Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition often associated with those who have experienced the devastation of war. However, wartime traumas are not the only cause.
Anyone can develop PTSD after experiencing or witnessing fearful or life-threatening events like natural disasters, sexual assaults, or, as addressed in this article, car accidents.
When a car accident is severe enough to cause PTSD, there are ways that you can use the legal system to recover for losses caused by the impact of PTSD flashbacks on your life. Below, you'll find out more about PTSD car accident compensation claims and what they may mean for you.
PTSD and Car Accidents: Indicators
Due to the increased frequency and risks of harm associated with car accidents, they've become one of the leading causes of PTSD diagnoses. Even in accidents involving relatively minor physical injuries, the potential for PTSD exists because it's tied more to a person's reaction to an event than the motor vehicle accident itself.
Accidents involving serious injuries usually involve traumatic responses in victims, so they're typically a good indicator that a victim could develop PTSD in the future. Other indicators can include:
- The severity of injuries to others involved
- Whether any fatalities were involved
- How long it takes to recover from any injuries
- Whether a victim has a history of emotional distress
PTSD Car Accident Compensation Claims: Damages
Most damage claims after a car accident are classified as either special or general damages. Losses that are easier to value, such as medical bills and lost wages, are considered special damages. Damages that are more difficult to convert into dollars, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of enjoyment of life, are considered general damages.
Placing a value on the impact of PTSD on your daily life would be part of a general damages award. Because it may not be as easy to calculate a dollar amount related to your PTSD, it will be necessary to prove your PTSD and related damages through expert testimony. Such testimony would be needed to establish:
- Whether you've been appropriately diagnosed with PTSD
- Whether your condition is connected to the car accident in question (as opposed to a prior car accident or another traumatic event)
- The prognosis for your condition (how long it may persist) and how this would be reflected in a dollar amount
One factor to consider in cases with PTSD car accident compensation claims is the impact that a victim's PTSD may have during trial. Imagine this hypothetical case. A woman suffering from symptoms of PTSD due to a crash that caused extensive injuries to her hand was advised by her doctor that reliving the incident on the stand could worsen her symptoms. She was ultimately not called to the stand, but making emotional injuries worse is a very real concern for PTSD victims.
Another factor to consider in cases involving car accident PTSD is the time it may take to identify and diagnose the condition. Because PTSD is not understood as well as other mental disorders, car accident victims and their family members may not see the warning signs until they get intense enough to seriously and negatively impact the victim's life.
This delay in diagnosing and treating symptoms not only impacts the victim's well-being. It may also interfere with the ability to recover any damages associated with the condition. This could be due to the damages being left out of an initial personal injury claim or because the statute of limitations has already passed by the time that PTSD is diagnosed.
How Does an Insurance Company Calculate a Settlement for PTSD After a Car Accident?
Insurance companies typically calculate settlements by evaluating the economic (special) and noneconomic (general) damages.
Economic damages include quantifiable costs such as medical expenses and lost wages, while noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering or the impact of PTSD, are more subjective. Often, insurance companies use a multiplier method for noneconomic damages, basing the settlement amount on the total of economic damages multiplied by a certain number (1.5-5) depending on the severity of the case.
What Role Do Medical Records Play in a PTSD Car Accident Compensation Claim?
Medical records are crucial evidence in a PTSD car accident compensation claim. They provide proof of your diagnosis, the severity of your symptoms, and the ongoing impact on your life. This can include records from your:
- Treating physicians
- Any mental health professional who has been involved in your care
What Is Considered a Fair Settlement for PTSD After a Car Accident?
A fair settlement should cover:
- All your current and future medical expenses related to PTSD
- Lost wages if you've been unable to work
- Noneconomic damages like pain and suffering
The settlement amount largely depends on:
- The severity of your condition
- Reoccurring or persistent symptoms linked to PTSD from the accident
- Your prognosis
- The impact on your daily life
An experienced attorney can help you determine what is a fair amount.
Can I Claim PTSD if I Didn't Have Physical Injuries in the Car Accident?
Yes, you can still make a claim for PTSD even if you did not sustain physical injuries in the accident. PTSD is a psychological condition. Its presence doesn't necessarily correlate with the severity of physical injuries. You will, however, need to provide evidence that your PTSD is directly linked to the car accident. This is typically through the diagnosis of a mental health professional.
What Are Noneconomic Damages in a PTSD Car Accident Compensation Claim?
Noneconomic damages are those that cannot be easily quantified in terms of money. Noneconomic damages can include:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- The negative impact of the condition on your relationships and lifestyle
What Should I Do if I Start Experiencing PTSD Symptoms Long After a Serious Car Accident?
If you start experiencing PTSD symptoms long after a car accident, it's crucial to seek help from a mental health professional. PTSD symptoms can develop weeks, months, or even years after the traumatic event. Once diagnosed, reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney to explore your legal options. You may still be within the statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim, but time is of the essence.
Get Legal Advice for Your PTSD Car Accident Claim From a Car Accident Lawyer
Given the unique nature of PTSD and related auto accident compensation claims, you should consider having your case reviewed by an experienced car accident attorney. The difference in the outcome of your car crash case could be dramatic.
Don't take a chance with your future. Reach out to a personal injury attorney near you to learn about your and your loved ones' options for financial compensation for a PTSD claim.
Many personal injury lawyers offer free legal consultations. You won't have to pay anything upfront to learn more about your personal injury case.