PTSD After a Serious Car Accident – Fact or Fiction? 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition which was formerly only associated with military personnel who had undergone the trauma of combat, and who experienced subsequent symptoms referred to as ‘shell shock’. The same collection of symptoms is now recognized as being indicative of a condition which also affects civilians who have experienced some kind of life-threatening event, and it has been given the broader designation of PTSD.

The effects of this disorder might cause the victim to re-live the event repeatedly, to have frequent periods of nervousness or agitation, or to have trouble sleeping, and these disruptions can make getting through a normal day problematic. It is also likely that the behavior of the victim will change significantly in the aftermath of such an event, for instance having a fear of driving in cars, or going anywhere near the actual site of the accident. While it’s fairly normal to undergo these kinds of symptoms for a time following such a traumatic event, when the effects persist into months or years, that becomes a sign that the PTSD has set in.

Is PTSD really possible after a car accident?

Many people have claimed to suffer from PTSD after living through some kind of horrendous auto accident, some of whom have undoubtedly been genuinely troubled by either witnessing or experiencing such an event. However, the condition is also claimed by a great many individuals whose intentions are less sincere, and who hope to profit through litigation.

Historically, in court cases dealing with claimants supposedly experiencing PTSD, the awards have been significant, at least when the court has ruled they are legitimate. In a review of almost 1,400 cases centering on PTSD claims, the plaintiff received compensation approximately 2/3 of the time, and of those recipients, roughly 1/3 were awarded amounts in excess of $1 million. In almost all cases though, legitimacy is difficult to verify.

Legal determination of PTSD

Therein lies the rub. Legitimacy – how is it confirmed or debunked?

The court does not consider there to be any ‘shades’ or degrees of PTSD – the condition is either present or it isn’t, and there are no gradations on the PTSD meter. There is a 6-point process for legal determination of the disorder, which follows the following guideline:

  • Personal exposure – the claimant must have personally witnessed or been involved with an event he/she perceived to be life-threatening
  • Recurring symptoms – the claimant must be re-living the event, in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, seizures, severe anxiety, or abnormal body processes, like excess sweating, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, etc.
  • Aversion behavior – the victim exhibits aversion to people, places, or activities associated with the event, for instance driving in cars
  • Change of personality – these can include loss of self-worth, disinterest in former habits and friends, memory loss, negative feelings, etc.
  • Sleeping problems – difficulty sleeping, recklessness or destructive behavior, frequently ‘on edge’
  • Condition is chronic – any or all of the above have persisted for longer than one month

Of greatest interest to the jury in cases like these is whether or not the event which triggered the condition is sufficiently traumatic to have caused all the observed symptoms. Generally speaking, when the jury is convinced of the seriousness of the incident, the plaintiff has received monetary compensation. However, there is always a great deal of supporting documentation necessary to prove that the symptoms are indeed present, and are contrary to the claimant’s prior behavior. This puts the onus for proof on the believability of the claimant, and the expertise of their legal team.

Representation for a PTSD case

Given the fact that a PTSD case generally hinges on proving severity of the incident, and the resulting symptoms in a claimant, it should be fairly clear that a legal team experienced in such cases would be of the utmost importance. When you, or someone you know, has been experiencing some or all of the symptoms described above, your first call should be to the firm of Bailey Javins & Carter.  The experienced and knowledgeable injury attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter have successfully litigated hundreds of injury cases and are prepared to talk with you about your injury case.

Having earned a stellar reputation as West Virginia’s premier legal team in situations involving the state’s most catastrophic accidents, Bailey Javins & Carter is well-qualified to represent you. If your life has been turned upside down by a terrible accident, contact our legal firm at (800) 497-0234 to help you set things right again.