What Happens if You Get PTSD After a Car Accident?

After a car accident caused by another driver’s carelessness or recklessness, there is often a lot of discussion about the financial costs that a person can incur, including significant expenses associated with medical treatment, wage loss, lost earning capacity, and property damage.

However, as anyone injured in a car accident can attest, the costs incurred are not only financial. Accidents and injuries often inflict profound impacts on the victim’s quality of life and mental health. One type of psychological impact that is often experienced after a car accident is PTSD.

Here is a look at what happens if you get PTSD after a car accident and how a car accident attorney can help you seek compensation for the psychological impacts of your injury, in addition to financial costs.

What Is PTSD?

What Happens if You Get PTSD After a Car Accident?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or circumstance. While the condition is commonly associated with combat veterans who have been subjected to the atrocities of war, it can happen in other situations, including car accidents in which a person is injured or has witnessed someone else get seriously injured or even killed.

The condition is associated with marked changes in the sufferer’s personality, behavior, or reactions.

Some of the symptoms that can indicate that a person has PTSD include:

  • Intrusive thoughts, such as repeated and involuntary memories of the event, distressing dreams about the event, or even flashbacks that are so intense the person feels as though they are experiencing the traumatic event all over again.
  • Avoiding discussing the event or avoiding places, people, or situations that remind the sufferer of the event.
  • Altered cognition or mood. Individuals who have PTSD often have distorted views about themselves including self-blame or others (such as feeling like all drivers are careless and about to cause an accident). This can result in ongoing fear, guilt, or shame.
  • Feelings of detachment or difficulty experiencing positive emotions.
  • Difficulty controlling reactive emotions, causing the sufferer to experience irritation easily and to be prone to angry outbursts and erratic behavior.

For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, they generally must exhibit symptoms of the condition for a month or longer, to the extent that the symptoms cause difficulties in the sufferer’s ability to function during daily tasks at work or home. PTSD commonly appears within three months after the trauma, though in some cases, symptoms do not become apparent until much later.

How Can You Treat PTDS?

PTSD is generally treated through a combination of talk therapy and medication. Talk therapy assists the sufferer in gaining the confidence and ability needed to evaluate the traumatic event and process it psychologically. Medications reduce some of the effects of the condition, such as the inability to sleep. It also helps stabilize and improve the sufferer’s mood. The type and duration of the treatment provided depend on how severe the sufferer’s symptoms are and how long it takes for those symptoms to subside.

According to the American Psychological Association, about half of those receiving treatment for the condition report that their symptoms subsided after 15 to 20 therapy sessions, and therapists commonly want to provide additional sessions during this time to ensure that the individual’s symptoms are truly gone.

Therapy plans for people living with moderate PTSD typically involve 20 to 30 sessions over six months. It should be noted, however, that for particularly severe symptoms of PTSD or individuals with other psychiatric disorders in addition to PTSD, the amount of time needed to treat the condition can be significantly longer, with symptoms generally subsiding after 12-18 months of treatment.

The Impacts of PTSD on the Sufferer’s Life

As explained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is a condition that affects every aspect of the sufferer’s life, leading to difficulty with managing work-related tasks in addition to normal daily living tasks.

The family members of an individual who has PTSD are also impacted by the condition, as it can make it hard for the sufferer’s partner to talk to them about important issues without getting an angry or irritated response. PTSD can also make it extremely difficult for the sufferer to get close to others or to meet the psychological need for companionship that their spouse, partner, or children have. People living with PTSD often struggle to sleep and avoid social situations that can be hard for them and those around them to cope with.

You Can Seek Compensation for the Psychological Impacts of an Accident

PTSD symptoms can profoundly impact a person’s ability to function in everyday society’s fast-moving, work- and accomplishment-driven confines. Luckily, those who are experiencing PTSD as a result of a car accident caused by another person’s negligence can seek compensation for the condition through a personal injury claim filed against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy. In addition to recovering the cost of treating the condition, personal injury claimants can also obtain compensation through the non-economic portion of their claim.

What are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-economic damages refer to compensation for the claimant’s psychological impacts due to the accident. Common types of non-economic damages include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of the enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium, which refers to the loss of the claimant’s ability to enjoy physical intimacy and companionship with their spouse or romantic partner.

As expensive as receiving medical treatment for an injury, the psychological cost of the injury is often far more helpful, and non-economic damages generally account for 50-80 percent of the total amount ordered by a jury if the claim reaches trial.

How are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?

