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After the Automobile Accident: Navigating Mental Trauma

Physical injuries as a result of car accidents are well-known, documented and understood. Depending on the severity of the accident, it can result in everything from bruises to broken bones to even fatalities. Far less well-understood, however, is the mental side of things – the debilitating and long-lasting mental consequences of being involved in such a traumatic event.

In fact, car accident victims can find themselves suffering from a number of mental traumas. Most common among these is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which the mind attempts to cope with impactful events in a number of unhealthy and potentially dangerous ways. Post-car accident PTSD can also co-exist with other mental conditions including but not limited to depression, panic disorder, avoidant or isolating behavior and generalized anxiety.

If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of PTSD, seek necessary treatment immediately. Additionally, if you plan to seek financial compensation following your accident, make sure to choose a lawyer who is well-versed in mental health topics and will fight to ensure you receive the damages you deserve.

Effects of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest in a variety of ways. It can cause panic attacks and periods of anxiety, both unprompted or “random” and triggered by reminders of the accident. Sufferers may find themselves developing a phobia of driving or even riding in cars. This, in turn, can lead to social isolation as connecting with your support network of friends and family can be difficult without the ability to transport yourself.

In addition, the effects of PTSD are not limited to the purely emotional. Sufferers can experience lack of sleep, recurring nightmares, periods of blackout, dizziness, loss of appetite, extreme mood swings (such as between anger and depression) and frequent bouts of crying. In general, you can find your ability to enjoy life dramatically decreasing as your PTSD affects every aspect of your day-to-day existence.

Even though PTSD can be triggered by a single event such as a car accident, healing can be an extensive process. Most sufferers report experiencing symptoms for between one month and one year. Seeking appropriate medical treatment is truly the only way to begin recovering and reclaiming your life.

Treating Post-Car Accident PTSD

There is one truly effective method of treating car-accident induced PTSD: therapy. Therapists will use a combination of techniques including one-on-one consultations, group discussions, cognitive behavioral therapy and more to identify accident-related traumas and their triggers. With the help of a licensed professional, sufferers will be able to work through and successfully address each manifestation of their symptoms. In time, with enough patience and hard work, PTSD can eventually be moved past entirely as you return to normal life.

In some cases, medication such as anti-depression and anti-anxiety treatments may also be required. In these situations, a therapist will usually refer their patients to a psychologist or general practitioner in order to prescribe the needed medicine. Medications are especially necessary in situations where symptoms have become physical, such as lack of sleep or “blackout” periods during the day.

PTSD and Your Legal Options

When seeking financial compensation following your car accident, do not neglect costs incurred in the treatment of PTSD. Mental health expenses, including both doctor and therapist’s appointments and prescription medications, can be included in a legal suit claiming damages. Mental illnesses and side effects are just as valid as physical injuries, and you should not have to pay for them entirely out of your own pocket following a traumatic event.

In addition, you can consider claiming damages for emotional distress and a decrease in quality of life caused by PTSD. For example, if a PTSD sufferer develops a fear of driving, they can sue for the cost of having to utilize more expensive public transportation in their daily commute. However, keep in mind that the court will require you to provide proof of these consequences, which may include interviewing both you and others in your life such as family and friends.

A good car accident lawyer will be prepared for these eventualities and will claim mental damages as part of your suit. Make sure you know how to hire a good lawyer. They will be aware of potential anti-mental health bias in judges and juries, and will ensure that these individuals are not allowed to preside over your case. They will also help prep both you and your family members for potential interviews regarding your mental health in the wake of the car accident.

There is no need to suffer in silence. PTSD may not get nearly enough press coverage when compared to physical injuries, but it is a very real condition which affects nearly one-third of all car accident victims for months to years following their trauma. Speak out, seek treatment and choose a lawyer who is willing to fight for appropriate compensation for your mental suffering.

Chris Fry Bio

Christopher J. Fry is a lifelong resident of Sacramento. He was born, grew up, attended K-12 school, college and law school in Sacramento. The majority of his professional experience comes from Sacramento and surrounding areas.

In his career, Mr. Fry has been involved in complex litigation focused on areas such as; Constitutional Law, Business Litigation, Consumer Rights, State and Federal Government Liability (Tort, Contract and Constitutional) and Personal Injury. He has researched, developed and implemented legal arguments set forth in cases against City and County entities, the State of California, and even officers of the United States of America. He has worked on cases in numerous State and Federal Courts, the Third and Sixth District Court of Appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and even the United States Supreme Court. Some of the cases Mr. Fry has worked on can be found in published appellate opinions.

With his passion for standing up for those without a voice, he has decided to continue to practice as a trial attorney and will continue to strive to help aggrieved citizens throughout California.

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