It’s All ‘In Your Head’: The Emotional Impact of Car Accidents

Woman suffering the emotional effects of a motor vehicle accident

Clients may suffer both emotional and physical consequences following a car accident. Abeyta Nelson can help.

Most people think recoveries made by personal injury lawyers for accident victims are limited to compensation for physical injuries. But physical injuries are sometimes just one part of the picture. People can suffer significant emotional injuries in motor vehicle collisions, falls, vehicle/pedestrian accidents, and fires.

Frequently, these emotional injuries are temporary and resolve on their own without medical intervention. However, according to the American Psychiatric Association, sometimes emotional injuries evolve into post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. A skilled plaintiff’s lawyer can obtain substantial compensation for those who suffer emotional injuries.

Abeyta Nelson Injury Law has recovered damages for emotional distress for many of our clients. For example, a woman who was trapped between a backing vehicle and a loading dock suffered significant but not severe physical injuries. But, over a year after her accident, she was still having nightmares about the incident. It affected her daily life and relationships with family members and friends. She could not get out of her mind the memory of being almost crushed to death between the back of the vehicle and the loading dock.

In another case, an experienced truck driver was hit head-on by a vehicle being driven by a drunk driver. Another young woman was in the passenger seat. It was early morning and the two young women were returning from a night of partying. Their vehicle came across the center line and hit the truck driver’s vehicle head-on.

There were no other vehicles on the highway that morning, and the truck driver, despite his own physical injuries, tried to help the young women. They had been crushed and were dying as he approached the vehicle. Although the truck driver’s physical injuries gradually healed, he couldn’t get out of his head the vision of the crushed bodies of the two young women.  He was clearly suffering from PTSD.

Frequently, parents have young children in their cars when another vehicle causes an accident. Naturally, the first concern of the parents is the safety of their young children. Sometimes, the parents cannot immediately get to their children. This creates an emotionally stressful situation for the parents. Even when the children don’t suffer any significant physical injuries, parents may have an ongoing emotional response.

Other times, when people are injured by someone running a stop sign, they have difficulty when they are riding in or driving a vehicle. They are hyper-vigilant, constantly on the lookout for other vehicles that might fail to stop. This makes being in a vehicle difficult. They are experiencing an ongoing emotional response to their previous accident. Symptoms can last weeks, months, or sometimes years.

Abeyta Nelson Injury Law has also represented wildland fire victims who had to flee for their lives from a raging fire. This can also leave individuals with serious emotional difficulties.

Treatment for emotional distress or PTSD can involve medication, hypnotherapy, counseling, and sometimes desensitization therapy. The woman in the example above who was nearly crushed received hypnotherapy. This type of therapy is designed to reduce recollection of the traumatic event. While the therapy was successful in that she no longer had vivid memories of her accident, she continued to have some ongoing emotional distress, just not as severe.

In the other example, the truck driver who saw the two crushed bodies underwent counseling and was prescribed medication. Once again, his PTSD symptoms were reduced, but not eliminated.  Many of our clients who have suffered less severe emotional injuries have also benefitted from counseling, which reduced and sometimes eliminated their ongoing distress.

If you’ve been involved in an accident and have ongoing emotional injuries, it’s important that you talk with your primary care physician who can either provide care or refer you to a counselor to treat your emotional problems. And if you have an attorney representing you for an accident, it is important that you tell the attorney about your mental health issues. Your attorney can seek compensation for your emotional and physical  injuries. If you have questions, contact Abeyta Nelson Injury Law today to set up a free consultation.

-blog written by attorney Rodney K. Nelson, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law

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