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What should I do if I sustained PTSD after a crash?


Most of the emphasis on car accident injuries is placed on physically debilitating injuries. These include bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries and injuries to the spine. Serious car accidents can cause mental and emotional damage that lasts for several years.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one condition that is often linked to car accidents. We often associate this condition with war veterans and first responders, but it can affect anyone who endures a traumatic experience. PTSD is a psychiatric condition that people experience after witnessing or being involved in an incident that causes a significant amount of trauma.

Crash-related PTSD symptoms and risk factors

For crash victims, PTSD may manifest in the following ways:

  • Revisiting a traumatic event. This may include having recurring thoughts about a traumatic event, as well as nightmares and flashbacks.
  • Avoiding circumstances that bring back memories of a traumatic event. Those who sustain PTSD after a crash may have a hard time driving again, talking about the crash or driving in the area where the crash occurred.
  • Experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. PTSD can cause crash victims to get easily startled, feel on edge most of the time and experience panic attacks.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms. PTSD can cause physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate; headaches and migraines; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms and pain throughout the body.

PTSD is most likely to develop after a crash when a crash victim experiences:

  • Dissociation — such as losing a sense of time, place, identity and reality.
  • Fear, helplessness or terror — crash victims may endure an intense fear of death during a crash or witness someone else's death or severe injury.
  • Lack of support — this occurs when a crash victim isn't attended to by medical personnel in a timely manner. It can also occur when someone doesn't have social support in the days following a crash.

While anyone can develop PTSD after a crash, those with a family history of trauma or mental health conditions are especially at risk.

Diagnosis and treatment

PTSD can develop immediately after a crash, but sometimes, it can take several weeks or months to manifest. If you were involved in a serious crash, you may not experience PTSD symptoms immediately, but the crash may have left a mental impression. It's critical that you seek medical attention promptly after a crash to get a complete medical evaluation and diagnosis of your injuries.

In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, you must meet certain criteria set forth by the American Psychiatric Association. You must have:

  • Experienced, witnessed or been exposed to the traumatic event.
  • Had flashbacks, nightmares, uncontrollable thoughts, emotional distress or physical symptoms surrounding the traumatic event.
  • Avoided places, thoughts, people and other stimuli that reminded you of the traumatic event.
  • Had negative thoughts and feelings surrounding the traumatic event that worsened over time.
  • Had PTSD symptoms that got worse after the traumatic event; lasted more than a month; and were not induced by drugs, alcohol, prescription meds or another illness. Your symptoms must also have made it difficult to work or function in daily life.

Successful treatments for PTSD often includes:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Cognitive processing therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy

How can an attorney help me pursue damages?

If you sustained PTSD or any other injury after a crash, it's important that you get compensated for every penny you're entitled to. Insurance companies are responsible for reimbursing you for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage and other damages. Yet, they are more interested in saving money on their end. In addition, proving to an insurance company that you have sustained PTSD can be difficult. Without the help of an experienced car accident attorney, you may end up with a lowball settlement and a heap of medical bills.

An attorney at Braukmann Law, PLLC in Billings, Montana can investigate your crash, gather all critical evidence and advocate for a fair settlement on your behalf. Let us handle your case while you focus on recovery. Contact us online today to schedule your free legal consultation.

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