PTSD Can Develop After a Serious Accident

November 13, 2022 | David Abels
PTSD Can Develop After a Serious Accident

PTSD After an Accident

PTSD is closely associated with the military, but other traumatic incidents, such as car accidents, can cause the disorder. It is treatable, and with a lawyer’s help, you can obtain compensation for the condition. Thus, after a severe accident, discuss your mental state with a medical or psychological professional and a personal injury lawyer.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

PTSD is a psychological condition that affects people who experience or witness a terrifying event like a rollover bus accident. There is some commonality across all cases, which is a trigger that causes fear and stress. The condition is an anxiety disorder that tricks the brain into being in constant fight or flight mode. You will have an adrenaline-fueled reaction to an event that does not pose a risk. While fight or flight is beneficial when facing a risk, it is not when there is no risk present.

What Are The Symptoms of PTSD

Physical injuries appear immediately after an accident or a few days later. The symptoms of PTSD can appear months or years after the event and look different for those suffering from the condition. If you experience symptoms of PTSD, speak with a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to begin treatment. PTSD symptoms can take a huge toll on your life. All of the following can cause pain, suffering, and inconvenience that affect your work and personal enjoyment. You can seek compensation for your intangible losses if your PTSD caused any of the following issues, among many others.


Victims avoid talking or thinking about the event and even avoid people and places. The avoidance becomes so bad that people with PTSD become reclusive and lose out on friendships, relationships, and life experiences. Some people become so avoidant they develop extreme anxiety, social phobia, and panic.

Mood changes

You will also experience hopelessness, guilt, numbness, negativity, and shame. They will present as mood shifts; you might not attribute them to the accident, but they are. Often those around you will notice the change in your moods more than you will, especially since they have an objective view.

Intrusive memories

A trigger can be a specific time of year, a location, or something else that brings anxiety about the event. People living with PTSD will have intrusive memories, nightmares, and thoughts. It will often appear as replays of the accident. These intrusive memories can come seemingly out of nowhere, but there is always a reason.

Behavior changes

A prevalent behavioral change among PTSD is hyper-arousal. Paranoia, difficulty concentrating, irritability, quick temper, constant alertness, and sleep disturbance appears.


Individuals will feel anger directly related to the accident or just anger in general. Individuals will lash out or show anger when they experience a trigger.


Thinking about the accident over and over can cause victims to put themselves back in the moment of the accident. Instead of replaying the accident, they are reliving it. You will visualize, hear, smell and even touch as if you were back on the scene. Flashbacks come when a trigger brings a person back to the accident, l


Depression comes in many forms, and when it begins to interfere with the normal daily function of an individual, it is time to get professional help. It can simply be depression, but it can also be a symptom of PTSD.


Anxiety and depression can coexist in accident victims, and anxiety will make it difficult to get into a vehicle. You will find it difficult to drive past the location of the accident and become anxious in unfamiliar situations. You will also experience overall anxiety that has no relation to the accident.


Isolation happens when victims do not feel like others understand or support them. They also do not want to burden anyone else with their problems and prefer to withdraw. Everyone copes differently with a traumatic experience, and while some look for support, others begin to isolate themselves.

Trouble sleeping

Your sleep schedule will change drastically when you have PTSD; you will sleep too much. Victims will use sleep to avoid problems and anything that can trigger feelings about the accident. Nightmares are prevalent, and you can have trouble falling asleep.

Concentration issues

You will find it difficult to concentrate on even the most mundane tasks like household chores, work will not get done, and your mind will wander back to the accident. You will also find it challenging to concentrate on things that once brought you joy, like movies, games, music, and hobbies.

Startling easily

Individuals with PTSD will always be on high alert, especially when driving. You will slam on the brakes or jump when someone walks behind you for a minor road problem. Remember, startling happens more easily when you react to things you did not do before the accident.


Your driving habits will drastically change; you will become more aware of your surroundings and prepare for an impact when you see a vehicle approaching a stop sign. PTSD will cause you to take it a step further by paying attention to everything around you, not just the cars, and you will see increased jumpiness. When you are not driving, you will want to sit in the front passenger seat to see the road ahead. Even when you go out, you will want to sit with your back against the wall so you can observe everything around you.


Sleeping driver accidentRecovering from an injury is challenging and exhausting, which leads to fatigue. You will need more rest than before and begin to avoid activities that consume your energy. Coupling that with the mental anguish you suffer will be in a constant state of exhaustion.

Suicidal thoughts

Car accident victims will feel they have no place in the world and contemplate suicide. If they have a condition that requires assistance, they will begin to feel like a burden to their family and loved ones, and the world is better off without them. None of this is true, but PTSD will trick individuals into believing it is, and it is lifesaving to get help. Grocery stores have items that we all need to live: food. So it is a place that everyone will visit at some point for essentials. Since there is so much traffic and a lot of commotion, it is easy for employees to ignore or miss out on dangerous conditions. Understaffing and other scheduling issues are also reasons why dangerous conditions go unnoticed and unresolved.

