When discussing car accidents and injuries sustained, most individuals think about the physical trauma that occurs as a result. However, emotional and psychological trauma is just as common and can have more debilitating, and lasting effects compared to some physical injuries. While emotional trauma, or PTSD, is sometimes more of a challenge to diagnose and is not always treated with as much sympathy as physical injuries, it is a valid condition that can have serious long-term effects on an individual’s life.
According to the American Psychological Association, car accidents are the leading cause of PTSD in the general population. However, if not diagnosed right away, it is tough to prove this type of trauma after an accident and to receive the appropriate amount of compensation for the damage it has had on your life. For this reason, it is vital that victims of car accidents seek the help and evaluation of a medical professional as soon as possible. PTSD is not always immediately apparent and some even ignore the symptoms and simply attribute them to initial stress or shock from the accident. Unfortunately, symptoms of PTSD can worsen over time and last years if not properly treated.
Seeking compensation months or even years after an accident for PTSD is difficult. Though you may initially think you are fine, it’s always in your best interest to seek care immediately following an accident, no matter how minor the accident or the physical injuries are. There is no way to tell how the mind will react. And whether you are filing a claim right away or further down the road, having a personal injury lawyer on your side can significantly increase your chances of getting the compensation that you deserve.
What is PTSD?
Before we get into how to successfully prove that PTSD has resulted from a car accident, it’s helpful to understand the condition. Knowing what it is and being able to recognize the signs and symptoms can help you receive a more efficient diagnosis which will further help your case if you decide to file a claim.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a psychological disorder that can occur in those individuals who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, such as a car accident. It is most often used to describe those who have returned from war or combat but can affect anyone of all ages and genders no matter the circumstances of the traumatic event. As mentioned above, studies have shown that PTSD is most often a result of motor vehicle accidents more than anything else. However, many individuals do not always seek the necessary treatment for it, and thus it can often go undiagnosed.
Symptoms of Accident-Related PTSD
Though symptoms can vary from one individual to the next, the most common signs and symptoms of PTSD, especially for those involved in car accidents, include:
- Excessive anger or irritability
- Feeling anxious all the time, especially when driving or riding in a car
- Intrusive thoughts relating to the accident. This can be flashbacks or memories of the incident or disturbing dreams. The flashbacks can often be so realistic that it feels as though you are re-living the accident all over again.
- Avoiding certain people or places due to irrational fear or worry. Being around others that were involved in the accident or being in places that remind you of the accident, such as riding or driving in a car, can cause you to feel an exaggerated sense of fear or worry that something might happen again.
- Feeling disconnected from your surroundings
How is PTSD Treated?
If you are the victim of a car accident, no matter how minor the accident was, you should be evaluated by a medical professional. Though the symptoms of PTSD may not be immediately apparent, your doctor will know how to recognize any early signs and refer you to a specialist if necessary. If PTSD is confirmed, you will likely receive treatment from a doctor who specializes in neurological disorders and or a therapist as well. A specialist will know how to properly evaluate your individual situation and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Treatments can include:
- Cognitive therapy or treatments to address your symptoms and desensitize you to factors that are causing you to react
- Therapy sessions that involve talking about the accident to help you better understand what happened to you and how to cope with what you are feeling as a result
- Medications to help treat anxiety and depression
Proving Psychological Trauma After an Accident
Despite car accidents being one of the leading causes of PTSD, it is sometimes challenging for victims to prove they are suffering from psychological trauma. Symptoms of PTSD are sometimes overlooked. Doctors and even the victims themselves will often attribute any initial feelings of anxiety or irritability to shock and “normal” short-term effects. If you are dismissive of your symptoms, your doctor may follow your lead and dismiss them as well, and without the testimony of an expert, receiving compensation for PTSD down the road will be difficult.
Even if you think you are fine, you should always seek an initial evaluation and you should never start by telling your doctor that you think you are fine. Let them know everything that you are feeling, even if it seems minuscule or irrelevant. If you think you are suffering from PTSD or if there is any possibility that it could develop later on, do not try to tough it out. Successfully proving PTSD after an accident will involve an evaluation and testimony from a medical professional and the longer you wait to be evaluated, the harder it will be to prove.
How Severe Was the Accident?
Aside from the evaluation and testimony from a doctor or a therapist, another factor in determining whether you will receive compensation for PTSD is how severe the accident was. While even minor accidents can result in PTSD, the more severe it is, the more likely an individual is to have lasting psychological effects. Proving severity can involve testimonies from witnesses, any video footage, as well as proof of physical damages either to the victim or to the car or vehicles involved.
Has the Accident Affected Your Daily Life?
Physical trauma can certainly affect your ability to go about your daily life, but so can PTSD. If you are unable to perform daily activities, or go to work, or even leave your house at all due to the emotional trauma you are experiencing, it can help prove that you have PTSD. Showing the ways that PTSD is specifically debilitating to you and how it has “damaged” your life can further increase your chances of receiving the compensation that you deserve.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are struggling to prove how the emotional trauma you are experiencing is a result of a car accident, connecting with a personal injury lawyer can give you the edge you need to win your case. Insurance companies will try to fight personal injury claims in whatever way possible to reduce the amount they have to pay to the victim. PTSD especially can be a challenge to prove. Insurers will try to claim that your symptoms are simply the normal effects of being in an accident and will go away with time. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to navigate these types of claims and can help you gather the necessary evidence to receive proper compensation.
At Crossen Law Firm, our team has over 20 years of experience fighting for victims who are experiencing PTSD as a result of being in a car accident. We are dedicated to working tirelessly to get you the compensation that you deserve. Contact us today or give us a call for a free consultation. (317) 401-8626