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Living With PTSD After a Car Crash? Here’s What You Can Do

November 19, 2019

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car wreck is much more common than people realize. After the rush of emergency medical treatment calms down, crash victims often find they’re suffering from serious emotional trauma. The effects can make their lives unbearable.

If you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms and psychological trauma after a motor vehicle accident, you have options, and an attorney may be able to help. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Everyone experiences intense emotions when they go through a traumatic event like a car crash. However, some people continue to struggle with frightening memories, trouble sleeping, and constant bad feelings, even months after the event. If this sounds like your situation, you may have PTSD.

All credible mental health experts agree that PTSD exists, but PTSD after a car crash can show up in different ways from person to person. One victim might experience feelings of terror every time they get in a car. Another person might experience a pounding heartbeat and feelings of panic when they hear tires screeching or a car horn honking.

One 1995 study funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health found that almost 40 percent of car accident survivors develop PTSD. And since Alabama sees more than 130,000 car accidents each year on average, it’s not a stretch to say tens of thousands of Alabamans struggle with car accident-related PTSD every year.

How Does a PTSD Diagnosis Happen?

If you feel like you may be living with PTSD, you need to visit a doctor and receive a diagnosis as soon as possible. If you get diagnosed with PTSD, you can begin treatment. PTSD does respond to treatment, and many people get better, but you can’t begin the recovery process until you get diagnosed.

If you need help finding a doctor, contact an attorney who has experience handling car accident cases; they should be able to help.

When doctors diagnose PTSD, they look for known symptoms, which fall into four categories:

  • Intrusive memories
  • Avoidance
  • Negative changes in thinking or mood
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions

In the following sections, we’ll describe specific PTSD symptoms from each category. Your doctor will try to find out whether you started experiencing some of these symptoms after the crash and whether you’re still experiencing them at least 30 days after. If so, they may diagnose you with PTSD.

Intrusive Memories

  • Unwanted and upsetting memories of the crash that keep coming back
  • Intense flashbacks of the crash that may feel like reliving the event
  • Nightmares about the wreck
  • Sudden anxiety or physical reactions (like nausea or a pounding heartbeat) whenever something reminds you of the crash


  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the crash
  • Avoiding people, places, or activities that remind you of the crash (for example, going out of your way to avoid the street where the collision occurred or to avoid someone else who was in the car during the wreck)

Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood

  • Having persistent negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or the world
  • Rarely feeling happy or joyful
  • Feeling numb or empty
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities you used to enjoy
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, like not being able to remember parts of the crash
  • Feeling detached from loved ones
  • Having trouble forming or maintaining close relationships

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always feeling on guard
  • Self-destructive behavior, like excessive drinking or abusing drugs
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling irritable and quick to anger
  • Feeling guilty or shameful

RELATED: Five Signs You Have an Undiagnosed TBI

How Can an Attorney Help Me if I Have PTSD After a Car Accident?

Treatment for PTSD can be expensive. And if you’re already dealing with medical bills from other injuries after the wreck, the financial stress can make it even harder to heal from PTSD.

A lawyer can’t undo the accident or cure your PTSD, but an experienced attorney can help you file a personal injury claim that may be able to compensate you for your treatment and your pain. With your financial worries lifted, you can focus on what matters: your health and your relationships.

However, filing a claim to receive compensation for PTSD isn’t a quick and easy process, so it’s best to work with a lawyer. It takes lots of work to organize all your medical records and file all the paperwork involved in a personal injury claim. Your attorney will also need to find and hire expert witnesses — medical professionals or other experts who can explain to a jury what PTSD is and confirm that you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms.

Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Fighting for Alabama Car Accident Victims

If you’re suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues after a car wreck, call the experienced team at Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys for help. We’ll listen to your story and help you understand your legal options at no cost. If you decide to hire us, we’ll handle all the details of your case and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

To schedule your free, no-risk initial consultation, fill out our short online contact form or call us at 251-888-8888.


Blanchard, E., Hickling, E., Taylor, A., & Loos, W. (1995, August). Psychiatric morbidity associated with motor vehicle accidents. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183(8), 495–504 (PMID: 7643060). Retrieved from

Post-traumatic stress disorder: Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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