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Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > Car Accidents > PTSD After a Car Accident: How Common Is It?

PTSD After a Car Accident: How Common Is It?


Traffic accidents are the number one cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is especially true of very violent accidents resulting in life-altering injuries or the death of someone in the vehicle. One study, published by the NIH National Library of Medicine, polled 6804 traffic accident survivors. 1489 had PTSD from their respective accidents. This sets the pooled prevalence of PTSD at 22.25% among individuals who have been in a serious traffic accident. In this article, the Jacksonville, FL personal injury attorneys at Gillette Law will discuss PTSD, common symptoms, and legal issues surrounding PTSD in personal injury lawsuits.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

The first known accounts of PTSD were recorded among U.S. military members returning from war. It was known colloquially as “shell shock” for this reason. However, as advancements in mental health improved the quality of our understanding of mental health disorders, the disorder became associated with a broad variety of different types of traumatic injury. Today, we know that any traumatic event can give rise to PTSD.

PTSD is a type of mental health disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The condition affects an estimated 3.5 million adults each year. While post-traumatic stress is common after any upsetting event, PTSD is characterized by ongoing disturbances to one’s psychological health, sometimes lasting for years, that interfere with routine life activities. For example, an individual who was in a traumatic car accident may have flashbacks or debilitating anxiety based on exposure to cars. This individual car is not a threat to anyone. It wasn’t even the same car that was involved in the accident. However, the association of the vehicle with the traumatic experience causes symptoms that often border on panic.

According to the American Psychological Association, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of trauma for men and the second leading cause of trauma for women.

Symptoms of PTSD 

While symptoms of PTSD can occur shortly after a car accident occurs, sometimes, symptoms do not appear for months or even years after the traumatic incident. Symptoms of PTSD are classified into four discrete categories:

  • Avoidance – PTSD sufferers can relive traumatic events, experience recurrent traumatic memories, have nightmares, or experience emotional or physical distress when faced with a trigger that reminds them of the accident.
  • Changes to emotional reactions – Those who suffer from PTSD may be frightened easily, feel like they’re waiting for danger, experience difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or feel overwhelming amounts of shame. Some will engage in drug and alcohol abuse to combat the feelings that arise from post-traumatic stress.
  • Intrusive memories – PTSD sufferers can relieve the traumatic event over and over. They have no control over when a “flashback” happens. This can impact their ability to perform their job or manage social situations.
  • Mood and thought disturbances – PTSD can cause a person to think negatively about themselves or others, have difficulty with memory, and have more difficulty maintaining relationships. PTSD can cause other symptoms like anxiety and depression that negatively impact the sufferer’s psychological health.

PTSD and your traffic accident lawsuit 

When you are involved in a traffic accident with another individual, there are some circumstances under which you can file a personal injury lawsuit. In a personal injury lawsuit, there are several categories of damages that you can recover. These include damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. PTSD qualifies as a noneconomic form of damages or pain and suffering damages. The lingering effects of the accident on your psyche can impact your ability to enjoy life or perform duties related to your job. This is especially true if your job is related to vehicles in any way.

When you file a lawsuit against another party for a traffic accident, it’s important to remember that you’ll only get one chance to settle your case or take it to trial. If you are suffering from PTSD following a car accident, you will want to be sure to make mention of this fact to your personal injury attorney. We will ensure that you are compensated for all of your injuries. That includes psychological trauma that results from the accident.

PTSD and pain and suffering damages 

The majority of those who are in serious car accidents that require surgical operations are never the same again, even after extensive medical intervention. They may deal with chronic pain, not have the full use of their limbs, and suffer trauma from the event itself. These lingering injuries are often life-altering. It isn’t excessive to argue that PTSD is a life-altering injury. Even those who make miraculous full recoveries can suffer psychological harm from the accident itself.

As you move forward with your recovery, your personal injury lawyer will keep track of your progress. We will work closely with clinicians and your psychiatric team to determine whether or not you have PTSD and how it impacts your daily life. If PTSD is preventing you from doing your job, enjoying a high quality of life, or impacting your relationship with others, we can make sure that the court is aware of these problems and that they are the direct result of your car accident.

Treatment for PTSD 

There are many different forms of treatment for PTSD. Diagnosis occurs after a psychological exam. A medical professional will use specific criteria outlined in the DSM-5, a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association. Both therapy and medication can be used to treat PTSD.

Therapies that have proven effective treating PTSD include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Focuses on recognizing patterns that prevent those with PTSD from moving forward.
  • Exposure therapy – Helps patients face memories that retraumatize them in a safe environment.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – A special type of exposure therapy that involves using guided eye movements to change reactions to traumatic experiences.
  • Medications – PTSD can be treated with antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or Prazosin, a drug used to help suppress nightmares.

Talk to a Jacksonville Car Accident Attorney Today 

Gillette Law represents the interests of those who have been involved in serious car accidents involving severe injury. Call our Jacksonville personal injury lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your right to recover damages related to your medical expenses, lost wages, and decreased quality of life.



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