Emotional and Mental Issues After a Car Accident

January 3, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Emotional and Mental Issues After a Car Accident

Psychological and Emotional Damage Caused by Car Crashes

Emotional and mental issues after a car accident can follow you throughout your life. They can linger long after the physical injuries have healed and act as a detriment to your life and future. Unfortunately, many car accident victims and insurance companies downplay the severity of emotional and mental issues. Psychological effects after a car accident can reduce your quality of life and impact your ability to enjoy your hobbies, interact with loved ones, and even maintain employment.

Following an auto accident, you may focus more on your physical injuries. If you suffered bodily injuries, you must undergo a medical examination and pursue the course of treatment necessary. If you then file a legal claim against the responsible party, you can show your medical records and bills to prove the damages you deserve for these injuries. Many car accident victims pay less attention to the effects of the accident on their emotional and mental health.

There is not widespread attention paid to car accident victims who are emotionally or mentally injured due to either the trauma of the collision itself or the struggle they face in dealing with their physical injuries. An experienced auto accident attorney understands that these injuries can be just as devastating as physical ones. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we believe you deserve to recover for all the injuries you sustained, including those that are mental or emotional.

Emotional Distress After Car Accident

A car accident can result in mental and emotional stress and trauma that can negatively affect someone's daily life. Although most people may show more concern for physical injuries, they should worry just as much about the emotional distress caused by the auto accident. Emotional distress refers to the disruption an accident victim experiences, though they may not have an official medical diagnosis for their feelings.

Emotional distress after a car crash can lead accident victims to experience many symptoms, including:

  • Feelings of mental anguish
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Bouts of anger
  • Fearfulness
  • Feelings of humiliation
  • Crying
  • Sleep issues and nightmares
  • Losing appetite
  • Loss of interest in usual activities

Such psychological symptoms can severely interrupt an individual's life and may cause them difficulty in going to work, attending school, or even getting out of bed in the morning. Some individuals may be too fearful of another accident to get in the car, which can prevent them from attending necessary appointments for treatment and other obligations. In some cases, emotional distress can be relatively short-lived, but these feelings and daily interruptions can persist for some time, especially if they still have the reminder of their physical injuries.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Following Car Accidents

Emotional trauma from a car accident is a serious issue that causes the victim to suffer an extreme interruption in their daily life. Some car accident victims may be diagnosed with a mental health condition that developed because of the incident. The most common mental health condition that people develop after an auto accident is post-traumatic stress disorder, also commonly known as PTSD.

Though PTSD is most often associated with soldiers returning from combat, the condition can develop after any traumatizing event. Car accidents, especially extremely violent ones, can certainly be traumatizing for victims and can trigger PTSD. In fact, research has shown that an estimated nine percent of motor vehicle accident survivors later develop PTSD as a result. In addition, many of those with PTSD simultaneously have an intense fear of driving or a related anxiety disorder.

PTSD can have substantial psychological effects on a person's life. The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurring, intense, and involuntary memories of the accident
  • Flashbacks that sometimes result in periods of "blackout"
  • Terrifying nightmares
  • Avoidance of anything that may remind them of the accident, including driving, riding in cars, or even being around a car
  • Intense emotional or physical distress after encountering any reminder
  • Depression and withdrawal from society
  • Self-harm

To cope with PTSD, an accident victim often requires regular therapy for possibly a prolonged period of time. They also may require medications and other aids to help them return to daily life. The costs of this treatment for mental conditions can be just as expensive, if not more so, than the treatment for their physical injuries.

Long-Term Psychological Effects of Traumatic Car Accidents

It is clear that people involved in nonfatal accidents can experience serious mental stress like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and phobias. However, this still begs the question; What are the long-term concerns?

One research study published in the BMJ found that not only do one-third of children involved in traumatic accidents suffer mental trauma, but they experience those symptoms up to a year afterwards. This does not directly translate to adults, but another study found that results were nearly identical in adults.

That study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that "different frequencies and courses of PTSD, phobic travel anxiety, general anxiety, and depression were reported by a third of the subjects at both 3-month and 1-year follow-up." Although some victims reported improvement over time, others described psychiatric symptoms developing long after the accident. A significant portion of those complaining of persistent symptoms were passengers in the vehicle as opposed to drivers.

