The consequences of a car accident to a victim often extend beyond a broken leg or whiplash. Not only can a serious collision harm you physically or financially, but it may also harm you mentally and emotionally. But we know as well as you do that these psychological injuries are just as real as any others to those who are forced to deal with them. One complication that many car accident injury victims report experiencing is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition can inhibit a victim’s ability to function as they once did at even the most basic levels. What makes PTSD so dangerous is that victims may not be able to easily identify it, particularly in the days and even weeks following the accident. You should be aware of the signs of PTSD and how you may be able to recover damages for your condition through a car accident injury lawsuit.
At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we recognize the difficulties associated with pursuing a recovery from injuries that make everyday life so difficult. That is why we offer every potential client a free first-time consultation with our dedicated Annapolis car accident lawyers. Together, you and your lawyer can assess the merits of your case and estimate how much you stand to gain by pursuing it in court.
Call the car accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (443) 339-8368 to schedule your first appointment today.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
The condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that has been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for many years. the disorder typically manifests in a person as a result of a traumatic event. What researchers have discovered about PTSD is that it typically leads to a number of psychological responses that can impact the way a person sleeps, processes emotions, reacts to situations that remind them of the trauma, and maintains close personal relationships.
Comorbidity is common for PTSD patients. the term “comorbidity” refers to a condition that often presents with other associated conditions. As the name would suggest, comorbidities can increase the likelihood that another medical complication results in death. Studies have indicated that depression, mood disorders, substance use disorders, and other anxiety disorders have high comorbidity rates with PTSD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that should be diagnosed and treaded by experienced medical professionals. Our Ocean City car accident lawyers can use those medical records to bolster your case. If you believe you might have PTSD from a car accident, consult with a medical professional.
Identifying Symptoms of PTSD After a Car Accident
Recognizing the telltale signs of PTSD after a car accident can be critical for obtaining a diagnosis and beginning the process of recovery. Below are some of the most common identifiable symptoms that should give you concern about the possibility that you have sustained PTSD after a car accident.
Being hyper-alert or constantly on edge is a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Hypervigilance stems from thinking you are in a dangerous situation or that something bad is going to happen soon when, in reality, the situation is normal.
Physical symptoms of hypervigilance include sweating, shallow breathing, and an increased heart rate. You might also experience sudden, knee-jerk reactions to external stimulus that gets mistaken for a real threat. This is the body preparing for a danger that is not actually there. Persistent worrying and planning for unlikely eventualities are also a side-effect of hypervigilance.
Hypervigilance has the potential to seriously disrupt one’s life, as a lot o brain power gets spent on planning for and avoiding imaginary dangers instead of enjoying life.
Just because you suffer from headaches after a car accident does not mean that you have PTSD. However, it has been shown through research that car accident injury victims who suffer from chronic headaches have a 50% prevalence rate for PTSD. the research suggests that the reasoning for this could have to do with the physical and psychological impairment that comes with headaches and the coping strategies that victims use to relieve their pain. If you are experiencing chronic headaches after a car accident, do not attempt to treat yourself. Seek professional help as soon as possible to avoid the worsening of your condition.
One of the most common issues with PTSD patients is the imprinted memories of the traumatic event. These memories can cause a victim to experience vivid and terrifying nightmares that disturb the sleep cycle. Further, due to the complicated nature of dreams, PTSD victims may not even realize that their disturbed sleep is due to nightmares. This can cause people to consciously or subconsciously avoid sleeping or find it difficult to actually get to sleep. Sleep deprivation has a variety of consequences on physical and mental health, potentially aggravating comorbidities, and should be addressed wherever present.
Mood and Temper Changes
People struggling with PTSD often find that they are quicker to anger and less tolerant than they were previously. Sometimes, it takes a frank conversation with a family member or loved one to bring this symptom to light. If you find yourself flying off the handle and later can’t remember why, you may not just be in a bad mood. You may have a diagnosable condition. the good news is that this condition is both treatable and compensable.
