Evaluating PTSD in a Car Accident Personal Injury Case

Evaluating PTSD in a Car Accident Personal Injury Case

bad car accident

February 14, 2017

Ellis Law Corporation

Auto Accident

Developing post-traumatic stress after a motor vehicle accident is a relatively common occurrence. According to studies published in the journal American Family Physician, car crashes have become the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the Vietnam conflict. This anxiety disorder can affect anyone who witnesses or experiences a traumatic or life-threatening event, and can lead to a host of incapacitating symptoms that interfere with your personal, social and professional life.

For some car accident victims, their most significant and lasting injury isn’t whiplash, a concussion or a broken bone – it’s post-traumatic stress.  Symptoms of car accident-induced PTSD can manifest in a number of ways, and often include re-experiencing the trauma through recurring dreams and disturbing flashbacks. Post-traumatic stress symptoms frequently intensive over time, giving rise to feelings of hopelessness, a sense of constant threat, detachment from the world, loss of control, irritability, in addition to memory and concentration problems.

Insurance companies generally take the position that PTSD can only result from “serious” motor vehicle collisions that are traumatizing and result in severe physical injury. However, experienced personal injury attorneys are attuned to the “classic” signs of PTSD in car accident victims, and may refer clients to a neuropsychologist or psychiatrist for a confirmed diagnosis. Without a proper medical diagnosis of PTSD, insurance adjustors – or jurors if the case goes to trial — will not factor in the losses and expenses incurred for treating this crippling stress disorder.

PTSD car accident damages: factors that affect compensation

Future medical treatment and expenses are an important factor when assessing a damage recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. In the case of PTSD, it is not uncommon for victims to suffer debilitating impairment, anxiety, distress and depression that negatively impact all facets of life. In some accident victims, PTSD symptoms may not initially meet “diagnostic criteria,” and instead develop months later.

In order to secure appropriate compensation for psychological injuries/emotional distress such as PTSD, it is imperative to prove this condition with confirmed diagnoses and expert testimony provided by licensed medical professionals.

An expert witness would testify about the various symptoms of PTSD, including but not limited to:

  • Nightmares and/or flashbacks about the traumatic event
  • Signs of extreme anxiety, insomnia and exaggerated startle responses
  • Disruption in social, professional or familial relationships

Monetary awards for emotional anguish will hinge on whether:

  • A neuropsychological assessment shows that the victim has PTSD
  • Testimony shows that the post-traumatic stress resulted from the accident and not another event
  • Testimony demonstrates how PTSD has negatively impacted quality of life
  • Long-term prognosis and future medical expenses anticipated

Treatment for PTSD can be quite extensive and costly, encompassing cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy and Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Given the detrimental consequences of untreated PTSD, it’s vital that car accident victims seek a thorough medical evaluation and remain candid about their symptoms as they develop.

According to a National Co-Morbidity Survey, nearly 40 percent of individuals who developed PTSD after a car crash or other shocking event but did not seek treatment continued to suffer symptoms for up to 10 years.

PTSD car accident assistance in California

In California, you have two years from the date of the vehicle accident to file a lawsuit in court. If the injury – such as PTSD — is not discovered immediately, you have one year from the date the injury was learned to seek legal recourse.

If you have been in a car accident in the greater Los Angeles area, don’t forfeit your right to just compensation for physical and psychological injuries. At Ellis Law Corporation, our car accident attorneys understand the unique circumstances surrounding PTSD car accident claims, and work diligently to maximize the value of your claim. For a free consultation, please call 310-641-3335.

Additional Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Claim Resources:

  1. S. Department of Veterans, PTSD: National Center for PTSD http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/what-is-ptsd.asp
  2. WebMD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#1
  3. MayoClinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/treatment/con-20022540
  4. American Family Physician, Post-traumatic Stress Reactions Following Motor Vehicle Accidents http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0801/p524.html