Dealing With PTSD After A Car Crash

May 25, 2022 | Car Accidents, Personal Injury

Ask any emergency room doctor, and they’ll tell you that the injuries suffered in a car accident may not all be detectable right away. Broken bones and cuts are easy to diagnose, but symptoms associated with more subtle forms of physical injury, such as a concussion or whiplash, may not surface until some time has passed after the collision.

Some people may also experience emotional or psychological trauma from the crash. A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that up to 40 percent of motor vehicle crash survivors experience at least some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a condition that, if left untreated, can get worse rather than better with the passage of time.


Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, combat, a serious accident, a terrorist act, or a threat of death or serious injury. People with PTSD report having intense, upsetting thoughts and feelings that persist long after the traumatic event is over. Once known as “shell shock” or “combat fatigue,” PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults annually. An estimated one out of eleven people will be diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lifetime.


From movies and television, we’re accustomed to thinking about PTSD as an occupational risk for soldiers going into battle, and possibly as a hazard for first responders, too, who witness many traumatic events on a daily basis. But it only takes a single traumatic incident to get the ball rolling, and the six million traffic accidents that occur in America every year are the leading cause of PTSD in the general population. Some of the signs that you may be experiencing PTSD after a crash include:

  • A surge of anxiety when getting behind the wheel of a car, or a fear of driving or being driven
  • Frequent flashbacks (or “intrusive thoughts”) of the accident
  • Nightmares or insomnia
  • Avoidance of places or people that remind you of the crash
  • Sudden rages, crying spells, or other abrupt mood swings
  • Feelings of depression, isolation, shame, or despair
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Disruption of relationships and work routines

Some of the symptoms listed above are encountered by many people in the aftermath of a crash, especially if they feel at least partly responsible for the incident. But if the behavior persists for more than a few weeks, it’s probably a good idea to consult a medical professional about what you’re going through. Certain aspects of the crash may have made it exceptionally traumatic — perhaps someone died in the incident, or you are facing permanent disability or a long road to recovery. In any event, it’s important to take these signs of an emerging psychological condition seriously and seek out a qualified specialist for evaluation.

Although there is no sure-fire “cure” for PTSD, there are several approaches to treatment that can help manage symptoms and allow patients to move on with their lives. Some combination of medication and cognitive therapy is often recommended.


If you are diagnosed with PTSD after a crash caused by another driver, you may well have a claim for medical expenses related to your PTSD treatment, as well as claims for lost wages and emotional suffering related to the condition. However, insurance companies are often skeptical of mental health claims related to car accidents; it’s important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side who is prepared to substantiate your claim.

Since the average juror is not qualified to assess your condition, proving that you have PTSD because of the accident often involves enlisting the aid of expert witnesses. Your attorney’s ability to present the facts of the case and your symptoms, your record of treatment or therapy, and credible expert testimony will play a large role in successfully resolving your claim.


For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032, or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.