Understanding PTSD and Car Accident Settlements

We often association Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) with combat veterans. But many other traumatic events can trigger this troubling disorder, too. Research shows that as many as 39% of victims of serious motor vehicle accidents could be suffering from PTSD. In our post today, we’ll discuss the connection between PTSD and car wrecks. Additionally, we’ll provide some general information on a PTSD diagnosis can impact your car accident settlement.

Before we get started, here’s an important disclaimer. We are personal injury attorneys, not medical professionals. Please reach out to your doctor if you need medical care. And, in the event you are considering self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911. 

How Do I Know if It’s PTSD?

The only way to know for sure if you are struggling with PTSD is to be diagnosed by a qualified doctor. However, there are some tell-tale symptoms that distinguish PTSD from anxiety and other disorders. If you notice these symptoms, it could be PTSD.

Have you experienced any of the following since your crash?

  • Flashbacks. Certain smells, objects, or interactions may suddenly trigger a replay of the crash in your mind. In some people, these flashbacks are accompanied by physical symptoms.
  • Avoidance. You take extra measures to avoid people, places, or situations that remind you or the accident.
  • Easily irritable. It may be more difficult to control your emotions. Situations that would only cause you minor irritation before might seem overwhelming. Also, you may feel constantly “on edge.”
  • Sleep disturbances. This could take the form of insomnia or nightmares.
  • Depression. You struggle to find enjoyment in activities you once loved. Additionally, you might feel like your mood has cast the world in a pessimistic light.
  • Isolation. You withdraw from people and social situations.

It goes without saying that symptoms like these can be extremely distressing for you and your loved ones. If this list resonated with you, we encourage you to reach out to your doctor as soon as possible.

Car Accidents can Set Off PTSD

One of the criteria that must be met to have a PTSD diagnosis is that you must have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. During the event, you may have a real or perceived threat of death or serious injury. Sometimes, PTSD can be triggered by witnessing someone else hurt or killed, such as a loved one.

Some examples of situations that can have high incidence of PTSD include:

  • Military or combat exposure
  • Sexual assault
  • Surviving a mass shooting
  • Natural disasters
  • Car accidents
  • Death of a loved one
  • Occupations that have repeated exposure to trauma, such as firefighting

Even less serious collisions could cause someone to suffer from PTSD. This is particularly true if the victim already suffers from anxiety or depression or has experienced traumatic events before.

Can You File a Claim for PTSD from a Car Accident?

Yes, you can file a claim for PTSD if you’ve been the victim of a car accident. In the State of Washington, injured victims are entitled to pursue compensation for both general and special damages (RCW 4.56.250). Special damages are any that you can assign a dollar amount to – things like medical bills and lost wages. General damages are the other ways you’ve been harmed – think pain and suffering.

PTSD straddles both types of damages.

If you end up seeing a doctor, therapist, or taking medication to manage your PTSD, those could be claimed as special damages. However, much of a PTSD diagnosis will fall under the general damages category. This is because harms like insomnia, flashbacks, and anxiety are harder to assign a dollar amount to.

Challenges to Proving a PTSD Claim

PTSD can be more challenging than other, physical injuries to prove when it comes to your car accident settlement. This doesn’t mean that what you’re facing isn’t worth of compensation – it is. It just means that you will have to find ways to build your case.

Some examples of proof you could present to substantiate your claim include:

  • Formal diagnosis from a doctor & similar reports
  • Medical bills for CBT, medications, and other interventions
  • Expert witnesses and testimony from other people in your close circle
  • Evidence of missed work tied to your PTSD

Of course, an experienced car accident lawyer could help compile this and other evidence on your behalf. Armed with this information, a lawyer then works to negotiate the best possible settlement with the other driver’s insurance company.

Remember: once you’ve accepted a settlement offer, you can’t ask for more money later. That’s why it’s crucial that you receive enough compensation to cover your past and anticipated future medical bills.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free

If you were a victim of a car accident and would like to discuss what happened with one of our attorneys, call us. There’s no cost to see if we can help. In fact, we only charge a fee if we win you a settlement.

Plus, we have experience helping victims recover fair compensation for PTSD and other injuries. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re happy to answer any questions you have.

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