Can I Make a Personal Injury Claim for PTSD and Emotional Distress Caused by an Accident?

Young man suffering with ptsd on counseling sessions.

When you’re hurt in a car accident, your first focus may be on the physical injuries you’ve sustained. But you shouldn’t ignore the emotional and psychological fallout from the crash.

These effects can be just as intense and just as harmful as any physical injury. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other kinds of emotional distress can make a recovery difficult after an accident. Treating PTSD can be much more challenging than many physical injuries.

Psychological injuries from a car accident are no less real than any physical injury, but they can be more challenging to prove. Help from a qualified attorney can make all the difference. Contact an Indiana car accident lawyer if you’ve suffered emotional distress related to a car crash.

The Fort Wayne personal injury attorneys at Truitt Law Offices have been helping car accident victims for more than 40 years. We have secured significant compensation for our clients. Contact any of our Indiana locations today for a free initial consultation.

What Are PTSD and Emotional Distress?

“Emotional distress” is a catch-all term for several different psychological effects resulting from a car accident. These effects can significantly diminish your quality of life and make everyday activities much more difficult or outright impossible.

Emotional distress can present symptoms such as:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Feeling detached from your own body or the world around you

PTSD is a related but separate condition from emotional distress. PTSD is a mental health disorder that results from someone experiencing a traumatic event, such as a car accident, natural disaster, being involved in war or combat, a terrorist attack, a rape, or being threatened with death, sexual violence, or a severe injury, for example.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the four major categories of PTSD symptoms are:

  • Intrusion – Refers to someone having involuntary thoughts or emotions about the traumatic event, even if they don’t want to think about it. Essentially, someone who has PTSD may relive their traumatic experience without being able to stop doing so. Symptoms of intrusion include things like racing thoughts, nightmares, and involuntary flashbacks.
  • Avoidance – The flip side of intrusion, avoidance is when someone who has PTSD avoids being around people, places, activities, and situations that could remind them of the traumatic event and trigger unpleasant memories. People living with PTSD will often avoid talking about the incident, leading them to bottle up their feelings and experience additional symptoms.
  • Changes in mood and cognition – Even if the victim did not experience any direct damage to the brain in a car accident, PTSD could cause severe changes in mood, memory, and cognition. People with PTSD may have difficulty remembering the traumatic event, and they may have ongoing feelings of deep guilt, confusion, or shame about what happened. PTSD can also cause victims to lose interest in their favorite activities or leave them feeling estranged from other people and the world around them.
  • Changes in arousal and reactivity – PTSD can affect how your body responds to stimuli, causing you to overreact to harmless actions or events. People who have PTSD may jump at sudden or loud noises, or they might get upset at things that usually wouldn’t bother them. People living with PTSD also often have difficulty sleeping or concentrating because tiny disruptions cause a surge of adrenaline.

Can You Recover Compensation for PTSD and Emotional Distress from an Accident?

Accident victims with emotional distress and PTSD can pursue compensation for these injuries by filing a personal injury claim. As with any personal injury case, you’ll have to show that the psychological harm you’ve suffered in the crash is due to negligence on the part of another party.

Some of the parties who could potentially be liable for PTSD and emotional distress include:

  • The other driver – If the driver who hit you was distracted, fatigued, impaired, or otherwise negligent, you could file a claim against them for the injuries you’ve suffered.
  • The vehicle manufacturer – If the accident was due to a mechanical defect, such as a problem with the vehicle’s brakes or steering, then the company that made the vehicle or the defective part could be held liable for your injuries.
  • Government agencies – Most roads are maintained by state or local governments. If the road where the accident occurred wasn’t kept in good condition, or there was another problem (such as a lack of proper warning signs), you could potentially hold the government liable for your injuries.

Proving PTSD and Emotional Distress in a Car Crash Claim

The main difficulty with proving PTSD and emotional distress after a car accident is that there are few physical symptoms you can use as proof. However, there are ways you can prove you’ve suffered PTSD or emotional distress after a crush, such as:

  • Speaking to a doctor and having them document your injuries in your medical records
  • Talking to a mental health professional and getting a diagnosis from them
  • Noting any physical symptoms that may indicate emotional distress, such as ulcers, severe headaches, etc.
  • Keeping a journal showing how your psychological injuries affect your daily life

What Should I Do If I Have PTSD and Emotional Distress Following an Accident?

You need to treat psychological injuries after an accident the same way you would a physical injury. If you have PTSD or suffer from other forms of emotional distress, talk to your doctor or seek help from a therapist or other mental health professional. They may prescribe medications to help control your anxiety and other physical symptoms. Working with a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist can help you learn to process and cope with the trauma you’ve been through. Psychological injuries can take a long time to heal, so be patient with yourself as you recover.

Get Help from an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer Now

The Indiana car accident attorneys at Truitt Law Offices understand the intense and lasting psychological harm from a severe accident. We know what you’re going through, and we’ll be ready to help you seek the compensation you need to seek treatment and put this accident firmly in the past.

Contact us now for a free consultation to discuss your accident and your legal options.

attorney image

About the Author

As an attorney who has practiced law in Northeast Indiana for nearly four decades, Richard Truitt has seen many changes in the way personal injury and wrongful death cases are handled. However, at least one aspect of his work has remained the same. “You always have to listen to your clients, and you have…