Can Car Accidents Cause PTSD?

March 30, 2023

car accident caused ptsd

Post-traumatic stress disorder, often shortened to PTSD, is one of the most misunderstood psychological disorders. People often assume it’s only suffered by those with a military background, but the fact is that any traumatizing event can lead to PTSD. If you’ve been involved in a car accident and you can’t quite shake it off, you may be wondering if you have PTSD and how that impacts your healing process.

Learn more about the link between PTSD and car accidents. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a crash, call Hodges Trial Lawyers at 256-826-4129.

An Overview of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is described in great detail in the DSM-5. PTSD can occur if you have been exposed to actual or threatened death, severe injury, or sexual assault by:

  • Witnessing the event in person
  • Experiencing the event
  • Finding out that the traumatic event happened to a close loved one
  • Repeated or extreme exposure to details of traumatic events

In response to this trauma, someone with PTSD will experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Recurrent and intrusive memories of the event
  • Dreams based on the content or themes of the traumatic events
  • Flashbacks or other similar reactions
  • Prolonged psychological distress when faced with something that reminds them of the experience
  • Physiological reactions (such as increased pulse or extreme sweating) when faced with reminders of the event

Someone with PTSD will also take steps to avoid anything that may trigger memories of the event, changes in mood and thought processes caused by the traumatic event, and significant changes in arousal and reactivity. The disturbances must last at least one month to be diagnosed as PTSD. Someone with PTSD will see that the symptoms cause impairment in occupational and social functioning.

Motor Vehicle Accidents and PTSD

If any event in which you are faced with real or threatened death can cause PTSD, it’s clear that car accidents can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if the car accident does not actually cause injuries that could be fatal, if you genuinely believed at the time of the crash that you or someone you loved could have died, that could meet the qualifications in the DSM-5.

A growing body of research looks at the link between car accidents and motor vehicle accidents. In one study, about 25% to 33% of car accident survivors who required hospitalization had post-traumatic stress disorder. This study also references research that found motor vehicle accidents to be one of the leading causes of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Their estimate indicates that between 2.5 million and 7 million Americans experience PTSD as a result of a car accident. While this is an incredibly broad range, it does show that car accident-related PTSD is a public health issue. Car accident survivors, especially those who survive serious car accidents, should seek psychiatric treatment in order to help prevent the development of PTSD.

How PTSD Can Affect Your Life

The prevalence of PTSD among car accident survivors is important to consider if you have been through a car accident. PTSD is more than just ducking and covering your ears when you hear a loud noise or having dreams about your accident.

It means intentionally avoiding anything that reminds you of the crash—even if that means you’re too terrified to drive and are therefore unable to work. It means being so sensitive to stimuli that slight changes in volume or the sound of tires screeching to a halt can make you irritable and frightened.

PTSD could leave you with thousands of dollars in medical bills, a serious decrease in your overall quality of life, lost income, and the need for significant support in multiple areas of your life. If you do develop PTSD because of a car accident, that should be considered in your settlement.

Explore Your Legal Options with Hodges Trial Lawyers

Ready to start your personal injury claim and fight for the compensation you’re owed? It’s time to talk to the team at Hodges Trial Lawyers. From medical bills and lost wages to mental trauma, we’re committed to getting compensation for all of the losses you have suffered. Call us at 256-826-4129 or send us a message online to schedule a meeting now.