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What Are the Psychological Effects of Being in a Car Accident?

The physical repercussions of a car accident can be severe. A survivor could have significant injuries that cause great pain, suffering and economic hardship. Physical injuries are not the only consequences crash victims can face, however. Many car accident survivors also deal with psychological ramifications – stress, anxiety and mental health conditions that can last for weeks or months after the crash. The psychological effects of a car accident can be as damaging to a victim as physical injuries, only in different ways. In Virginia, a crash survivor can file a claim for both physical and emotional damages from the defendant.

Car Accidents and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of civilian cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the US. Car accidents can be extremely mentally damaging, leading to feelings of panic, anxiety and stress that stay with the victim long after the collision is over. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition developed from surviving a traumatic event, such as an auto accident, sexual assault or combat zone. Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event could inflict enough psychological harm to cause PTSD. A crash survivor with PTSD could experience many symptoms.

  • Car accident flashbacks
  • Nightmares about the crash
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Emotional distress reactions to reminders
  • Detachment from loved ones
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Startling easily
  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Mood swings
  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Intrusive memories, avoidance, negative mood changes, and changes in physical and emotional reactions are all signs of PTSD after a car accident. Car accidents that are especially violent, catastrophic or damaging are more likely to lead to PTSD in survivors than minor vehicle collisions. Deadly crashes involving loved ones, for example, could inflict lasting emotional damage. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition that can require seeing a mental health professional for treatment. Obtaining prompt treatment can keep PTSD symptoms from worsening over time.

Intense Fear or Anxiety About Driving

Emotional reactions to auto accidents often lead to an intense fear of driving. This phobia can last for weeks, months or longer depending on the victim. Just the thought of getting behind the wheel or into a car could trigger psychological anguish such as severe anxiety, flashbacks, blackouts, nightmares and physical distress.

A fear of driving could interfere with the victim’s ability to drive, go to work and return to daily life. Phobias in children can lead to nightmares, bedwetting, regression, poor performance in school, and mood changes or outbursts. Treatments for the emotional and psychological effects of a car accident can cost just as much, if not more, than physical crash injuries. Victims with intense phobias from auto accidents may qualify for related compensation.

Compensation for Psychological Damage From a Car Accident

A major car accident can cause PTSD, extreme anxiety, depression and debilitating phobias. Studies have shown that crash-related mental traumas can have symptoms lasting up to a year after an auto accident, especially for children. A victim with psychological damage from a car accident could be eligible for compensation for these damages specifically. Virginia allows for the retrieval of noneconomic damages during a car accident lawsuit.

  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Psychological damages
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias of driving
  • Anxiety
  • Lost quality or enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Grief or bereavement

A victim with PTSD or other psychological effects from an auto accident should seek professional help from a doctor right away. Then, the victim should hire a car accident attorney to help him or her pursue financial compensation for the intangible losses the crash caused. A lawyer may be able to obtain fair recovery from an at-fault party for a victim’s psychological outcomes. A lawyer may also be able to increase the economic demand in a suit to cover treatments and mental health care related to the psychological effects of a car accident. Working with a mental health professional and a lawyer can help a crash victim find peace of mind and hope for the future again. It can also lead to a fair award during a car accident claim.