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Can a Car Accident Cause PTSD?

Written by Tom Crosley
Apr 11, 2018 Vehicle Wrecks
  1. 1. What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
  2. 2. What Is the Relationship Between PTSD and Chronic Pain?
  3. 3. Why Do Insurance Companies Deny Car Crash PTSD Claims?
  4. 4. Do I Need a Lawyer for my PTSD Injury Claim?
  5. 5. Crosley Law Firm Fights for PTSD Victims

After a car wreck, the emotional impact can be just as bad as the physical injuries—or worse. Unfortunately, many car accident victims struggle with undiagnosed and untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Below, we explain how to identify PTSD, its impact on your claims, and how Crosley Law Firm helps PTSD victims recover from a car or truck crash.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

After a serious car crash, you might feel overwhelmed by emotion. For many people, these symptoms fade over time. However, if you’re still dealing with nightmares, intrusive thoughts, edginess, and trauma-related triggers after a month, you should talk to your doctor about PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is more than being afraid of driving or having an occasional nightmare. Car crash-related phobias are very real, but they are a different diagnosis. To meet the medical requirements for PTSD, you must meet all the following criteria:

Experienced a life-threatening or traumatic event

You might experience PTSD even if you weren’t directly involved in the car crash. Witnesses, first responders, and family members can sometimes develop PTSD after seeing or even simply learning about a car or truck crash.

Re-experience the trauma

You have nightmares, flashbacks, and unwanted memories of the wreck.

Avoid trauma-related triggers

You might find yourself avoiding places, people, activities, and situations that remind you of the crash or trigger difficult feelings. For example, you might avoid driving or riding in a vehicle, the location where the crash occurred, or hospitals.

Struggle with negativity after the trauma

You might blame yourself for the incident, feel isolated, forget important details of the event, or feel overwhelmed with negative feelings.

Tend to overreact

You might feel on edge, and/or you may have an increased startle reaction, problems concentrating, and difficulty sleeping.

Have problems at work, at school, or in social situations

Your emotions and distress impact your ability to function and perform daily activities.

Finally, your symptoms cannot be related to substance abuse, your medications, or other illnesses or injuries.

Related Blog: Do You Have Any of These Delayed Symptoms After a Car Wreck?

If you’re experiencing these issues, consult with your doctor or a mental health professional. Your doctors can assess your emotional injuries, help you manage your symptoms, and document their severity. This can assist in your recovery and will serve as important evidence if you file a personal injury claim to seek compensation after a car crash.

“One study reports that 50% of car crash victims with chronic pain also have PTSD.”

What Is the Relationship Between PTSD and Chronic Pain?

Unfortunately, PTSD and chronic pain go hand-in-hand. One study reports that 50% of car crash victims with chronic pain also have PTSD. You might not realize that chronic pain damages your mental health. The strain of daily, severe pain, your inability to work and do things you love, and the frustration of ineffective pain treatment can cause mental health symptoms. Examples include:

  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Decreased feelings of self-worth
  • Struggling with identity
  • Questioning your values

Additionally, your pain, disability, and changed circumstances are a daily reminder of your car crash. For some car crash victims, a pain flare or disability can be a constant reminder of their trauma—and can trigger PTSD symptoms.

Why Do Insurance Companies Deny Car Crash PTSD Claims?

Insurance adjusters are skeptical of PTSD injury claims. They unfairly argue that PTSD is always exaggerated to maximize a personal injury claim—and victims will miraculously improve after a settlement. This argument isn’t just unfair, it’s also contrary to clinical studies on PTSD and car accidents.

In one multi-year study, researchers followed a group of 171 accident survivors. Just over half of the victims filed a lawsuit.

  • Three years after their car crashes, there was almost no difference in the frequency of PTSD and psychological injuries in the two groups.
  • After six years, approximately 85% of the victims had settled their lawsuits, but they did not show any dramatic improvement in their PTSD, chronic pain, or other symptoms.

Based on this study and others, researchers believe that there isn’t evidence of widespread fraud in PTSD accident claims.

However, insurance companies don’t always care about facts and data. If they can find inconsistencies or problems in your medical records, or if you have a preexisting mental health issue, the adjuster will probably deny your claim.

Do I Need a Lawyer for my PTSD Injury Claim?

Handling a car crash insurance claim is difficult on your own, even if you’re not struggling with PTSD. With PTSD, it can be virtually impossible—especially if thinking or talking about the crash triggers your symptoms.

Additionally, your PTSD claim might involve multiple insurance policies. Depending on your circumstances, you might have claims against the at-fault driver, your personal injury protection (PIP) policy, your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policy, and others. Without help from an experienced car crash lawyer, you might lose your right to valuable compensation.

RELATED VIDEO: What Happens When You Hire a Lawyer?

Rather than give up, add a personal injury lawyer to your team of doctors, counselors, and other specialists. Your lawyer can take pressure off you, handle interactions with the insurance companies, and give you space and time to heal. An attorney can also help you understand the value of your claim by calculating the economic and non-economic impacts of your PTSD and other injuries.

Crosley Law Firm Fights for PTSD Victims

If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD and other injuries after a serious car or truck accident, contact us for a free, no-risk consultation. The experienced and compassionate lawyers at Crosley Law Firm help accident victims rebuild and recover. We use our knowledge, experience, and cutting-edge trial technologies to advance our clients’ interest and help them get the compensation they deserve. Contact us by completing our online form by calling 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000.


Beck, J., & Coffey, S. (2007, December). Assessment and treatment of PTSD after a motor vehicle collision: Empirical findings and clinical observations. Professional Psychology, Research and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2396820/

PTSD and DSM-5 (2018, February 22). National Center for PTSD. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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