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Can Car Accidents Cause PTSD?

June 27, 2020, is PTSD Awareness Day. PTSD is the common abbreviation for post-traumatic stress disorder – what used to be called shell shock. When many people think of PTSD, they think of the mental and emotional burdens that military veterans experience after combat, and indeed, the condition was originally identified in soldiers during World War I. And while it’s true that veterans represent a large percentage of people who have PTSD, the condition can happen to anyone who experiences a highly traumatic or stressful event, including a car accident.

A study found that around 7.4% of Americans experience PTSD at some point during their lives, and many of those cases may be due to motor vehicle accidents. In addition, a 2004 study found that anywhere from 2.5 million to 7 million Americans experience car accident-related PTSD during their lifetimes.

Car accidents can range from low-speed fender benders to high-speed head-on collisions. What most have in common is their sudden, violent nature: victims experience loud noises, shock and disorientation, and the risk of severe injuries and even the death of others involved in the crash. The combination of those factors can lead to victims struggling to deal with the aftermaths of their crashes for months, years, or even decades.

What Causes Victims to Develop PTSD After Car Accidents?

According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD can occur when a person experiences, sees, or even learns about an event involving actual or potential death, serious injury, or sexual violation. In many cases, car accident victims either feel like they’re going to die in the moments leading up to impact, or experience injuries that are potentially life-threatening.

Some people are more at risk of developing PTSD than others. Experts believe that people with some or all of the following traits may be more likely to develop this condition:

  • A personal history of stressful and traumatic experiences
  • A family history of anxiety and depression
  • A lack of personal support

In addition, certain personal and environmental risk factors can make people more likely to develop PTSD after car accidents, such as having experienced prior auto accidents, having substance abuse issues, lacking a support group of family and friends, and having a job that involves exposure to traumatic events.

What Are the Symptoms of Car Accident-Related PTSD?

Anyone who has been involved in a car accident will tell you the experience was frightening and traumatic. But PTSD sufferers experience a range of mental and physical symptoms that persist long after the initial shock wears off. These include:

  • Persistent irritability and anxiety
  • Fear of driving or riding in vehicles
  • Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling disconnected from friends and family
  • Intrusive thoughts and memories of the crash
  • Depression
  • Rumination on the crash, including obsessing over “what if” scenarios

These symptoms may come and go for car accident survivors, and they may even worsen over time. In severe cases, victims may be afraid to leave their homes or be anywhere near motor vehicles. This type of fear can severely disrupt personal and professional relationships.

What Help Is Available for Car Accident PTSD Victims?

In many cases, the psychological impact of a car accident can be more damaging than the physical impact. Many victims continue to struggle with mental health issues long after their physical injuries heal or stabilize. That can make it difficult for them to work or even complete daily living tasks without assistance.

Victims may experience improvement of their conditions with the following activities:

  • Talking about the crash—Whether it’s with a friend, a family member, or a professional counselor, discussing the crash and your feelings about it can help victims begin the psychological healing process.
  • Staying active—Exercise is a mood-booster and can increase feelings of well-being. It can also help reduce the frequency and severity of intrusive thoughts and rumination after a traumatic or stressful event.
  • Easing back into riding in a vehicle and driving—For many car accident PTSD victims, the last thing they want to do is sit in a vehicle when there is the potential of being in another accident. But avoiding passenger vehicles can be difficult, if not impossible, long-term. Working with a therapist and attempting exposure therapy can help victims become more comfortable as they ease back into their previous routines.
  • Speaking to a lawyer—Getting compensation after an auto accident isn’t just about getting money for medical bills. It’s also about getting paid for lost wages and pain and suffering—both of which are significant when victims develop PTSD. A lawyer can help victims get money for all the ways their crashes affected them, both physically, mentally, professionally, and socially.

Get the Help You Deserve After the Accident

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, our Oklahoma auto accident attorneys know the challenges that car crash survivors face. In addition to physical injuries that take weeks or months to heal, they also face long periods where they can’t work. And when they develop PTSD as a result of their crashes, their road to recovery may seem difficult or impossible.

If you or someone you love is experiencing PTSD or other stress-related emotional trauma after a car accident, we want to help. We know what you’re going through, and we know how to build a claim that gets you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.