Non-economic damages do not produce a price tag or result in a bill, so how can they be calculated, requested, and received? When a personal injury lawyer values their client’s claim, they will consider certain factors in determining non-economic damages.

Those factors include:

  • The amount of insurance the liable party has. All insurance policies come with policy limits, which signify the maximum amount of money available for the claim.
  • The severity of the injury. More severe injuries tend to result in more extreme impacts on the sufferer’s life, including a higher likelihood that they will experience psychological effects such as PTSD.
  • The permanence of the injury suffered. While the symptoms of PTSD typically respond to treatment, the sufferer can experience other types of injuries that create disabilities that will permanently impair their ability to earn an income. These injuries and disabilities can result in additional psychological stress, making it harder for a car accident claimant with PTSD to respond to treatment or to achieve good mental health after an accident.

How an Attorney Can Help You Get Compensation for PTSD

Having an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your personal injury claim is crucial, as they provide a knowledge and understanding not only of the laws that are in place to protect your right to be compensated for your injuries but also the types of expenses and impacts that are commonly associated with car accidents (including PTSD), and the amount of money that is necessary to compensate the claimant for this harm fairly. Some of the services they can provide to help personal injury claimants get the compensation they need are as follows.

Finding All Sources of Liability and Associated Insurance Resources

Policy limits often result in insufficient coverage provided through the at-fault party’s policy to compensate for all aspects of the claim. Because of this, personal injury attorneys will thoroughly investigate the accident to determine if additional sources of liability have insurance policies. They may access these to pay the claim.

Additionally, the at-fault party can also have different types of coverage, such as an umbrella policy that is in place to provide additional protection beyond the standard coverage limit of their auto liability policy. Insurance providers will generally not admit that an umbrella policy is available to a claimant, but an attorney can find this information for them.

Properly Valuing Your Claim

The goal of the at-fault party’s insurance company is to pay as little on the claims they receive as possible. They often offer to settle the claim out of court but make an initial settlement offer that is below the claim’s value. The claimant’s attorney will then negotiate with them to increase the offer to an amount close enough to the claim’s value to constitute fair compensation.

Obtaining a fair settlement for the injuries and expenses incurred in the accident involves ensuring that all expenses and impacts are included in the claim’s value. Once a claim is settled, the claimant releases their right to seek additional compensation from the at-fault party and their insurer in the future.

If the claim goes to trial, the judge or jury will consider their compensatory award based on the information provided about the expenses incurred due to the claimant’s injury and how that injury impacted their life. A properly valued claim that includes psychological impacts is significant in ensuring fair compensation for that claim.

Obtaining Evidence to Show How You’ve Suffered

In most cases, simply stating that a car accident claimant suffered insomnia, flashbacks, and other impacts commonly associated with PTSD is not enough. Documentation and witness testimony is also required to prove these impacts. One of the strongest ways to prove that the claimant suffered PTSD due to an insured at-fault party’s negligence is to show bills from a therapist for PTSD treatment.

In some cases, the testimony of the therapist, or documentation provided by the therapist indicating the symptoms that the claimant was suffering from, can be used to show the impacts of the condition on their quality of life. The lawyer can also call expert medical witnesses in some instances to speak to what an individual suffers through PTSD as a result of a car accident.

Your attorney will also commonly consider testimony from those close to the sufferer when gathering information to prove the claim, including the sufferer’s family, coworkers, employer, or friends.

What if the Insurance Company’s Settlement Doesn’t Include Compensation for PTSD?


Even when there is a pile of evidence and information to support the claimant’s claim for damages related to PTSD, the insurance company may balk at having to pay for the psychological costs of the injury. Part of the reason for this reluctance involves the computer programs that these companies use to determine the costs of a claim. The algorithms of these programs often do not give proper consideration to the impacts of the injury, as these impacts are subjective.

Some states have laws that cap the amount of non-economic damages available for personal injury claims. For example, in Massachusetts, personal injury claimants can only seek up to $500,000 for the pain and suffering they incurred in an accident. These damage caps can also affect the amount of compensation available for a claim that includes PTSD.

An attorney values their client’s claim in light of the damage caps for the state where the accident occurred. However, when an insurance company fails to pay for compensable non-economic damages under the law, then the claimant’s attorney can file the claim as a personal injury lawsuit. This will place the claim in the hands of a judge or jury that, after seeing the evidence and hearing the testimony involved in the case, will decide whether the at-fault party’s insurance provider is responsible for compensating the claim and the amount of compensation the claimant is entitled to receive.

If a car crash injured you, let an experienced car accident attorney seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.