Personal Injury Lawyers Bronx and Westchester County, New York

What are my legal options if I sustained PTSD after a car accident?


When we think of crash-related injuries, most of the focus is placed on physical ailments, such as broken bones, spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Mental and emotional trauma, like PTSD, stemming from a crash can be equally (if not more) debilitating in some cases.

It's common for crash survivors to develop anxiety after a crash, including post-traumatic stress disorder. We often associate it with military veterans who have witnessed the horrors of war. PTSD can also develop as the result of any type of traumatic event, such as a car accident.

What is PTSD?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is a psychiatric condition that people sustain after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. There are generally four types of symptoms that pertain to car accidents:

  1. Reliving the event — having flashbacks, nightmares and recurring thoughts about a crash.
  2. Avoidance symptoms — difficulty driving again, driving in the area where the crash occurred or talking about the crash with others.
  3. Anxiety and stress — panic attacks, constantly feeling on edge, getting easily startled, developing negative thoughts about the event and difficulty sleeping.
  4. Physical symptoms — physical symptoms of PTSD may include (but are not limited to) headaches, nausea, increased heart rate, migraines, muscle tension and body aches.

The risk factors of developing PTSD

Anyone can develop PTSD after a crash, but these risk factors can make it more likely:

  • Dissociation during or immediately after a crash. This occurs when someone loses a sense of time, place, identity or reality during a traumatic event
  • Having a family history of mental health conditions
  • Feeling high levels of fear, helplessness or terror during a crash (often linked to fear of death or witnessing a death)
  • Having a history of prior trauma
  • Lack of social support after a traumatic crash

Getting medical treatment

The first thing you should do after a crash is get prompt medical treatment, even if you aren't experiencing any physical or psychological symptoms. These symptoms can take several days to appear. If you delay medical treatment, the insurance company who represents the at-fault driver can use your gap in treatment as leverage against your claim.

Treatment for PTSD may include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The most common SSRIs prescribed to patients include:
    • Sertraline (Zoloft)
    • Paroxetine (Paxil)
    • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Cognitive processing therapy. A therapist may ask you how you perceive your traumatic crash and what coping mechanisms you currently use. Through this type of therapy, you identify and work through "stuck points," which are thoughts that prevent recovery.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This method uses side-to-side eye movements to help PTSD patients process traumatic memories, thoughts and emotions.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is talk therapy that addresses thoughts, feelings and behaviors of PTSD patients. Individual or group therapy occurs over 12-16 sessions.

Can I recover damages for PTSD?

It can be difficult to prove that your crash caused PTSD. Insurance companies will capitalize on any opportunity to downplay or deny your claim. Your doctor should document your symptoms and diagnosis during your medical evaluation. An experienced Bronx car accident attorney can use this documentation as evidence to support your claim.

If you're not sure what your legal options are after developing crash-related PTSD, contact Giampa Law and schedule your free consultation. Our legal team will work tirelessly to help you get the compensation and justice you deserve.

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