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​What Happens if You Get PTSD After a Car Accident?

Car accidents often leave behind much destruction in their wake. While some people may think that the least of these is emotional distress, in some cases, it’s the worst of the damages an accident victim suffers.

Motor vehicle collisions can render cars and other objects such as trees, light poles, fire hydrants, and stop signs unrecognizable. They can also cause severe physical injuries sometimes involving amputations, scarring, or another disfigurement necessitating a lifetime of medical care.

Even still, the emotional pain and suffering that some individuals will live with for decades to come should be recognized and compensated accordingly. An experienced car accident lawyer can help address such damages in your car accident claim or that of a loved one.

Psychological Injuries and Mental Trauma

Some accident victims suffer injuries that are not visible, even using state-of-the-art diagnostic tools. This is because they are psychological injuries. Even though they are invisible, they are no less concerning or critical. They require treatment, some longer and more intense than others.

Common symptoms and conditions of psychological injuries and mental trauma after a truck crash can include:

  • Inability to enjoy everyday activities
  • Withdrawing from social events and human interactions
  • High levels of stress and anxiety
  • Mood swings ranging from anger to sadness to guilt
  • Nightmares and disrupted sleep patterns, such as insomnia
  • Developing new fears or phobias such as the fear of riding in a car
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Some patients will need months or years of counseling, group therapy, and medication to recover. Others may never fully recover.

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychiatric disorder that frequently occurs in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a rather traumatic event or series of events—car accidents included. PTSD can impact a person’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being. About 3.5 percent of U.S. adults receive a PTSD diagnosis annually.

Individuals diagnosed with PTSD experience heightened and distressing feelings and thoughts about the triggering experience long after the experience is over. They often feel detached or estranged from others around them, have flashbacks or nightmares of the event, and feel anger, sadness, and fear. Sometimes something ordinary, like a loud noise or someone accidentally touching them, can cause a strong adverse reaction that doesn’t make sense to others.

The good news is that there are many effective treatments for PTSD, including therapies and medications. However, some people with PTSD need therapy and medication for quite a while, and those costs can quickly add up. Car accident victims diagnosed with PTSD deserve compensation for their emotional distress-related damages.

Suppose you are diagnosed with PTSD or another type of mental or emotional disorder arising from your experience in a motor vehicle accident. In that case, having strong representation from an experienced car accident lawyer is a must. They will know how to effectively obtain a full and fair settlement that includes damages for your emotional distress.

Unfortunately, convincing insurance companies of the reality of types of disorders is often an uphill battle since there are no tangible diagnostic tests to prove their existence. Therefore, your lawyer will rely heavily on your mental health records and treatment providers and possibly even expert witnesses in the mental health field.

Whatever you do, don’t forgo or delay seeking treatment for PTSD. Your health and well-being are most important. Your attorney can help ensure you get the treatment you need and receive compensation for your medical bills, so they do not add any more stress to your life.

What Is Emotional Distress?

You may have heard of the term “pain and suffering” in reference to damages in a personal injury claim or, more specifically, a car accident claim. Emotional distress falls under the umbrella of pain and suffering. Generally, those injured in car accidents seek monetary damages for things like medical expenses, prescriptions, property damage, and lost wages.

While these are crucial pieces of any injury claim, they leave out pain and suffering, which depending on the specifics of the case, can include:

  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional distress and injuries
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Physical impairment

Emotional distress is an extremely adverse emotional reaction arising from another party’s negligent or intentional conduct for which the victim can seek damages. For example, someone with emotional distress after a car accident may be afraid of driving in poor weather conditions, being a passenger in a vehicle, or placing their children in a vehicle with another driver. Those with PTSD are suffering a severe form of emotional distress.

Along with these tangible fears, some accident victims who suffer emotional distress may also experience panic attacks, guilt, suicidal ideations, and other crippling thoughts and emotions that take a severe toll on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Others may be unable to go to work or even care for themselves or their children.

Anyone who believes they may be suffering from emotional distress after their involvement in a motor vehicle accident should discuss their symptoms with a licensed medical professional. Just as their physical health is a priority, so is their emotional and mental health.

In addition, these victims should also consult with a compassionate and experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Florida law allows victims suffering emotional distress to seek damages for it. Their attorney can ensure that damages for their emotional pain and suffering are part of their demand for compensation. Receiving full and fair compensation for emotional damages is just as critical as receiving them for other damages.

However, it’s essential to note that most emotional distress claims require you to have also sustained physical injuries due to the incident. Although some cases have recently permitted victims to recover emotional distress damages without providing any evidence or claims of physical harm, these usually are non-motor vehicle accident cases, such as sexual abuse or defamation cases.

Documenting Emotional Distress

A key factor in claiming damages for emotional distress is documenting their effect on your life. Your medical and work records are just one piece of this puzzle. It’s also a good idea to keep a personal journal to back up your case. Detailed, thorough documentation of your distress will make it easier to recover damages.

