Can Post-Accident Trauma Affect Your Mental Health?

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By Marcus Fernandez

Broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, and other physical injuries are what typically come to mind when you hear about someone being injured in a car accident. Less frequently considered is the effect of a car crash on the mental health and emotional well-being of the occupants of the vehicles involved in it.

Although it is commonly associated with soldiers in combat, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, may be caused by a person’s exposure to any fear-triggering or shocking event. A motor vehicle collision certainly qualifies as a shocking and frightening experience. This can worsen when it results in serious physical injuries.

October 10th being “World Mental Health Day” offers an opportunity to explore the effect of post-accident trauma on the mental health of an accident victim. While most people experiencing mental health issues following a car accident recover quickly and without professional care, that’s not always the case. Some people experience anxiety, depression, and other serious mental health issues requiring professional treatment and, in some instances, medication.

As you continue reading, be aware that if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mental health issues related to a car accident, Florida law allows accident victims to recover compensation for mental health harm, in addition to physical harm. A consultation with an experienced KFB personal injury attorney is a good place to learn about your rights.

Symptoms of post-accident trauma

The effect of a car accident on your mental health may not be apparent immediately after the event. It could take weeks, months, or even years before symptoms develop. Some people may not develop any symptoms, while others may experience debilitating symptoms that may prevent them from riding in or driving a car without first seeking treatment from a mental health professional.

Common symptoms associated with post-accident trauma may include:

  • Flashbacks that cause you to relieve the traumatizing event.
  • Sleep disturbance, including nightmares.
  • Frightening thoughts.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that trigger memories of the accident.
  • Feeling stressed and angry or experiencing mood swings. 
  • Difficulty concentrating on work or personal tasks.
  • Depression and anxiety.

A person with PTSD caused by an accident may become withdrawn and alienated from friends, family, and co-workers.

Does everyone who is in an accident develop post-accident trauma?

PTSD does not develop in everyone exposed to the trauma of an automobile accident. Some people may be more susceptible to developing it. If you feel unusually stressed, anxious, or experience other mental or emotional distress after an accident, don’t ignore it. 

Immediately discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional for evaluation and treatment.

Treatment for post-accident trauma that affects your mental health

Mental health issues that develop after an accident affect everyone differently, so you need to be properly evaluated to rule out an underlying physical cause for your symptoms. Your medical doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional for further evaluation after ruling out a physical cause of the symptoms.

A common treatment for mental health issues that develop after a car accident is psychotherapy and counseling.  A doctor may, depending on your symptoms, prescribe medication to relieve some of the symptoms. 

The goal of a treatment regimen is to provide you with the ability to recognize, control, and adapt to the symptoms. When there are other underlying disorders, such as substance abuse, the treatment would include addressing them in addition to PTSD.

Recovering compensation for mental health injuries

When the negligence of another person causes a motor vehicle crash, the law makes that person responsible for paying compensation to anyone suffering physical or mental injuries in the accident. However, your personal injury attorney must prove that the other person was responsible for causing the crash. They must also prove the extent of harm done to you. 

Your attorney will gather evidence to prove what caused the crash, including copies of police reports and statements from witnesses. Proving the nature and extent of your injuries relies on medical records showing an examination and diagnosis, along with the recommended treatment. 

This helps to connect mental health injuries to the accident. Make sure to see a doctor right away for evaluation and treatment. The longer that you wait, the easier it becomes for the defense lawyers to argue the symptoms that you experience are not related to post-accident trauma.

Get help from a Tampa personal injury attorney

An experienced KFB Law personal injury attorney is your best source for legal advice, guidance, and representation when you are injured in a car accident. A consultation with an attorney gives you options for recovering compensation for the harm caused by another driver’s negligence. Contact us today.