PTSD From Car Accidents
Car accidents commonly cause post-traumatic stress disorder—commonly called PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that approximately 39.2 percent of car accident survivors develop PTSD after their accident. PTSD can cause car accident victims to experience negative moods or even become afraid to drive or ride in a car after their accident.
If you experience the symptoms of PTSD following your car crash, always speak with your doctor or mental health provider to obtain the treatment you need. Moreover, speak with a car accident lawyer immediately after your accident.
A lawyer can investigate the cause of your crash and file a claim for monetary damages on your behalf. Your lawyer can also help you pursue the economic recovery you deserve for your PTSD and other injuries you suffered in your car accident.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
Some individuals are more susceptible to PTSD than others—and different accident victims will exhibit PTSD symptoms at varying levels. Car accidents often occur in a split second and can make individuals feel their lives are in imminent danger. Various factors affect the PTSD level that a specific person will feel.
Those factors include:
- The speeds of the vehicles involved in the car crash
- The length of time between when the accident victim first observes the at-fault vehicle and the time when the crash occurs
- Whether the accident victim drove the vehicle or was a passenger in the vehicle in the accident
- The specific circumstances surrounding the accident and what happened in the car crash
Car accident victims can also experience various PTSD-related symptoms.
Some symptoms include:
- Changes in a person’s emotional reactions to common life circumstances
- Avoidance behaviors, including not driving or riding in a motor vehicle—especially in the area where the accident occurred
- Negative moods and thinking
- Negative memories about the accident and its aftermath
Although many car accident victims experience some or all of these symptoms after a car crash, the symptoms usually subside over time. When the symptoms extend to weeks or even months after the accident, they might rise to the level of PTSD and require medical or mental health treatment.
Only a health care provider or mental health professional can diagnose you with PTSD. After diagnosing you, your provider can help you work through and resolve your PTSD symptoms. Always follow through with all of your provider’s recommendations for treatment. You should also complete all of your treatment and refrain from discharging yourself from a medical provider before you reach maximum physical recovery.
Once you complete your treatment, or if your treatment will be ongoing, your lawyer can gather all your records and prepare to file a car accident claim for damages. Your lawyer might also designate your health care provider or mental health professional as an expert in your case so they can connect your PTSD to the car accident.
What Car Accidents that Lead to PTSD?
Any car accident can lead to a person developing PTSD. However, the most serious car crashes are those most likely to lead to this diagnosis. Moreover, car accidents when the vehicles are moving at high speeds or when a vehicle overturns or spins around can lead to an accident victim suffering PTSD.
Some of these accidents include:
- Head-on collisions – A head-on collision happens when the fronts of two vehicles collide. The vehicles typically move in opposite directions, and an accident occurs when the at-fault vehicle crosses the center double line or median strip, veering over into the opposite travel lane. When vehicles move at high speeds, serious injuries and sometimes fatalities can occur. The trauma resulting from such a forceful impact may cause the accident victim to experience PTSD symptoms.
- Rear-end crashes – A rear-end collision happens when the front of a vehicle strikes the back of another vehicle. These accidents are common at traffic intersections, where one vehicle is moving too fast—and on busy highways, when traffic slows down too quickly and the rear driver is not ready.
- Sideswipe accidents – A sideswipe collision happens when the sides of two vehicles strike one another while moving in the same direction on a roadway. These accidents are common on multilane highways, where a driver is intoxicated or distracted, negligently causing their car to slide over into another travel lane.
- T-bone accidents – T-bone accidents are also common at traffic intersections and occur when the front of a vehicle strikes the side of a vehicle moving on an adjacent roadway. These accidents are common when a driver fails to yield the right-of-way, such as by running a yield sign, stop sign, or red traffic light. Sometimes, the force of these collisions is so great that it causes the vehicle on the receiving end to spin around rapidly or even overturn right in the middle of the intersection. These types of trauma-inducing events may cause an accident victim to suffer PTSD symptoms well into the future.
If you suffered PTSD symptoms following an accident resulting from someone else’s negligence, you have legal options. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can speak with you about your accident and symptoms and help you file the necessary claim with the insurance company for damages.
Causes of Trauma-Inducing Car Crashes
Trauma-inducing car crashes typically result from driver negligence. Driver negligence can take many forms, but the most common types are distracted driving, drunk driving, and road rule violations.
Distracted driving occurs when a driver fails to watch the road. The driver might become distracted when listening to loud music in their vehicle or roughhousing with others in the car. They may also turn their head to program a GPS device or send a text message on a cellular phone, tablet, or another electronic device in the vehicle. These activities are distracting and can divert a driver’s attention from the road, leading to a serious accident.