Emotional Recovery After a Car Accident

We have mentioned that these long-term ramifications can induce phobias, but the practical application of that fear is stifling. People with driving phobias have trouble getting to work, transporting their kids, or completing daily tasks that most people take for granted. Some people may feel symptoms of anxiety when passing the site of the accident, experiencing similar conditions while in a car (like adverse weather conditions), or when triggered by any number of other things that remind them of the crash.

These traumas from a car accident may be unexpected and debilitating, but there are things that can be done to help alleviate some of the symptoms. The following are some steps to take to put you on the path to recovering from the psychological effects of a car accident:

  • Talk about your feelings with family, friends, and especially your doctor: There are very effective treatments for these types of conditions, and one should not shy away from them for fear of stigma. The people close to you can also offer advice based on knowledge of your personality and emotions from a similar experience.
  • Try to stay engaged in your daily life and routine: Depression and anxiety can quickly take hold of one's life. However, attempting to stay active in your life, exercise routine, daily tasks, etc. can make a real difference. Take part in activities that don't bother any injuries you sustained during the accident. Your family doctor can help you figure out how much you can do safely.
  • Follow up with your family doctor: Your doctor can refer you to other health care providers, mental health specialists, or therapists to help you work through your feelings. They can monitor your recovery and prescribe any medicine you may need.
  • Try to get back to daily activities and routines: Traffic accidents make some people limit what they do. It's important to try to get back to your usual activities. Even if you're uncomfortable or scared at first, it's part of healing. Don't avoid driving or leaving the house due to fear of what could occur to you.
  • Learn to be a defensive driver: Driving or riding in cars might be hard after the accident. You can lower your risk of future accidents or injuries by practicing defensive driving. Always drive carefully, wear your seat belt, only drive when you are alert and not tired, never drive when you've consumed alcohol, drugs, or medicine that affects your judgment, and avoid distractions, such as eating, talking on the phone, or texting.

Pursuing Compensation for Emotional and Psychological Car Accident Damages

Many people realize that car accident victims can pursue damages from a car accident caused by a driver's negligent or intentionally harmful behavior. Most victims pursue economic damages from a car accident, including medical bills, lost wages, and disability costs. These damages have a monetary value attached to them; you can pursue compensation from the at-fault party based on how much these specific costs ended up totaling.

However, you can also pursue compensation for non-economic damages, which are those that do not have a monetary value associated with them and have to do with how you have suffered following a car accident. Some examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and mental trauma. A car accident attorney can help you calculate the non-economic damages done to you and attach a monetary value to the emotional and psychological effects of the car accident.

How Can a Lawyer Help You With a Car Accident Claim?

Most car accident victims do not have the legal knowledge to properly file a car accident claim and engage in the claims process to receive compensation for damages. Hiring an experienced car accident attorney is essential since they can help negotiate with the at-fault party's insurance company and take care of all the stressful work involved, allowing you to focus on your recovery.

This can help if you suffer from emotional or mental issues after a car accident, as the last thing you will want to do is handle negotiations with an insurance company trying to limit your settlement to increase their profits. Your experienced car accident attorney can help collect evidence proving the impact of car accident trauma on your daily life. With their help, you can potentially receive a settlement or award that can help put your life back on track.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident Claim

If you have been the victim of a motor vehicle accident, you deserve to fully recover financially from any physical, emotional, and mental injuries you suffered. Proving emotional distress and mental injuries can often be more challenging than proving physical injuries, though the highly skilled car accident lawyers at the Dolman Law Group know how to gather and present evidence of all types of injuries so that you receive the most favorable outcome possible in your case.

The car accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group will offer you personalized attention to ensure your thoughts and concerns are addressed in settlement negotiations. You may have specific concerns brought about by the mental issues caused by your car accident that we will address with compassion and empathy. Our focus is to get you the money you deserve to put your life back on track, which means we won't just accept a settlement offer to put the case in the past.

We offer free consultations, so please call our Clearwater, Florida office at 727-451-6900 or leave a message on our online contact page if you believe you may have an auto accident case today.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756



Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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