Being in a car accident is traumatic. There are many types of car accident injuries including those that cause lasting emotional and mental trauma. In fact, a 2019 psychiatric study revealed that almost half of car accident survivors develop PTSD.
PTSD can be confusing and hard to identify. Car accident survivors may not be aware that they are experiencing PTSD after a crash. Instead, they may suffer silently throughout their lives and try to mask the symptoms. This can cause lasting harm and impact the overall quality of life.
If you’ve been in a car accident it is important to quickly address any psychiatric trauma (and physical trauma), to prevent or cure PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) is a psychiatric condition caused by witnessing or experiencing trauma.
PTSD is generally associated with veterans who have flashbacks after returning home from war. However, PTSD is not limited to vets and research has shown that anyone can develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. Around 3.5% of the U.S. population has PTSD at any given time, and one in 11 Americans will develop it within their lifetime.
While PTSD survivors used to be considered fake or ‘all in your head’, developments in psychiatry and rising diagnoses have brought this debilitating disorder into the light.
Common Symptoms Of PTSD
PTSD manifests itself differently from person to person. While some people will experience all of these PTSD symptoms, others may only have one or two.
Furthermore, some may have a less severe form of PTSD that allows them to continue living a mostly-normal life, while others may become completely debilitated. In general PTSD symptoms fall into the following categories.
Intrusive memories are unwanted and involuntary memories of a traumatic event. These memories are usually visual, but can also include other sensory experiences like smells, tastes, sounds, or bodily sensations.
For car accident victims, this may be having flashbacks to the moment of impact or treatment at the hospital. It can also include having nightmares about the car crash or an involuntary emotional and physical reaction when driving or in a car.
Avoidance can be an emotional or physical symptom of PTSD. This occurs when someone intentionally avoids talking about or processing a traumatic event. It can also happen when someone avoids a particular location or activity that is likely to remind them of their trauma.
Car accident victims may avoid talking about their accident to suppress the trauma. They may also avoid driving or being in a car out of fear of reliving a traumatic accident. This can cause serious disruption to their life if it impacts their ability to commute to work or meet their daily obligations.
Changes In Mood And Thinking
Changes in mood and thinking caused by PTSD can mirror depression. These changes may include:
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Negative self-worth
- Memory problems
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Disinterest in activities
- Feeling emotionally numb
Car accident survivors may find their mood and thinking changed dramatically after the crash, or these changes may develop slowly over time.
Changes In Physical And Emotional Reactions
Changes in physical and emotional reactions are very common for people with PTSD. These symptoms may include:
- Engaging in self-destructive behavior
- Becoming easily frightened or ‘jumpy’
- Being always on guard
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Intense and unjustified anger or irritability
Just like mood and thinking changes, changes in reactions can develop immediately, or over time. If not addressed by a psychiatric professional, these reactions and other symptoms of PTSD can worsen.
Can You Recover Damages For PTSD?
If you develop PTSD after a car accident, you likely recover damages. States have different approaches when it comes to injury claims after a car crash.
States like California have at-fault insurance laws. These laws require California drivers to purchase minimum amounts of bodily injury liability insurance in the event of a crash. The minimum limits are $15,000 for the death or injury of one person/ $30,000 for the injury or death of more than one person in an accident.
In California, you can file a claim to recover compensation for your PTSD against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The insurer will compensate you for your damages, up to the policy limits.
However, not all states have at-fault insurance laws. States like New York have “no-fault” insurance rules. In New York, drivers must carry a minimum amount of Personal Injury Protection insurance, in addition to bodily injury liability insurance.
After a car accident in New York, an injury victim will first look to their own insurance company to recover damages — regardless who was at fault for a crash. In New York, you can typically only sue the at-fault driver if you suffered a “serious injury.”
Statute Of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the period in which you can file a lawsuit against someone for your PTSD. In California, it is two years from the date of the car accident.
However, PTSD can develop over time and the symptoms may go unnoticed for months or years. In these cases, the statute of limitations is one year from the date that the injury was discovered or you were diagnosed with PTSD.
Damages Available For PTSD
It is common for people with PTSD to seek damages for:
- Lost wages due to PTSD
- Psychiatric treatment and therapy
- Prescription medications
- Alternative modes of transportation
- Future medical costs
- Mental anguish
Of course, the specific damages will vary from person to person and may be greater depending on the severity of the PTSD. You can increase your chances of recovering full compensation for your claim by working with an experienced injury lawyer. Contact a personal injury law firm today for help with your claim.