Blog Post

PTSD And Car Accidents

Post-Traumatic (PTSD) Stress Disorder and car accidents often go hand in hand. Anyone can experience PTSD after a traumatic event. Car accidents are one of the most common incidents in which victims develop PTSD, however, many people may not be aware that the feelings, reactions, and behaviors they are having are, in fact, signs of PTSD. In fact, according to research published in American Family Physician, collisions are the leading cause of PTSD

Treating post-traumatic stress disorder can require ongoing therapy and treatment and can have a tremendous impact on an individual’s quality of life. People who have been involved in a car accident that was not their fault may seek damages to cover the cost of therapy and a diminished quality of life. Chuck Franklin Law can help you recover damages from PTSD experienced from a car accident. Call Chuck directly today at (480) 545-0700 to discuss your case.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition caused by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. It can affect anyone, from children to the elderly, and both men and women. There is no indicator as to whether or not a person will develop PTSD after something such as a car accident, and even for two people experiencing the same event, it may be that one person will develop symptoms of PTSD, but the other will not.

Many people who have gone through disturbing events may have difficulty adjusting “back to normal.” Over time, many symptoms will ease, but many people may benefit from professional care.

While there is no guarantee that one will or will not develop PTSD after a car accident, there are a few factors that increase the risk, such as:

  • Dissociation during the event or immediately afterward
  • Family history of trauma
  • Heightened emotions immediately after the event, such as horror, fear, hopelessness, or guilt
  • Prior history of mental illness or anxiety
  • History of prior trauma
  • Lack of support and treatment after the event

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD may emerge within a few weeks of the event or may not surface until months or even years afterward. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms or suffers from them to the same degree. But, most people have a significant disruption in their daily lives, from being unable to drive to having nightmares, panic attacks, or trouble with substance abuse.

  • PTSD symptoms fall into four categories:
  • Adverse changes in mood and thinking
  • Avoidance
  • Intrusive memories
  • Changes in emotional and physical reactions

These symptoms can increase or wane over time, and some people may not exhibit all of them.

Negative Changes in Mood and Thinking

Hopelessness and negative thinking are among the most common changes in mood for those that experience PTSD. Those struggling with PTSD may find it hard to maintain close relationships or to emotionally connect with family and friends. Depression is common, as is feeling emotionally numb and having trouble feeling positive emotions. Some people may develop memory problems, especially being unable to remember details about the car accident.


Avoidance symptoms generally include when an individual avoids thinking about or talking about the accident or avoids the place it happened or similar spots. It can include being unable to drive or refusing to ride in a car after the accident. Avoidance may have a big impact on a person’s ability to work or go to school, as they may not be able to travel to the destination.

Intrusive Memories

Flashbacks, or intrusive memories, may make it hard for people living with PTSD to concentrate or sleep. Many people may be focused on reliving the event or have nightmares afterward. Others may exhibit severe reactions to something that reminds them of the event. Recurring and distressing memories can affect someone’s ability to work, sleep, eat, or even relate to friends and family.

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions

These symptoms may also be referred to as “arousal symptoms,” or feeling hyperaware of one’s surroundings. Some people may be:

  • Easily frightened or startled
  • Feel always on guard for danger
  • Engage in self-destructive behavior, such as drinking or using drugs
  • Angry outbursts, increased irritability, or aggressive behavior
  • Feeling overwhelmed with shame or guilt

Why Can a Car Accident Cause PTSD?

To understand why PTSD and car accidents are common, it’s important to understand the Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD. The diagnostic criteria typically includes a person that was exposed to a traumatic event in which there was actual or threatened serious injury or death to themselves or others, and their response was one of intense helplessness, horror, or fear. The very nature of a car accident, from the motion to the sights and sounds, and then noting the aftereffects all contributes to conditions in which PTSD can develop.

Can People Recover From PTSD?

Often, people wonder if they can move on and overcome PTSD after their car accidents. With time, many people can recover, but it is essential to get medical treatment and perhaps even diagnostic tests to determine if the condition is present. Early documentation of PTSD symptoms can help individuals track their emotions and find triggers. Early intervention can also help in treatment, as it gives the counselor or therapist more information to work with.

For people who are seeking compensation from the other driver for the car accident, documenting the emotional trauma and mental distress can help establish the claim for non-economic damages. Early treatment and documented medical care also help establish with an insurance company that the PTSD arose from the car accident.

Seeking treatment right away can help improve a person’s chances of recovering from the mental trauma of a car accident. Some people may make the mistake of “toughing it out,” but quashing the feelings and thoughts may only worsen the symptoms and make treatment more difficult when the individual does decide to seek it.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today To Learn More

If you or someone you love seems to be exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, it is important to seek treatment from a professional specializing in helping people overcome trauma. You may wish to consult with a personal injury car accident lawyer about claiming damages from the other driver for your PTSD. Call Chuck Franklin Law today and speak with Chuck Franklin directly at 480-545-0700 for a free consultation for your PTSD and car accident case.

Close-up of the acronym 'PTSD' highlighted in pink on a page of text, discussing post-traumatic stress disorder, in the context of car accidents and their psychological impact.

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