Journal about your thoughts, fears, activities you can’t participate in or have difficulty completing, and certain things that trigger you. Be sure to include any physical symptoms that might also stem from your emotional distress. An electronic health tracker that monitors your heart rate and sleeping habits can also be helpful. In addition, make sure you are honest with your medical and mental health providers about all of your symptoms.

Proving Emotional Distress

Proving emotional distress is often challenging, requiring the expertise of a seasoned car accident lawyer.

If your claim involves any of the following, you have a strong case for emotional distress:

  • Physical effects, including digestive problems, ulcers, cognitive impairment, fatigue, headaches, frequent infections, or cold sores
  • Psychological effects, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD
  • Mental health provider confirmation, a new diagnosis, prescription drug, or therapy sought
  • Severe intensity distress that interferes with activities of daily living, driving, self-care, concentration, school, work, or family care
  • Extended duration of emotional distress with symptoms lasting months or even years

The more severe the car accident and your physical injuries are, the more likely you will receive compensation for emotional distress.

Your compassionate car accident attorney will use many different pieces of evidence to help prove your emotional distress claim, such as:

  • Testimony of your mental health professionals
  • Copies of medical and mental health records
  • Daily symptom diaries
  • Witness testimony
  • Published medical research

Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

Unfortunately, there are no laws, calculators, universal guidelines, or instructions to determine how much someone should receive for their pain and suffering after a car accident. “Fair and reasonable” terms often address how much a victim should receive, but these are subjective terms.

One way to calculate pain and suffering damages is to use a multiplier. This method’s basis is that someone’s pain and suffering damages are worth a multiple of their total medical expenses and lost earnings. In other words, the value of an injured individual’s economic damages helps determine how much their non-economic damages are worth.

A lower multiplier will likely apply to your compensation if you suffered only mild injuries. If you suffered severe injuries, you can use a higher multiplier. For example, someone who sustains a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury (SCI) should receive more compensation for their pain and suffering, and a higher multiplier will apply.

You’re likely to have a lower multiplier if you:

  • Sustained only soft tissue injuries, including sprains, muscle strains, ligament pulls, and bruising
  • Had higher expenses for your medical diagnosis than those for your medical treatment
  • Sought treatment from people who aren’t doctors, such as assistant therapists or chiropractors
  • Needed only a few medical visits and didn’t need any prescription medications
  • Could return to your normal life after a brief period
  • Don’t have any permanent injuries, loss of use, or visible scars
  • Didn’t need extra help caring for yourself

In cases that involve a higher multiplier, one or more of the following usually exists:

  • Broken bones or injuries to the hard tissues of your body or nerve or spine damage
  • Joint injuries, especially those that require surgery or reconstruction
  • Either short-term or long-term medications are necessary
  • The need for many follow-up appointments or injuries that require an extended recovery time
  • Medical costs that are more for treatment than for diagnosis
  • Permanent loss of use of one or more body functions or parts, or permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Injuries that impact daily life and cause you to depend on others in ways you didn’t before or cause you to miss important things such as vacations, school, recreational activities, or hobbies—of which PTSD can be one.

Factors That Affect Your Compensation

The correct value of pain and suffering damages is left open to interpretation, although some factors can change their worth.

Common factors that can affect the value of your pain and suffering compensation include whether the victim:

  • Is likable and credible
  • Will be a good witness
  • Gives truthful and consistent testimony about their injuries
  • Exaggerates their claims of pain and suffering
  • Has their physician’s or psychiatrists support for their claims of pain and suffering
  • Has a diagnosis, injuries, and claims that make common sense
  • Has a criminal record

The applicable insurance coverage can also affect how much a victim will receive. When filing a claim with an insurance company, the injured person will never receive more from them than the policy’s limits allow. If your state has damage caps that limit how much compensation a personal injury victim can receive, your compensation won’t exceed those limits.

Are You Suffering From PTSD or Emotional Distress After a Car Accident? Call a Skilled Car Accident Lawyer Today

Car Accident Attorney, Gary Annes
Car Accident Attorney, Gary Annes

Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can have lasting implications. Even after your physical injuries heal, you may have lasting emotional ones that need care. Just because emotional distress can’t often be seen and doesn’t have an inherent value doesn’t mean that victims who suffer emotionally shouldn’t receive compensation for their pain.

However, many auto insurance companies see mental and emotional wounds as an easy way to escape paying for your injuries and treatments. Considering this, it’s best not to handle your car accident claim alone.

Instead, enlist a compassionate and experienced car accident lawyer who understands the implications of PTSD and emotional/mental injuries after a traumatic experience like a motor vehicle collision. Never assume that your case isn’t worth much, always meet with an attorney to find out more about your potential claim.


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