, as the victim must be repeatedly exposed to trauma.

woman looking out the window in a streetcar
woman looking out the window in a streetcar

How is PTSD Treated After a Car Accident?

There are various treatment options available to car accident victims who have PTSD to manage their symptoms better. Treatment is highly individualized and may include:

  • Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, some victims respond well to merely talking about their traumatic experience with a trained mental health professional.
  • Medication: Anxiety and depression medication can reduce symptoms of PTSD; they can be taken either short or long-term.
  • “Immersion” treatment: This treatment method involves confronting circumstances or behaviors that a person living with PTSD has been averting.

Often a combination of treatment, such as medication with psychotherapy, can be helpful. While treatment can be beneficial, there is no quick fix or magic pill that will prevent ongoing symptoms.           

After a severe car accident, it’s not uncommon to suffer PTSD symptoms. If you’re suffering from these symptoms, do not hesitate to consult with your doctor. Just as you’d treat any physical injury, you would treat a psychological disorder. Speaking to a specialist and getting the treatment that you need is paramount to your recovery.

The Barnes Firm’s Car Accident Attorneys Can Help

You could benefit by speaking to a trusted car accident attorney if you’re suffering from injuries or PTSD after a car accident caused by a negligent driver. The Barnes Firm is a personal injury firm with experienced and compassionate car accident attorneys. They work tirelessly to secure full and fair compensation for all costs connected with your mental anguish. Pain and suffering may be taken into account in your injury claim, or it could fall into a separate class of damages.

The Barnes Firm’s best car accident lawyers have secured millions of dollars for car accident victims around the nation. Their success in personal injury law has earned them awards and accreditations on listings like Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To schedule a free consultation and speak with a trusted car accident attorney today, complete an online contact form or call our office at any time.

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