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PTSD After A Car Crash


A little over a year ago, my wife fell down the stairs in our home. She is healthy and recovered now, but in the fall, she sustained three broken ribs, a sprained ankle, and a concussion, not to mention a fair bit of bruising. All in all, she came through it well, but her confidence on navigating the stairs is still pretty shaky. She still goes down one step at a time, and still experiences occasional fear and distressing memories, even over a year later.

PTSD is common after injuries

What I’m describing here is a pretty common experience for injury survivors, and for many, it is an experience that may stay with them for months or even years after an injury and may substantially impact normal life activities. In this blog, I discussed how these invisible injuries are often overlooked in litigation, despite the lasting impact on victims’ lives, and how important it is that they be included when pursuing compensation for another’s negligence.

There are approximately two dozen studies that have explored the relationship between motor vehicle collisions and PTSD, and the conclusions are fairly consistent, estimating that between 25% and 33% of survivors experience PTSD 30 days post-accident. One of the studies published a conservative estimate that motor vehicle collision-related PTSD may affect between 2.5 million and 7 million people in the United States.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event.” Many people experience distress and trauma after a car crash, fall, or other injury–especially if they were injured through no fault of their own–and may recover well with time and self-care. Some of my clients experience mental health symptoms that do not resolve and may persist or worsen as they navigate pain, treatment, surgeries, and the general impact of the injury on their normal lives.

These symptoms are grouped into four types:

  • Intrusive memories: Flashbacks, upsetting dreams, recurrent memories of the distressing event, or severe emotional distress to something that reminds you of the event.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding places that remind you of the event, avoiding talking about the event. This might include not wanting to drive at night, if your car crash occurred at night, or avoiding freeways or busy intersections.
  • Negative changes in thinking or mood: Hopelessness, feeling numb, memory problems, feeling detached from loved ones, difficulty maintaining relationships.
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions: Being easily startled, always being on guard for danger, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, irritability or angry outbursts, or overwhelming guilt.

When symptoms like these persist or get worse, last for a long time, or interfere with daily life, the sufferer may have PTSD and it is vital to get treatment and care.

Importance of getting treatment

When you are recovering from the physical injuries from a car crash or other injury, one of the last things on your mind might be taking care of yourself emotionally. Many of my clients hesitate to seek treatment for mental health symptoms for a variety of reasons: the stigma (“I’ll be fine – I don’t need that”), the cost of treatment, or the additional burden in their work or personal lives. With PTSD, prompt treatment is important. Untreated PTSD or mental health symptoms can negatively affect your ability to recover from injury and may increase chronic pain. There are many effective treatments for PTSD, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, and talk therapy. Getting help is the first step.

How PTSD is accounted for in your compensation

My job is to fight to get you compensation for all the injuries and losses you have sustained because of another’s negligence, and that includes the treatment and life impact of emotional distress and mental health disorders. Common tactics by insurance and the defense are to either overlook psychological or emotional injuries or claim that they cause the injured person to be less credible.

It’s important to remember that the insurance companies want to pay the lowest amount possible, even if that means you do not get the justice you deserve. When you have experienced real harm, you deserve real justice. I get to know my clients from the very beginning of the case, which helps me understand the impact from the incident on their lives and helps me know when to encourage seeking additional care. I obtain and carefully review medical records from clients’ treatment providers to ensure we have full documentation of injuries and treatments, which is especially important if a client has pre-existing mental health conditions but has experienced worsening due to the injury.

The law does not distinguish between a mental health injury and a fractured elbow – both are entitled to full and fair compensation. Knowing my clients and working closely with them every step of the way means that I can be their biggest advocate.

Get Vern Ready to fight for you

If you have been injured in a car crash or another incident due to someone else’s negligence: We are in this together. While you focus on the important work of recovery, I will be fighting for justice and compensation for your losses. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation to do anything other than talk about your options. Call  303-339-8846. You can also schedule your free consultation with me at my office, at your home, or on Zoom/Facetime/Webex by clicking here.