Can I Recover Compensation for PTSD After a Car Accident?

Car accidents are traumatic events. People can suffer serious injuries, or they may even see their loved ones pass away right in front of them. A person may never forget the things which they saw and heard during the accident, and this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Even though PTSD is a type of injury, it can be difficult to prove. For this reason, you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer at Marks & Harrison if you believe that you have suffered PTSD as the result of a car crash that was another person’s fault. As one of the oldest and largest personal injury law firms in Virginia, we have the experience and resources that you will need to pursue just compensation. We can get to work on your case right away.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder. It often occurs when people have experienced a traumatic event. Car accidents can certainly cause PTSD. However, witnessing a natural disaster, act of terror or combat incident could also trigger the condition. When a person is a victim of rape or sexual assault, they may also show signs of PTSD in the aftermath.

Nearly 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from PTSD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. People who suffer from PTSD often experience intense and disturbing thoughts related to the traumatic event which they survived or witnessed. It’s as if they relive the event – typically through flashbacks or nightmares.

People that live with PTSD may find that they cannot enjoy the same activities and social engagements which they once did. Many people with PTSD can no longer work as well. They often withdraw from society and have strong reactions to ordinary occurrences. A balloon popping, for instance, may trigger someone’s PTSD, or a bright flash from a camera. As a result, many people with PTSD become withdrawn.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

After a traumatic event, PTSD may take time to develop. Some people experience symptoms right away, while for others, it may take years before the signs of PTSD begin to show. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms fall into four groups:

Intrusive Memories

  • Recurring and disturbing memories of the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks that make it seem as though you are reliving the event
  • Disturbing dreams and nightmares about the event
  • Experiencing severe physical reactions to an experience that reminds you of the traumatic event.


  • Taking measures to avoid talking or even thinking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the traumatic event, including people, places and activities.

Negative Changes in Mood

  • Viewing yourself, others or the world more negatively
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Memory issues, particularly not remembering certain parts of the traumatic event
  • Inability to maintain close relationships
  • A feeling of detachment from family and friends
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that you once loved
  • Inability to feel positive emotions
  • A feeling of numbness, particularly emotionally.

Physical or Emotional Reactions

  • Becoming frightened or startled more easily
  • Continuously being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble eating and digesting food
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate, or heart palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of breath.

Many of those who suffer from PTSD experience feelings of shame, anxiety, depression, helplessness and survival guilt. They may also experience anger and distrust of others. Sometimes, these effects are enough to lead PTSD sufferers to consider or attempt suicide. It is vitally important that those suffering from the condition, and their loved ones, understand these effects. They must know what to look out for and when to get treatment when it is needed.

Filing a Crash Claim for PTSD-Related Damages

A person who has been involved in a car accident that was the fault of someone else may be eligible to file a claim if he or she later suffers from PTSD. This condition is just as serious for auto accident victims as other injuries that they can suffer such as head injuries or back injuries. As such, those suffering from PTSD have a right to claim compensation for lost income, counseling services and more.

However, this type of injury is much more difficult to prove than other types of injuries such as a broken leg. Due to the fact that it’s a psychological disorder, no one can see PTSD. So, establishing that this type of injury has occurred often hinges on expert testimony.

Expert witnesses can provide insight into disorders such as PTSD that an average juror (or insurance claims adjuster) may not understand. Although most people are aware of PTSD, they do not always understand the long-lasting effects or its impact on a victim’s life. An expert can explain the exact symptoms a person is experiencing and how they relate back to the car accident. The expert can also shed light on how PTSD affects a victim’s ability to work and enjoy life.

Often, the average person doesn’t have an extensive network of expert witnesses they can call on. This is one reason why it’s crucial to hire a Richmond car accident lawyer when you file a claim. In addition to providing those expert witnesses, an attorney can also collect evidence, demand compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and, if necessary, take your case to trial.

Contact Our Richmond Car Accident Attorneys Today

If you are suffering from PTSD after a car accident, we know how debilitating it can be. If someone else was at fault for the accident, you deserve compensation just as you would if you were suffering from a physical injury. At Marks & Harrison, we will immediately go to work on your case, including gathering your medical records and consulting with highly knowledgeable medical professionals about your condition. With offices in Richmond and throughout Virginia, we can meet with you right away. Contact us today and get started with a free consultation.

Lee J. Bujakowski is a Tulane University School of Law graduate who joined Marks & Harrison in 2013. Lee works in our Hopewell office and focuses on protecting the rights of injury victims and their families. He is licensed to practice in Virginia's state courts as well as the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia. In addition to his law practice, Lee is highly active in the community, including serving as counsel for the Hopewell Recreation and Parks Foundation and Hopewell Manufacturers Association. He is also a member of the Hopewell Jaycees.