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Can You Get PTSD After a Car Accident?


Not only can you get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car accident, but motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of PTSD in the general population.

Car accidents cause a type of PTSD sprouted from single-incident trauma, but before we dive in, let us clarify one key term.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that presents itself in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or events. Typically, PTSD is associated with those who have served in the military, but it can affect anyone, regardless of their age, culture, or ethnicity.

PTSD is characterized by intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic event like an accident, act of violence or terror, rape, natural disaster, or other violent or uncontrollable occurrence.

Many individuals with PTSD experience flashbacks or nightmares, avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the event, and/or feel sad, angry, or detached.

Car Accidents Are Single-Incident Traumas

Car accidents happen unexpectedly and abruptly. Once the cars collide and stop moving, however, the accident is over. While this is a single event that ends relatively quickly, it can still cause PTSD as a single-incident trauma. Single-incident trauma is defined as a trauma that happens to one person in a single incident, and it can also occur as a result of a gunshot wound or assault.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines trauma as a “shocking, scary, or dangerous event” that triggers split-second changes in the body to respond to danger and avoid it in the future.

How Is PTSD Different Than a “Normal” Reaction?

Even “minor” car accidents can be scary and initiate a “fight or flight” response. Most people have adverse reactions to car accidents of any kind and experience many feelings in the immediate aftermath.

When you first get into a car accident, you might feel some of the following emotions:

  • Shock
  • Fear
  • Disbelief
  • Anger
  • Nervousness
  • Guilt

This is 100% natural and should not be cause for alarm. If any of the feelings above become uncontrollable or so strong they interfere with your life, however, you should consider seeking professional help.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Ongoing feelings of uneasiness
  • Negative moods and thinking patterns
  • Anxiety or fear of driving or riding in cars
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Excessive feelings or numbness
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Intrusive memories or thoughts related to your accident

If you believe you are experiencing PTSD, you do not have to suffer in silence. Treatment options and professional help are available and can help you manage your disorder and return to normalcy.

How to Get Help

To get help with your PTSD, contact a mental health professional. Different types of therapy and medication can be effective tools for dealing with PTSD.

If you have a financial hindrance to getting help, and you know for sure your PTSD was incited by a car accident, our team at Percy Law Group, PC may be able to help.

Filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit with our firm can equip you with the resources you need to obtain the best care.

Call us at (508) 206-9900 to discuss your case – and be sure to request a free consultation.