Risk factors For PTSD after an Accident

Feeling uneasy and shaken up is a typical reaction from a car accident; some risk factors can increase your chances of developing PTSD. Remember, anyone can have PTSD, regardless of risk factors. Having a support system after a traumatic event is essential, and when you do not have enough support, it can worsen your mental condition. One critical risk factor is having experienced a previous traumatic event, whether another car accident or something else. Pertaining to the accident, if it was severe or life-threatening injuries, it can also be indicative of developing an anxiety disorder. If you have underlying depression or another mental illness, that can also increase your risk of developing PTSD. Suppose there is a family history of psychopathology; it can also increase your risk of PTSD after a severe car accident. If you feel dissociation immediately after the event, that can be the first sign that you will develop PTSD or other mental health conditions. While more severe accidents can be indicators of mental health conditions developing, it will depend on the individual and their reaction to the incident.

What are normal feelings after an accident?

After an accident, you will feel anger, shock, nervousness, guilt, and fear. You will also be unable to stop thinking about the accident. A red flag is when the feelings do not go away or become stronger. If they become so strong, they do not let you live your life; you need medical intervention. You must contact your doctor if you do not begin to feel better over time, have difficulty sleeping or eating, and are relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with your feelings. If your feelings disrupt your daily activities, it is a clear sign that something is wrong and you need professional help.

What to ask your doctor?

When you see your primary physician, you must describe all your symptoms and discuss whether you have PTSD and what treatment options are available. When experiencing PTSD, you should ask some questions to clarify the prognosis.
  • Will it ever go away?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Are these feelings normal?
  • Should I see a counselor or psychologist?
  • When will I feel better?
  • Is it possible it is another mental health condition?
  • Can I take medicine to feel better?
Speaking with your primary doctor is the best time to ask questions and quell some fears. You might have felt hopeless up to this point, but getting answers will give you some hope. It will also help you determine what the rest of your life will look like since some conditions will resolve quickly, and others can stay for the long term.

Children and PTSD

Adults and children will have different symptoms of PTSD. While adults have intrusive thoughts and nightmares, children will show the trauma in other ways. Children will find it challenging to verbally express their emotions and instead express their fears through play. When children have nightmares, they will dream of monsters and danger, but it will not be specific to the traumatic event. Since the child cannot express their ailments, parents and teachers need to be aware that there is something wrong with mood changes, avoidance, hyper-arousal, and other signs.

Treatment options

Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Gary Annes
Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer, Gary Annes
Treatment options are available but will vary because symptoms vary for every individual. PTSD can result in one or two symptoms, but severe PTSD can combine serious symptoms like paranoid ideation, hallucinations, and thoughts of self-harm. Severe PTSD is rare and can develop over time, especially without treatment. Symptoms can evolve as time passes, and while you had one symptom in the beginning, you might begin to see more later on. Cognitive processing therapy identifies negative thoughts and feelings and helps individuals change these thoughts from negative to positive. You can even eliminate the feelings. You will slowly change your emotions, and through therapy, you will find the root cause, which brings a better understanding. Prolonged exposure therapy is when a therapist safely brings up the events, which will help decrease your symptoms over time. Therapists will also help you see the accident differently and change your perspective. There is one on one therapy and group therapy sessions that can help individuals during this difficult time. Medication is not a cure for PTSD, but it can stabilize the person while they get other treatment. The proper medication will help you sleep and decrease depression symptoms, but it does not cure the underlying issue. It is a short-term solution. The goal is to reduce the medication over time while you improve through other treatment options. Animal therapy is a newer method to help people cope with mental conditions. Many patients find it easier to confide in an animal or are calmer during therapy sessions when an animal is present. Service animals obtain special training to warn victims of an oncoming flashback or anxiety attack. They also incentivize you to get out of bed and go outside.

How long does PTSD last?

It will all depend on your circumstances; some victims suffer PTSD for a few weeks, while others for years. Disability and death in an accident can prolong the symptoms and severity of your PTSD. You can experience a decrease in symptoms over time but still have PTSD. It will all vary depending on your accident, treatment, and support.

PTSD after a car accident

Post Traumatic stress disorder is common among car accident victims, even if the media and general public are unaware of it. Many victims do not get the psychological help they need because they believe these are normal reactions after their experience. The reality is PTSD is a real condition, and while some reactions are “normal” after a car accident, PTSD is not one and requires treatment.

Proving psychological injuries

You will need to have a medical professional diagnose you with PTSD. You will then need to connect the PTSD to the car accident and show how it negatively impacts your life. You will need to speak with a personal injury lawyer to discuss how your condition affects your case. Psychological trauma does not have a tangible number in a car accident claim, but you can recover compensation. Many factors will affect your PTSD damages claim, including your individual experience, the insurance adjuster, the lawyer, and the court. All parties must consider the severity of the physical accident-related injuries. Whether there was a fatality, they will also need to look at your prognosis, likelihood of recovery, and future medical treatment. Your lawyer will also consider any money you have already spent treating your PTSD, and try to pursue compensation to pay for it. Reach out to a Chicago car accident lawyer.

David Abels Author Image

David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

Author's Bio

You Might Be Also Interested In

Can I Sue for an…

You might sue for an old injury, but always seek the advice of an experienced injury attorney. The…

View Post

How Our Lawyers Handle Allstate…

Our lawyers handle Allstate claims with urgency and integrity, placing our clients’ best interests at the forefront of…

View Post

Why Pay for a Lawyer?

You pay for a lawyer so they can secure fair compensation for an injury, illness, or the loss…

View Post