PTSD may develop following serious motor vehicle accidents

Mental health conditions are an all-too-common lasting effect of serious car accidents.

Given the sheer volume of car and truck accidents that happen annually, chances are good that you'll be involved in one at some point during your life. Many of them are relatively inconsequential, resulting in property damage and minor injuries, but some of them are much more serious. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 30,000 people die and another 2.3 million are injured each year in collisions.

For most, once the vehicle damage is repaired and the wounds have healed after a crash, their lives return to normal. In about 10 percent of cases, however, car accidents have a longer-lasting effect: the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. Studies have shown that there is no single criteria to pinpoint which crash victims will develop mental health disorders, but they are more likely following accidents where the victim either witnessed the serious injury or death of another person or feared for his or her own life.

Bringing this "silent" issue into the spotlight

The issue of post-accident traumatic disorders has come into the public spotlight recently due in no small part to the high-profile June 2014 accident that seriously injured comedic actor Tracy Morgan. Morgan has been candid regarding his struggles following the crash that seriously injured himself and several others and resulted in the death of comedian Jimmy Mack when a semi truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into Morgan's limo bus.

In addition to the physical injuries that Morgan suffered (including compound bone fractures that required multiple surgeries and resulted in a months-long stay in a rehabilitation hospital as well as brain trauma that put him in a coma), he has reported difficulty dealing with the emotional impact of the crash. According to some interviews the comedian has given, the accident has, even after all this time, forced him to repeatedly confront his own mortality in light of losing his friend and had a very negative impact on his emotional health.

Ongoing emotional disturbance, often intertwined with grief and so-called "survivor's guilt," is one of the hallmarks of post-traumatic stress following a serious car accident. Other indicators of PTSD or mental health issues include:

  • Reliving the accident frequently (this can take the form of dreams about the accident or intrusive thoughts about it)
  • Anxiety or agitation, particularly concerning driving or riding in a vehicle
  • Emotional outbursts or mood swings
  • Prolonged periods of depression
  • Self-blame
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue not related to physical symptoms
  • Chronic pain
  • Weight changes

If left untreated, PTSD or other mental health conditions following a motor vehicle accident can have a significant impact on the victim's life. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, be aware of the possible need to not only treat physical symptoms but also emotional ones. Part of the healing from an accident can come from holding those responsible for the crash accountable for their actions; one way to do this is to file a legal claim. For more information, contact the Los Angeles law office of Scott J. Corwin today by calling 800-946-9440 or sending an email.

Victims of these accidents should contact an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer. Our founding attorney, Scott J. Corwin, has more than 25 years of experience in representing victims of DUI and drunk drivers and those injured in all forms of motor vehicle, motorcycle, truck, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and throughout the state of California.