One of the most common misconceptions among car accident victims is that if they they can walk away without requiring serious medical attention, they have avoided car accident trauma. However, emotional trauma after a car accident is a common effect of being involved in a collision.
Why Post-Accident Emotional Trauma Happens
No one drives a vehicle or sits as a passenger and expects to be in a car accident. It is always a shock and that shock can lead to long-term psychological responses. Even someone who is in a minor collision may replay the incident over and over again in their mind, unable to shake the feeling that it is still happening or will happen again.
Other victims of car accidents may go into shock initially and feel normal even if they see someone die as a result of a crash. However, the traumatic event will likely creep back to the surface, causing emotional distress days, weeks, or even months later.
This is a completely natural response to any kind of major, life-changing experience. Many soldiers experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being in battle. Though motor vehicle accidents are not battlegrounds, a victim’s brain can respond just like a soldier’s to the psychological impact.
Another reason for emotional trauma post-vehicular crash can be a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion. Many people with concussions feel and behave differently than they did before. Their pre-existing personalities may do a “180.” For example, someone who was personable before a car crash may become hostile afterwards.
Symptoms of Immediate or Delayed Emotional Trauma
How can victims know if they have residual emotional trauma that is affecting their mental health and wellness? Here are some red flags that may indicate you need to contact a healthcare professional who can diagnose conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Taking more risks than before or taking fewer risks than ever. For instance, someone who has been in an accident may start to behave erratically, such as selling everything they own to start a business instead of being fiscally responsible. If the change directly opposes the way the person was before the accident, it could be a result of emotional distress and unmet psychological treatment.
- Being afraid during daily life events. Someone who has been in a collision may avoid going out anymore at all, even to work or school. The fear of potentially getting into another accident outweighs all other worries to someone struggling with emotional trauma.
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Not only can this be an offshoot of depression, but it can be a sign of an undiagnosed TBI. While this is not necessarily life-threatening, it can be life-changing. Therefore, immediate help from a trained professional is warranted to avoid weeks of insomnia or excessive sleep.
- Becoming suspicious or angry all the time. If this was not a normal behavior before the accident, it could have its roots in the crash. Sometimes, this happens due to “survivor’s guilt.” Perhaps the person was the only one who walked away without physical injuries. In this case, he or she might feel guilty.
- Being too happy and joyful, as if nothing is wrong at all. Again, this might seem completely normal. However, if the individual was much less jubilant before the crash, it could be an indicator that something is wrong.
- Refusal to talk about the car crash. Someone who does not want to discuss the collision event may be unable to process the emotions and sights from the experience. The longer the victim remains silent, the harder it can be for them to move forward in a healthy way.
Obviously, any signs of emotional trauma should be discussed with a primary care physician or specialist. Getting help at the earliest sign of difficulty is the best way to avoid pain and suffering.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Although you might have documentation from a medical professional that you have undergone emotional trauma after a car crash, the insurance company representing the at-fault driver may choose not to accept the severity or diagnosis. In fact, insurance providers are in the business of offering very modest settlements, which means they look for reasons not to pay for damages, including emotional suffering or “invisible” injuries.
An accident attorney can help a victim of a car accident who is experiencing emotional trauma. Your attorney will not only look at the facts of the incident, but will help negotiate with the insurance company to get a fair settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, our attorneys can then provide legal help in suing for damages related to the car crash, including compensation for documented emotional distress.
Have you been in an accident? Do you know or think you may show the symptoms of emotional trauma as a result? Contact our legal team at Petersen Johnson for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation. Our office in Phoenix, AZ, can be reached by calling (602) 903-2617.