If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Since car accidents happen frequently, it is important to consider that not everyone who is in an accident develops PTSD. However, it is not rare, as somewhere around 9 percent of individuals who have a car accident go on to develop PTSD.
However, if the person sought psychological counseling after the accident, the incidence of PTSD escalates to 60 percent. Let’s take a look at PTSD, its cause, what can be considered a risk factor, how it is treated and the part it plays in the amount of financial damages the individual must receive.
What Is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly abbreviated PTSD, is defined as a mental health issue that occurs after enduring a motor vehicle crash and other traumatic events. It can also be caused by witnessing the crash as an independent observer. The majority of individuals who experience such events might have problems dealing with it over the short term but eventually, the issues resolve.
PTSD, on the other hand, persists for an extended time, often months or years, and the problems do not resolve. Victims note that their symptoms are worse as time passes, and it prevents them from functioning.
Perception of the Accident Is Key
Research has determined that PTSD is not necessarily linked to the severity of the accident. Instead, it is related to how the victim perceives it. Individual perceptions involve thinking that one’s life is in danger. If that occurred, the risk of developing PTSD is high.
Once this perception has occurred, it is easy to use avoidance behavior to augment the belief that doing the same activity, in this case, driving, will result in the same thing happening again. Many individuals who have developed PTSD will allow the avoidance techniques to cause a more fearful response.
PTSD Car Accident Symptoms
There are four groups of PTSD. They are:
- Intrusive memories: This may include flashbacks where the memory of the accident is relieved many times. These memories may be distressing and unwanted, yet they intrude on the person’s mind. Nightmares may occur that are linked to the accident. In addition, the person may have a strong reaction to something that reminds them of the accident.
- Avoidance: The accident victim may try to avoid talking about the event or even thinking about it. They may also avoid taking part in activities or being with others that remind them of the event.
- Emotional reactions: The person may experience emotional responses that are different than anything they experienced before the accident. For instance, they may startle easily, have trouble sleeping and always be on guard for danger. For them, danger lurks around every corner. They may become self-destructive and drink more than they should or drive faster than they once did. The person who develops PTSD may feel guilty or ashamed and display anger or even aggressive behavior.
- Negativity: The PTSD patient may begin thinking negative thoughts or feel hopeless. They may feel detached from others and stop engaging with people socially or doing things they once loved to do. Close friends and family may be ignored. They may describe their emotions as numb and fail to react positively.
Symptoms of PTSD are not always present at the same intensity. Instead, they can ebb and flow. Seeing an accident happen or even hearing about it on the news may be enough to trigger PTSD symptoms. It is important for family and friends to look out for events that might trigger a PTSD episode.
Suicidal Inclinations with PTSD
Some PTSD patients display suicidal symptoms. When this happens, it is important to talk about it to someone who cares and will understand. This may be a family member, a medical professional or by calling the National Suicide Hotline. They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
Risk of Developing PTSD
There are risk factors that can be used to predict if someone will develop PTSD. They are:
- Someone who had psychological issues before the accident
- Someone whose family has a history of psychological problems
- Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event in the past
- When another person died in the accident
- The type of emotional response such as hopelessness or fear the person experiences
- A victim who dissociates themself from the accident
Children and PTSD
Parents may find that children not only have PTSD episodes after a traumatic event but that their symptoms differ from those of adults. Rather than having nightmares of the traumatic event that intrude on their sleep, a child may have nightmares about scary monsters. It is necessary to monitor their play activities because often children will include PTSD reactions in their playtime. Teachers, as well as parents, can keep watch to make sure the child is not withdrawing after an accident.
How Is PTSD Treated?
The way that PTSD is treated matches the person’s response. For instance, some respond to medication, while others respond well to therapy alone. In some cases, it is necessary to use a combination of treatment and meds. Treatment does not bring immediate results either.
Is PTSD Common After a Motor Vehicle Accident?
It’s more common than most people would think. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, around 9 percent of those who have been involved in a traffic collision go on to develop symptoms of PTSD. The American Psychological Association states that in 2003, motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of PTSD in the general public. This shows that it has been a problem for many years and has affected numerous lives.
How to Handle PTSD After a Car Accident
It is important to receive treatment for PTSD. Since therapy for PTSD is slow and takes time, your attorney mustn’t try to conclude the lawsuit too soon. If they do, and you require extended treatment, you may be forced to pay for it out of your own pocket. Once you accept a settlement or a verdict is handed down, you will be unable to collect anything after that time.
Therapies Used in the Treatment of PTSD
According to the Mayo Clinic, talk therapy is used to treat PTSD. In some cases, different types of treatment may be used in combination to treat the individual. Medications may also be prescribed to help lower the anxiety level of the patient, such as anti-anxiety medicines or antidepressants. Psychotherapy treatments may include:
- Cognitive: This type of therapy involves challenging the patient’s negative thought patterns about their reaction to the accident. For example, the patient may be fearful about leaving their home or driving. The therapist will work at correcting the patient’s dysfunctional thinking patterns by making them realize that their fear is unrealistic. They will also teach them skills to cope with that fear.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This type of psychotherapy treatment helps the patient process and access memories that are painful so that the patient can form new associations and eliminate emotional distress.
- Exposure: This type of behavioral therapy is used to help the accident victim face their frightening memories and situations and learn how to cope effectively with them. Exposure therapy is especially useful for those who suffer from nightmares and flashbacks.
Prognosis in PTSD
The prognosis in those with PTSD can depend on the severity and the length of time it was ongoing before treatment began. While in some, it may be under control within a six month period, others may continue to suffer from the trauma of PTSD for a year or more. The cost of your PTSD treatment, time lost from work and your pain and suffering is recoverable with the assistance of an experienced accident lawyer such as David Azizi.
Claiming Compensation for PTSD
Obviously, an injury victim cannot just claim PTSD to obtain compensation for this type of injury. When an individual who has been injured in an accident is under care by a physician, they, or a family member, would naturally tell their doctor of the emotional problems they have been experiencing since then. A psychological exam to see if symptoms of PTSD are present has to be performed by a qualified doctor.
If those symptoms are present, the patient would then be referred to a psychotherapist for treatment. However, because the initial signs of PTSD may not be familiar to family members or the victim himself/herself, the condition may be further advanced before treatment is sought.
PTSD from Car Accidents – Settlements
If you are experiencing PTSD as a result of a car accident, we can help. The Law Offices of David Azizi can provide you a free review of your important PTSD claim to help you achieve justice and fair compensation. For a trusted car accident lawyer, contact us online or call (800) 991-5292.