Can a Car Accident Cause PTSD? Car accidents often cause severe injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, and traumatic amputation. In addition to various types of physical trauma, most accidents also cause emotional trauma. There are constant anxieties, worries, and stresses for any serious injury. Victims worry about who will pay their medical bills and daily expenses. They’re anxious about whether their injuries will heal and whether they can return to work. Victims worry about how their injuries are affecting their families.

Some emotional trauma is so severe that it has its own name – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to a paper published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice in 2008, “Individuals who experience a serious motor vehicle accident (MVA) are at increased risk for psychological problems, particularly Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

There are unique challenges in claiming compensation for PTSD after a car accident. You need doctors who can diagnose your disorder. Tennessee specifically requires a doctor’s diagnoses for emotional distress claims. Insurance companies will often argue PTSD isn’t serious, though it is very serious. A common legal question is whether PTSD is compensable – if you don’t have any physical injuries? We believe the strongest PTSD claim involve accidents in which the victim witnesses another family member seriously injured.

At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our personal injury lawyers understand these challenges. We’ll fight to show you have PTSD and that you should be fully compensated for this scary and possibly life-lasting medical disorder.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), PTSD symptoms include the following:

  • These symptoms include distressing dreams, flashbacks of the car accident, and other involuntary memories.
  • Victims may take steps to avoid being reminded of the car accident such as avoiding the same route, avoiding driving in the same car, or avoiding driving completely. Victims may also avoid wanting to talk about the car accident.
  • Changes in cognition and mood. Victims with PTSD may not be able to fully remember the car accident and have distorted thoughts about themselves, such as “ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame.”
  • Changes in arousal and reactivity. These symptoms may include irritability, anger, reckless behavior, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and being startled easily.

The APA states:

For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, however, symptoms must last for more than a month and must cause significant distress or problems in the individual’s daily functioning. Many individuals develop symptoms within three months of the trauma, but symptoms may appear later and often persist for months and sometimes years.

Some medical disorders that are similar or related to PTSD include acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, disinhibited social engagement disorder, and reactive attachment disorder.

What are the treatments for PTSD?

The APA states that there are different following professional treatments may be considered for PTSD patients. The treatments are usually provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help – but it often requires numerous sessions, sometimes over several years. Cognitive behavioral therapy includes:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy. This type of counselingfocuses on changing painful negative emotions such as guilt or shame and beliefs such as thinking the victim failed in some way or the world is a frightening place. Therapists focus on helping the car accident victim confront uncomfortable emotions and memories.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy. This type of counseling “uses repeated, detailed imagining of the trauma or progressive exposures to symptom ‘triggers’ in a safe, controlled way” so the victim can face, control, and learn to cope with their fears.” One new technique is the use of virtual reality programs in a “controlled, therapeutic way.”
  • Stress Inoculation Therapy. This type of help focuses on developing and maintaining coping skills “to successfully defend against stressful triggers through the exposure of milder levels of stress, much like a vaccine is inoculated to prevent infection after exposure to an illness.”
  • Group therapy. This type of help focuses on engaging patients who have experienced similar traumatic events. The aim is for the patients to share their experiences in a setting where other people have had similar experiences. This type of therapy can often help car accident victims understand that they are not alone – that other victims are experiencing (or have experienced) the same feelings and emotions. Group therapy for car accident victims with PTSD may also include the victim’s family so the family can understand the victim’s distress and how the PTSD is affecting all the family members.
  • Medications may help patients control their PTSD symptoms and provide the assistance patients need to participate “more effectively in psychotherapy.” Medications may include antidepressants. The APA notes that “SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors), are commonly used to treat the core symptoms of PTSD. They are used either alone or in combination with psychotherapy or other treatments.” Other medications are prescribed to reduce anxiety or treat sleeping disorders.
  • Other treatments. PTSD medical care may also include complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and animal-assisted therapy.

Are car accident victims with PTSD eligible for compensation?

The cost of PTSD treatments can be very expensive. Many PTSD victims require months or years of counseling which can be very costly. If you have PTSD as a result of a car accident, you may not be able to work. By definition, you are suffering emotionally. PTSD may be a permanent disability.

Post-traumatic stress disorder generally falls under personal injury law. However, our skilled personal injury lawyers will explain if you have a claim. Most patients with PTSD also have other long-term physical injuries, including chronic physical pain.

At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, we have been fighting for car accident victims for more than 20 years. We have earned the respect of former clients, insurance adjusters, and defense lawyers for our thorough preparation of your case, our strong advocacy in court, and our understanding of the relevant legal issues. To assert your right to compensation for your economic and personal damages, call us at (865) 428-8780 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We represent car accident victims in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.