PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, isn’t a term you normally associate with car accidents or personal injuries. In our minds, PTSD is something our service members coming back from overseas suffer, and it often takes time to diagnose and recognize the condition outside that context. Nonetheless, developing PTSD is a real possibility for those who suffered traumatic injuries as the result of a car accident or an assault, and because it is an injury in itself, you may be able to recover compensation for your PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychological disorder that can occur if you experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event. Most notably, it occurs in combat veterans and survivors of natural disasters, car accidents, and sexual assault. It is important to recognize that it is normal to have nightmares, anxieties, and difficulties returning to regular daily activities after a life-threatening event, but those feelings should subside after a month. If you continue to experience those anxieties over the course of a few months, you may have PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Reliving the event through nightmares or bad memories
- Avoiding situations that trigger those memories, such as refusing the drive after an accident
- Increased negativity and depression
- Hyperarousal, which includes startling easily and always being on alert
- Trouble concentrating or sleeping
- Anger and irritability
- Unhealthy coping behaviors, such as the use of drugs and alcohol
There is really no way to tell who is more susceptible to PTSD after a car accident, and even children can experience PTSD, which may manifest through acting out, withdrawal, reckless behavior, and an unwillingness to be separated from their parents. Typically, the longer you experienced the life-threatening event, the more likely you are to develop PTSD. For example, if you are in a car accident and are trapped in an overturned car for an hour while firefighters have to free you, that is more likely to result in PTSD than a quick hit-and-run accident.
PTSD After an Auto Accident
Luckily, research suggests that the majority of people who survive a serious motor vehicle accident will not develop post-traumatic stress disorder. However, of the approximate 10 percent of people who do suffer psychological symptoms as the result of an accident, PTSD is one of the most common mental health problems. If you suffered from mental health problems, such as depression, before an accident, studies indicate you are more likely to suffer from PTSD. Further, the extent of your physical injuries plays a huge role in whether you will develop PTSD after an accident. The greater your fear of death was during and immediately following the accident, the greater your chances of developing PTSD are.
One important factor to consider is that those who develop PTSD as a result of a motor vehicle accident in which they suffered personal injuries are more likely to experienced chronic physical pain throughout their bodies. Although there is no one explanation for this phenomenon, your brain may be interpreting the injuries as more severe because of the life-threatening nature of the accident, and your body, which would be in a mentally unhealthy state as a result of the PTSD, may internalize that negativity and exacerbate your physical pain.
Is PTSD Compensable in Florida?
Because PTSD is a legitimate disorder that can be brought on by a traumatic car accident, it is considered an “injury” for purposes of personal injury litigation in Florida, and you can seek compensation. However, as mentioned above, because it is normal to experience certain post-traumatic symptoms for a few weeks after an accident, you need an actual PTSD diagnosis from a mental health professional in order to seek compensation. Your attorney would need to hire an expert witness to testify that you are indeed suffering from PTSD as a direct result of the car accident. It would be a hard to claim that you were suffering from PTSD based only on certain post-accident symptoms without an actual diagnosis and expert testimony.
Monetary Recovery for Personal Injuries in Florida
If you suffer serious personal injuries as the result of an accident, Florida law permits you to seek monetary recovery for “noneconomic” damages. “Noneconomic” damages are damages suffered as the result of personal injuries that don’t have a precise economic value. For example, medical bills, lost wages, transportation expenses, and medications are all “economic” damages, meaning that they have a precise, calculable value. On the other hand, your “pain and suffering,” loss of enjoyment of life, and anguish brought on by mental health issues such as PTSD don’t have precise values. It is up to you, your Florida personal injury attorney, and a jury to determine the “value” of your suffering.
Because PTSD is a medical disorder, you can seek both economic and noneconomic damages as the result of your suffering. For example, you may seek direct compensation for time lost from work as a result of the PTSD, your PTSD medication, and any mental health assistance you receive for your disorder. However, PTSD also causes depression, mood swings, unexplainable physical pain, and nightmares, which can affect every aspect of your life. Accordingly, you can seek recovery for this suffering even though it does not have a precise value.
Contact a Clearwater PTSD Attorney Today
Unlike physical injuries, which may simply appear on an X-ray, PTSD is a complex mental health disorder that takes time to develop and understand. After a traumatic car accident, you may be so overwhelmed that you do not recognize the symptoms of PTSD, but an experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help you learn to monitor for signs and get you the compensation you deserve for your suffering. If you or a loved one may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of a car accident or assault, the attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have the experience you need to ensure that this claim is not forgotten. They are your premier PTSD lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area, and they are here to fight for your wellbeing. Contact them today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.