You may be familiar with the flashback symptom of PTSD, as it is the most widely documented in television and movies. People often think of flashbacks as being triggered by loud noises or other events that someone observes. The reality is that flashbacks or re-living of the accident could happen at any time. For example, some people with PTSD will experience flashbacks as nightmares, not as a response to external things. You should know, however, that flashbacks are not necessarily present in every case of PTSD.
If you are experiencing episodes where you are forced to replay the traumatic event in your mind, you should seek help immediately rather than wait and hope that the episodes just go away on their own.
Self-Blame or Self-Guilt
Constantly bargaining with the accident and trying to figure out what you could have done differently is a common symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In a car accident context, thinking of how you could have avoided the accident (even if there was no way you could), what you might do if an accident happens again, and believing that you are wholly to blame for your situation are symptoms of PTSD that should be analyzed by a medical professional.
The PTSD Checklist
The most common form of screening for PTSD is a 17-item checklist sheet called the PTSD Checklist (or PCL). Patients respond to these items by rating each symptom on a scale of one to five based on how much the symptom has bothered them over the past month. If the total score of the screening is above a certain cutoff, the patient will be recommended for a more extensive diagnostic evaluation.
The particular cutoff in any given instance depends on a number of factors, including the age and sex of the patient and the nature of the trauma that they underwent. We do not suggest that you attempt to diagnose yourself. If you are struggling with any of the symptoms above or contained on the PCL, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treatment of PTSD Symptoms After a Car Accident
Every case of PTSD is different. You should speak with your medical professional to determine what course of treatment will work best for you. Most treatment plans will consist of lifestyle changes and a course of cognitive behavioral therapy. These remedies can come at a cost, but you may be able to recover that cost through a lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident. As always, you should consult with a medical professional and determine the best treatment options for your particular situation.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy could be a critical step in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cognitive therapy examines the relationships between thoughts and feelings and can help people with PTSD process their trauma in an effective way.
This type of therapy often starts with the patient writing down or explaining their experience and the thoughts they have about it. A therapist can then use that information to help the patient become healthier mentally. Conversations with a therapist could help assuage any feelings of self-blame someone with PTSD has about their accident.
While not used in every circumstance, exposure therapy can help patients deal with their trauma. Exposure therapy involves the patient confronting things related to their source of trauma and, through exposure to those things, getting better.
Exposure therapy can help patients understand that certain cues are not indications of impending danger. For example, for someone with PTSD from a car accident, exposure therapy could involve discussing the accident in detail with a therapist. This could appear daunting, and it very well might be at first, but repeated therapy sessions can help people with PTSD deal with their trauma.
Calculating Damages for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a Car Accident Lawsuit.
If you decide to go to court to sue for damages and are successful, some of the damages you are awarded could be related to PTSD. You could potentially receive both economic and non-economic damages for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD Economic Damages
Economic damages are damages based on things with discernable monetary value. In the context of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, any medical treatment you receive would likely fall under the umbrella of economic damages. Counseling, therapy sessions, and medication costs could all be factored into calculating economic damages for PTSD in a car accident lawsuit.
Non-Economic Damages from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Non-economic damages are more abstract than economic damages. Non-economic damages are usually awarded for things like pain or mental anguish. It should come as no surprise that awards for non-economic damages based on PTSD can be quite large. For example, impairments to quality of life, such as fear of doing certain mundane tasks, an inability to sleep well, or mood swings could all factor into non-economic damages stemming from PTSD.
Concepts like pain, mental anguish, and distress are hard to quantify monetarily. For that reason, plaintiffs generally have to come up with an amount they are asking for in non-economic damages. A common way to come up with this amount is to base it on medical expenses from the accident. However, in a Post-Traumatic Stress-Disorder context, the harm endured in non-economic damages will often greatly exceed the cost of treatment. In those instances, an alternative method of figuring out damages, such as basing it on daily struggles stemming from the accident, might be advisable. Our lawyers can help determine the most effective way to calculate non-economic damages for your particular case.
Suffering from PTSD After a Car Accident? Get Legal Advice Today for Free
The knowledgeable Baltimore car accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras are ready to review your case today at (443) 339-8368.