Suffering PTSD After a Car Accident

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on August 16, 2017 in Car Accidents
Updated on April 25, 2024

traumatized car accident victimPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a lingering anxiety disorder that often follows a traumatic event in which the victim was at risk of acquiring a serious injury, dying or was physically threatened.

When a victim survives a single-incident traumatic event, like a car accident, the victim may suffer from psychological effects resulting from PTSD that interferes with and disrupts every aspect of his or her life.

More than three million people in the U.S are hurt in auto accidents each year, approximately nine percent of which develop a psychological condition like PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD after an Auto Accident?

Victims who suffer from PTSD after an auto accident can experience very specific psychological and emotional conditions, such as:

Re-Experiencing the Event

Someone suffering from PTSD may constantly relive the event by experiencing:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic accident
  • Nightmares of the collision
  • Constantly thinking about the traumatic event
  • Visual and auditory memories, like seeing and hearing a car collision that is not actually occurring

These psychological disturbances may cause sleep disruption and anxiety that prevents a person suffering from PTSD from living a normal and productive life.

Emotional Numbing

The effects of PTSD may cause a car accident victim to become secluded from others or numb to certain emotions. The victim may stop interacting with people who were present either during the accident or the time surrounding the event.

The victim may also avoid the locations associated with the accident, such as refusing to drive on the street or near the intersection where the collision took place.

It may also become difficult for the victim to recall important aspects of the collision, such as which direction he or she was traveling in when the accident happened.

In some instances, an auto accident victim who suffers from PTSD may become estranged from others who were once important figures in his or her life.

An auto accident victim with PTSD may become emotionally detached and withdrawn from activities or events he or she previously enjoyed before the accident. This can also include feelings of despair that may represent a sense of an impending tragedy that the victim did not feel before the collision.


An auto accident victim who suffers from PTSD may become overly anxious in situations that did not previously cause such a response. This may cause the victim to experience:

  • Increased heart rate
  • A light, fluttery feeling in his or her stomach
  • Heavy and irregular breathing
  • Sweating

When an individual with PTSD begins to feel this over-heightened sense of anxiety, he or she may become irritable or have sudden outbursts of strong emotions or anger. The victim may also have exaggerated responses to mildly startling events and might have a perpetual “on edge” feeling.

Mood Changes

A person who has been traumatized after surviving a car accident may begin to experience changes in his or her personality.

This can include sudden mood swings in which the victim begins to view people and events in a different way than he or she did before the accident.

An auto accident victim suffering from PTSD may also begin to have irrational thoughts or fears, such as becoming fearful of operating or riding in a motor vehicle.

Who is Susceptible to PTSD?

The likelihood of a motor vehicle accident victim developing PTSD can be based on three factors:

The Individual’s Pre-Accident Characteristics

Pre-accident characteristics, such as inability to cope with traumatic events, pre-existing mental health problems, and poor social support have been found to contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to PTSD following an auto accident.

Accident-Related Variables

The severity of the accident and its results can also determine if an auto accident victim will suffer from PTSD. This can include variables such as if the victim:

  • Was physically harmed during the collision
  • Felt like his or her life was threatened
  • Was involved in a fatal collision and lost either a loved one or witnessed another motorist, passenger or pedestrian’s death

The amount of physical injury the victim suffered and his or her fear of dying during the accident increases the victim’s chances of suffering from PTSD.

Post-Accident Variables

Post-accident variables that might indicate PTSD can include:

  • A victim’s rate of physical recovery from his or her injuries
  • The level of social support a victim receives from friends and family
  • The level of a victim’s re-engagement in both his or her work and social activities

If you are injured in a car accident, you should continue to engage in as much of your pre-accident lifestyle as you are physically able. You should also continue to maintain social support structures, such as relationships with friends and family, to enforce your mental recovery after an accident. These efforts may prevent the symptoms of PTSD from developing after an auto accident.

Contact a Dedicated Car Accident Attorney in Milwaukee

If you have experienced any of the symptoms of PTSD after an auto accident, you should seek medical attention from a mental health professional immediately.

There are several treatment options available that can help PTSD victims recover from this affliction and regain their mental health. If you wait to seek treatment, the symptoms of PTSD may worsen.

Our reliable auto accident attorneys in Milwaukee are ready to help you file a claim to recover compensation that may help you pay for any mental and physical treatment you may need after a traffic collision.

Do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no obligation consultation to determine if you have a case against the at-fault driver. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only have to pay us if we recover compensation for your claim.

Call 414-333-3333 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form to get started.

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