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PTSD After a Car Accident: What to Do?

Have you been involved in a car accident recently in Port Angeles, WA?  Are you experiencing overwhelming emotions that are not getting better? Are your feelings of fear, depression, anxiety, and anger increasing?  Have you been battling recurring thoughts and nightmares about the car accident? If so, you may be suffering from PTSD.

What is PTSD?

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that develops after a person has seen or lived through a dangerous, shocking, or frightening event. In many cases, the person is able to recover from the intense emotions that an event like this evokes including our natural “fight or flight” response that helps us avoid danger and injury.

Most people who experience a traumatic event move through a series of emotions as they work through their feelings until they recover naturally from the event. However, for some people, they continue to experience the emotions they felt as a result of the traumatic event including the “fight or flight” response. When they are unable to escape the effects of the car accident, they may be suffering with PTSD.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of PTSD?

When diagnosing PTSD, doctors will look for signs of re-experiencing the event; avoidance; heightened reactions and sensitivity; and, cognitive and/or mood problems. In each of the four categories, specific symptoms a PTSD patient may exhibit include:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms may include bad dreams; frightening thoughts; flashbacks; racing heart; and, sweating.
  • Avoidance symptoms include avoiding places, things, or objects that remind the person of the event; withdrawing from family and friends; calling in sick to work; losing interest in activities; feeling emotionally numb; and, feeling guilty.
  • Heightened reactions and sensitivity symptoms include angry outbursts; being easily startled; trouble sleeping; and, feeling tense and on edge.
  • Cognitive and/or mood symptoms include negative thoughts about the world and yourself; loss of interest in things you used to find enjoyable; distorted feelings of guilt or blame; and, blocking out things about the traumatic event.

It is natural to have some of these symptoms following a traumatic event; however, when the symptoms last for months and/or grow continually worse in nature, you should immediately see your physician.

How Common is PTSD in People Who Have Been in a Car Crash in Port Angeles, WA and Elsewhere?

Studies disagree as to the exact percentage of people who suffer from Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) related PTSD. Some studies place the percentage between 14 and 100 percent while others place the number between 3 and 63 percent. Rates of MVA-related PTSD are substantially higher in individuals who seek mental health treatment. The average across studies appears to be approximately 60%.

For some people who have risk factors for developing PTSD, they may be more likely to develop MVA-related PTSD after being in a car accident.

Are Some People More Prone to Develop PTSD After a Car Accident?

There are some risk factors that indicate a person may be at a higher risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic car accident. Those risk factors include:

  • Getting hurt in the accident or seeing another person get hurt or die
  • Living through a previous trauma or experiencing a childhood trauma
  • Having very little or no social support after the car accident
  • Having an additional stressor in addition to the car accident such as losing a loved one, losing a job, extreme physical pain, a divorce, or other stressful event
  • Having a history of mental illness or disorders

The good news is that some people have what is called resilience factors that may reduce the risk of developing PTSD after a car accident. Seeking support from family and friends; joining a support group; having a positive coping strategy; being able to function effectively even though you are scared; and, feeling good about how you handled yourself even in the face of fear. If you take these steps after a car accident, you can reduce your risk of developing PTSD.

How Long Does it Take to Recovery From PTSD?

PTSD is different for each person. Some people will begin to develop symptoms with days or weeks of the car accident while others may not begin showing PTSD symptoms until months after the car accident.  The duration will depend more upon the person than anything else and the treatment provided for that person. Obtaining medical treatment as soon as possible can help speed up the recovery process; however, it really depends on the patient and the severity of the PTSD.

Can I Seek Compensation for PTSD From a Motor Vehicle Accident?

A motor vehicle accident may be the most traumatic, violent event that you experience during your lifetime. It is not uncommon to develop MVA-related PTSD following a car accident because car accidents are the most common cause of PTSD among the general public. If you develop MVA-related PTSD following your car accident, you may be unable to work or perform your day-to-day activities because of the gripping fear, overwhelming anxiety, and deep depression associated with PTSD as you relive the event over and over again in your mind.

As with other damages in a car accident, if we can prove that the other driver was at-fault for the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages related to PTSD including but not limited to:

  • Medical expenses for diagnosis and treatment of MVA-related PTSD
  • Reimbursement for lost wages for missed time from work due to the condition
  • Compensation for the mental suffering caused by the PTSD
  • Compensation for any future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and permanent psychological impairment

Valuing a Port Angeles, WA MVA-related PTSD claim is complex involving the use of medical, financial, and other professionals. It is extremely difficult to put a “price tag” on your PTSD claim. However, by working closely with your doctors, using expert testimony, and developing a strong case to prove fault on the part of the other driver, our experienced MVA-related PTSD attorneys can help you recover a fair and just settlement for your damages. Compensation will not cure PTSD but it can provide the financial assistance you need to continue treatment and get back on your feet after a car accident.

Contact an Experienced Port Angeles, WA Car Accident Attorney

MVA-related PTSD can have long-lasting adverse effects on your entire life from your personal relationships with family and friends to your ability to work and advance in your career.  Our attorneys want to help you receive the compensation you deserve and you need as you continue to work to recover from PTSD.

Contact McMenamin & McMenamin PS for a free consultation with one of our Port Angeles, WA attorneys. We want to help you and your family; therefore, we never charge for your initial visit.

You can find more information on MVA-related PTSD and PTSD in general from the following sources:

  • S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • S. National Library of Medicine

Article Resources:
National Institute of Mental HealthPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Perelman School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry Penn Behavioral Health, Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD: National Center for PTSD, “Traumatic Stress and Motor Vehicle Accidents,” by Todd Buckley, PHd

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