Traffic accidents are common events in Alabama. According to Drive Safe Alabama, in 2019, an auto accident occurred every three minutes. Sadly, these car crashes and trucking accidents often cause injuries.
While a physical injury – such as a broken leg – is easy to recognize and diagnose, it can be harder to identify mental or emotional injuries. Yet, mental trauma after car accidents is common. Roughly one-third of crash victims suffer mental trauma after motor vehicle accidents. This post will discuss common types of psychological harms that car accidents cause and provide tips on how to handle emotional distress after a car accident.
Three Common Types of Emotional Distress
While car accident victims can experience many types of mental anguish, this post will focus on the three types of mental injuries most often associated with car crashes.
PTSD. Car accident survivors frequently experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD – formerly known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” – occurs after a person survives or witnesses a disturbing, frightening, or shocking event. PTSD causes intense thoughts and feelings related to the stressful event that can last months or years after the incident.
As the older names imply, PTSD was once chiefly associated with emotional trauma related to military service, but this is no longer the case. In fact, studies show that auto accidents are the leading cause of PTSD among those who have not served in the military.
Anxiety. Everyone worries occasionally. But anxiety causes a state of heightened (and often exaggerated) worry usually accompanied by moderate or overwhelming stress. Our bodies have a natural “fight or flight” response to danger, but anxiety causes this response to linger long after the danger is gone.
Anxiety comes in many forms and can be generalized or specific to certain situations. Sometimes – but not always – anxiety can cause panic attacks. Like PTSD, anxiety can last for months or years. A person who experiences intense anxiety over a long period may develop a phobia related to the incident.
Depression. No one is happy all the time. But depressive disorder differs from the normal sadness that we all go through from time to time. Doctors diagnose patients with depression when they have experienced sadness or loss of interest in regular activities that lasts for more than two weeks. Also, to be diagnosed with depression, the emotional change must interfere with your ability and desire to participate in daily life at work and at home.
Depression can range from mild to severe. Like the other illnesses, how long depression lasts varies from person to person.
Symptoms of Emotional Distress After a Car Accident
If you’ve been in an accident, learning the symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety can help you determine if you might be experiencing mental anguish related to your car crash.
PTSD – Doctors group PTSD symptoms into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
For example, if a car accident caused PTSD, afterward, an accident victim might have intrusive thoughts about the accident when they are not thinking about driving. They might avoid driving if possible. They might react negatively if someone suggests that they are afraid.
Anxiety – Anxiety presents in many ways, but common symptoms for car accident victims include:
– Feeling unduly nervous
– Feeling restless
– Racing thoughts
– Elevated heart rate
– Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
After a car accident, a person with anxiety might break into a sweat, begin breathing fast, or feel panicked at the thought of driving again after the accident.
Depression – While depression manifests in many ways, the key symptoms are unhappiness and a loss of interest in activities that a person once enjoyed. Other signs of depression include engaging in meaningless physical activity (e.g., pacing, hand-wringing) or moving or speaking slowly. Thoughts of death and suicide often accompany depression.
A person who survives a car accident might be depressed if they talk about wishing they had died in the accident.
All Three – In addition to the above, these symptoms can relate to any of the three conditions:
– Unexplained rapid weight loss or gain
– Difficulty sleeping
– Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Should I See a Doctor for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?
In a word, “yes.” Seeking medical treatment is one of the first things you should do after any car accident. But because emotional conditions like anxiety, PTSD, and major depressive disorder do not immediately show up after an accident, see a doctor as soon as you think you have symptoms.
Going to the doctor will protect you in several ways. First, it will serve as proof of your condition. Second, a diagnosis will make it clear that it was the accident – not work, marriage, or something else – that caused your emotional trauma. This documentation could be important whether you settle your case or go to trial. Finally, you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical bills related to your mental health treatments.
Can I get Damages for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?
Alabama law allows damages for pain and suffering. (Courts sometimes call emotional injuries “mental anguish.”) In Alabama, mental anguish includes both physical and emotional pain. Your spouse may even be able to recover damages for loss of consortium if your psychological injuries affect your marriage. An experienced accident lawyer can help you with your case.
If your case goes to trial, the jury will review the evidence of your emotional distress. To recover, you’ll need to prove that the injury has had a profound effect on your mental state. Evidence such as medical records, diagnoses, and prescriptions can prove your pain and suffering.
Are You Experiencing Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?
Hopefully, this post has helped you learn a bit about how car crashes can cause mental anguish. If you’re experiencing emotional distress after a car accident, contact Collins Law, LLC today. Our injury lawyers have the experience you need and the compassion you deserve. Call us at (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule a free consultation.