Can Car Accidents Cause PTSD?
Written by Shawn Diederich on October 24, 2016
Car accidents are one of the most common traumatic events that a person may experience. Each year there are approximately 3 million injuries attributed to motor vehicle accidents. And aside from these physical injuries, many accident victims continue to experience mental anguish afterwards—and in some cases may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Is PTSD?
You have probably heard about PTSD in connection with military veterans returning from combat. But PTSD can arise from any type of “shocking, scary, or dangerous event,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), even a car accident. Indeed, according to figures cited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, motor vehicle accidents are the “traumatic event most frequently experienced by males (25%) and the second most frequent traumatic event experienced by females (13%) in the United States.” These same figures found that approximately 9 percent of accident victims eventually develop PTSD.
So what exactly constitutes PTSD? The NIMH says that an adult may be diagnosed with PTSD if they experience symptoms in all of the following categories for at least one month following a traumatic event:
- Re-experiencing symptoms – This includes flashbacks or nightmares about the accident. In many cases, these symptoms may be triggered by reminders of the event.
- Avoidance symptoms – This includes staying away from places or objects that remind the person of the accident. Oftentimes, this manifests itself through a change in a person’s daily routine—for example, not driving a car following an accident.
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms – These refer to constant feelings of fear, anger, or tension that interfere with daily activities.
- Cognition and mood symptoms – Following a car accident, the victim may have trouble remembering the event. He or she may also express negative thoughts or emotions or even exhibit signs of depression.
How Can You Prove PTSD in Court?
If a car accident is caused by someone else’s negligence, the victim can bring a personal injury lawsuit and seek damages for both economic and non-economic losses. PTSD is a form of “mental anguish,” which is considered a non-economic loss. This is because PTSD is difficult to quantify in monetary terms.
It can also be difficult to prove that a victim’s PTSD is serious enough to warrant damages, especially when arguing before a lay jury. Expert testimony is usually necessary in addition to medical evidence supporting a plaintiff’s claim. While it may not be possible to prove PTSD in the same way that, say, a victim can prove she suffered a broken bone, a victim who seeks prompt mental health treatment can still provide objective medical evidence to support her claim.
Call an Experienced Orlando Personal Injury Attorney
Because of the complexity of proving any kind of non-economic damages, it is also important for the victim to work with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney who understands how to deal with such cases. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., today if you have been injured in a car accident and require immediate legal assistance.