ptsd from a car accident

PTSD From a Car Accident: Can You Claim Damages?

When you feel the symptoms of PTSD from a car accident, it’s important to understand the impact on your life and your claim. Oftentimes, even auto accidents that don’t cause severe injuries cause distress for everyone involved. 

Whether you are the at-fault driver or someone else’s negligence causes the accident, you may experience some trauma from the accident. Any accident can leave you suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, there is a broad array of symptoms associated with PTSD.

However, many victims have one thing in common. It quickly impacts their ability to function in everyday life. If you struggle with PTSD from a car accident, it’s crucial to work with an experienced auto accident attorney. With the right representation, you have an advocate to guide you through the legal process and explore your options for compensation. 

What Is PTSD?

PTSD develops after a traumatic event. Too often, people believe that it only impacts soldiers returning from duty. However, anytime a person witnesses or suffers a life-threatening incident, they may suffer the symptoms of PTSD. 

Typically, people struggle with sleep and concentration in their daily lives almost immediately. You don’t necessarily have PTSD when you can’t return to school, work, or other activities. Still, when psychological symptoms linger for weeks or months following your accident, you might have PTSD. 

Common Signs of PTSD from a Car Accident

Generally speaking, the symptoms of PTSD vary by case. While some experience severe cases, others show minor symptoms that are controllable. Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of PTSD. 


While some who suffer PTSD from a car accident only remember it from dreams, others find that the memories follow them through their daily life. Occasionally, people have flashbacks about the incident. 

Reminders of the accident trigger flashbacks, including similar weather, driving by the scene, or a slight bump in the car. For others, flashbacks occur without a noticeable trigger. Suddenly, they find themselves back at the scene of the accident without warning. 


After a serious auto accident, it’s possible to struggle with vivid nightmares. Often, they feel like a flashback as the dream takes you back to the scene. Some wake up shouting, shaking, or struggling. 

Alternatively, you may shoot awake with the adrenaline coursing through you. Moreover, some clearly remember these dreams while others only have a vague impression. Either way, they struggle with disrupted sleep patterns. 

Additionally, some find themselves afraid to go back to sleep because they fear the dream will play out again and again. 

Increased Irritability and Agitation

Occasionally, people with PTSD from a car accident find themselves quicker to anger than before the incident. You might notice that you snap at your family more often. Alternatively, your tolerance for things at work might be lower than usual. 

Others suffer anxiety over things that would not have concerned them before. Yet others find an increasing agitation in otherwise comfortable circumstances. 

Misplaced Guilt

Even when you are the victim of someone else’s negligence, you might find that the event replays in your mind. Often, people begin to wonder whether there was anything they could have done to avoid the collision. 

Perhaps they wish they’d chosen a different route, made a different choice, or even slowed down a bit. Regardless of whether you cause an accident, suffering PTSD from a car accident often results in ongoing, crushing guilt. 

This guilt has the potential to paralyze people and make it harder to move on with life. To determine the source of that guilt, it’s a good idea to work with a psychologist. 

Avoiding Reminders of the Collision

After a car collision, some people avoid anything that reminds them of the incident in the slightest. Perhaps you want to avoid triggering a flashback. Alternatively, might just want to push into the past. 

People with PTSD from a car accident often choose to avoid anyone from the scene and the scene itself. In more severe cases, they might avoid riding in any sort of vehicle until they are more confident in their control. 

Numbness & Depression

PTSD triggers more than anxiety and agitation. It also has the potential to trigger depression. This comes complete with feelings of worthlessness and a struggle to engage in activities that formerly brought joy. 

Others may feel numb emotionally and as though they cannot engage in any type of emotional reaction, no matter the situation. At times, victims block negative and positive emotions alike. 

This is a coping mechanism to prevent all further negative reactions at the expense of any positive reactions. 


When PTSD symptoms grow too severe, many victims begin to self-medicate. Often, they utilize drugs and alcohol to stave off the symptoms. However, addition is quick to spiral out of control. 

This can leave the victim with even more problems to handle. 

How Does PTSD from a Car Accident Impact Your Claim?

After a severe car accident, you might notice that symptoms of PTSD develop over time. However, it’s important to understand how PTSD impacts your auto accident claim. Here are a few key factors to consider. 

Emotional Injuries Are Still Injuries 

When you file a personal injury claim after a collision, it includes every injury you suffer. This includes emotional injuries resulting from the accident. Just like a physical injury, PTSD has the potential to limit your ability to enjoy everyday life. 

Some people cannot return to their jobs after a car accident. Others struggle to participate in their hobbies or enjoy time with their families. Worse yet, some people cannot even get back into a car. 

All of these symptoms impact your life and cause as much difficulty as a physical injury. As such, you have the option to include them in your personal injury claim. 

It is crucial to speak with a car accident lawyer to determine how to include your PTSD in your pain and suffering damages. Moreover, it’s important to include any medical expenses that result from your PTSD. This includes inpatient care, therapy, and counseling. 

Lost Income & Reduced Earning Capacity

When your PTSD causes you to miss work, either from an inability to operate a vehicle or concentrate on your job, you have the opportunity to seek compensation for lost wages. 

For instance, if you work as a driver and struggle with flashbacks, it becomes difficult to drive. As such, you should seek compensation for lost earning potential. 

PTSD Does Not Change Liability

While PTSD impacts the amount of your settlement, it does not change liability for the car accident. After the accident, a police officer files a police report to indicate responsibility. Additionally, your lawyer helps to investigate your claim and prove liability. 

When you suffer PTSD from a car accident, it doesn’t factor into this part of the claim. For example, if you caused the collision, your PTSD symptoms don’t necessarily entitle you to compensation from the other party. 

Suffering PTSD from a Car Accident?

When you need an experienced auto accident attorney, it’s a good idea to contact one as soon as possible. If you suffer PTSD from a car accident, it makes the claims process all the more difficult. That’s why you need an advocate on your side to handle the process for you. 

With the right legal team, you have someone to reduce the stress and anxiety of your claim. This makes the process that much easier on you as recover.