On the other hand, intoxicated driving occurs when a driver operates their vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law sets a legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC), over which a driver is considered intoxicated. Stricter standards apply to minors under 21 years of age and commercial vehicle drivers, including tractor-trailer and big rig operators.
Even a driver below the legal limit might still suffer from alcohol impairment. An impaired driver might not stop their vehicle in time to avoid a crash, or they may experience confusion, blurred vision, and other physical symptoms that hinder their driving abilities. As a result, drunk drivers can cause serious, high-speed crashes that lead to serious injuries and PTSD symptoms.
Finally, road rule violations are another common cause of car crashes. Drivers must operate their vehicles safely and carefully at all times. In addition, they must operate their vehicles according to the road rules. When a driver violates one or more of these rules, such as by failing to yield the right-of-way when switching lanes or merging onto a highway, speeding, driving aggressively, or tailgating other vehicles, they increase their chances of causing serious accidents that lead to PTSD and other complications.
If you suffered injuries in a car crash because another driver was negligent, your lawyer can file your claim with the accident victim’s insurance company. Your lawyer can then negotiate that claim and work to get you the compensation you deserve, including for your PTSD-related symptoms. If the insurance company refuses to offer you the compensation you need, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court and litigate it to a prompt conclusion on your behalf.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim After Your Car Crash
If you suffered PTSD or some other injury/illness in a car crash, a personal injury lawyer in your area can help you file your legal claim. The first step in the claims-filing process is for your lawyer to send a complete settlement demand package and letter to the insurance company adjuster handling your claim.
The demand package will also include copies of pertinent medical or mental health treatment records, police reports, eyewitness statements, and a victim impact statement. In car accident cases where the accident victim claims PTSD, a victim impact statement becomes important because it explains the overall effect the accident had on the person’s life and well-being.
After your lawyer submits the demand package, an insurance company adjuster will review the demand and may make an offer to settle. Your lawyer will negotiate with the adjuster—usually several times—before the case resolves favourably.
In some instances, your lawyer may need to threaten litigation or file a lawsuit in the court system to convince the insurance company to take the case seriously and compensate you for your PTSD and other accident-related consequences. Your lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept a settlement offer to resolve your case or litigate your case to a conclusion in civil court.
Recovering the Damages You Deserve for Your PTSD
PTSD symptoms can last for a relatively short period or they can affect the accident victim’s life for many months or years after their collision. PTSD and other injury symptoms can also prevent an accident victim from working for some time after their crash, losing significant income. If a mental health professional or healthcare provider orders you off work following your car crash, you can seek compensation for lost wages.
In addition to economic damages, you can pursue non-economic damages for the injuries and symptoms you suffer due to your accident. Specifically, you can claim emotional distress, anxiety, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and inconvenience related to your accident.
To recover monetary damages in a personal injury claim, the accident victim has the sole legal burden of proof. This means they must demonstrate that another driver acted negligently under the circumstances—and that their carelessness caused the subject car accident.
When an accident victim alleges PTSD, they must have medical evidence to support that their PTSD directly resulted from their accident. In other words, a healthcare provider or mental health professional must state, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that the car accident caused your PTSD—although it may not be the only cause.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you prove the legal elements of your claim and recover damages for your related injuries and symptoms. Your lawyer will work hard to maximize your compensation through settlement or litigation.
Insurance companies regularly work to limit payment for invisible injuries like PTSD, so you need a skilled legal representative to prove your condition and losses. The sooner you contact a lawyer about your PTSD claim, the sooner you will have the guidance to best protect your rights. Never wait to take this important step.
Talk With a Car Accident Lawyer Today
A car crash is one of the most traumatizing events that a person can experience in their lifetime. If you suffered PTSD symptoms or other injuries related to your recent car accident, you might recover monetary compensation. However, do not wait to seek legal help.
Consider that in areas like Alberta, car accident victims only have two years from their accident date to file a claim or lawsuit for money damages. If they do not file their lawsuit on time, they will not be eligible to recover compensation at any future time. Therefore, the sooner you get a lawyer involved, the sooner they can begin advocating for you.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can file a timely claim or lawsuit in the court system on your behalf, safeguarding your right to recover money damages for your injuries. Your lawyer can then help you pursue the favorable settlement compensation you need. If you cannot settle because the insurance company acts unreasonably, your lawyer can litigate your case in court. Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.