Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that is often caused by a traumatic life event. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories, avoidance and negative changes in mood and thinking. PTSD manifests differently in every person and a mental health professional should make the diagnosis.
When you get hurt in a car accident, the physical injuries are only your first consideration. Once you and any other injured party have received medical attention and treatment for your injuries, the next step is to deal with the emotional and mental fall-out. While it is easy to put a number on the cost of your medical bills, it is much harder to determine how much your pain and suffering is worth.
According to the Center for Advancing Health, 3 in every 50 Americans will experience post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) at some point in their lives. Approximately 11% of those cases come from a life-threatening traumatic event, such as a car accident. There are likely many unreported cases of PTSD that manifest themselves later in life, so these numbers are probably underreported. The reality is that car accidents can cause PTSD, and this may factor into the amount of compensation an injured person or their family deserves.
How Is Compensation Decided?
Within your personal injury claim after a car accident, the compensation for PTSD is often included as part of the general damages category. General damages can include:
- Mental anguish: this includes the loss of enjoyment of life, or pain and suffering
- Loss of society and companionship: PTSD may cause you to miss out on comfort, love, closeness and companionship after an accident, particularly if someone you love died in the accident
- Loss of Consortium: this includes losses like solace, comfort, sexual relations between spouses, help and assistance and affection that you may lose because of PTSD
To obtain compensation for PTSD caused by a car accident, you must prove a few things. First, that another driver is responsible for the accident, meaning they were careless or negligent while driving. Second, you must prove that the PTSD was directly caused by the car accident. Third, you must prove that PTSD impacts your life in a way that requires compensation.
Because PTSD is different in every individual and treatment plans vary from case to case, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific amount of compensation that you deserve for your injury and subsequent trauma. There are a few factors that determine your eligibility for compensation when it comes to PTSD.
Costs of Treatment Expenses
People choose different treatment plans to deal with mental and physical health issues. Some may choose to use medication while others prefer to rely strictly on therapy or counseling. Others may go a more holistic route, and some prefer a combination of all of them.
Treatments vary in cost, and that can affect how much compensation you receive for your PTSD. When seeking treatment and help, it is important that you do what is best for you rather than what is most affordable, as the at-fault party or their insurance company may cover the bill.
Impact On Your Life
PTSD affects everyone in different ways. Some may find that they can manage their symptoms through meditation or breathing exercises, while others may have a hard time leaving the house after a traumatic event like a car accident. If PTSD affects your ability to function and obtain an income, you may be eligible for more compensation.
PTSD can also negatively affect personal relationships, which leads to fall-out in all areas of your life. It is important to consider the severity of your PTSD and what changes you have made in your life because of the accident.
If you end up in trial rather than settling out of court, re-living the incident can be painful and traumatizing by itself. It is important that you consult your health care professional or treatment manager, and this can increase the costs of treatment and impact of negative effects on your life.
The Liable Party
If you are seeking damages for injuries you received in a car accident and it has already been determined that the other party is liable, then your compensation may wrap up in your final settlement. If you are dealing with an insurance company, there are specific limits that they will pay out when it comes to car accidents based on the liable party’s insurance. That may affect the amount you are able to get.
Some drive without insurance and while this is illegal in all states, it may make it harder to get compensation. The amount you get may not be how much you get when it comes down to collecting the money if the other person simply does not have it. In some cases, your insurance company may step in to cover some of your costs.
When Someone Dies
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day in America approximately 90 people die because of injuries caused by a car accident. If you are in an accident with someone you love and they die in the accident, you may experience extreme pain and suffering.
Insurance companies often have an amount they will pay out if someone dies in the accident; this amount is different than the amount they will pay for injuries and medical expenses. In this way, fatalities can affect the amount of compensation you can get for PTSD.
Your Pre-Existing Conditions
If you have a pre-existing condition that affects your mental health, this may affect your ability to prove that the accident caused your PTSD. The accident may have made your condition worse, which affects your final amount, but it may not be as much as you would get if the accident were the cause of the PTSD.
How Do You Get Started?
There is currently no law that limits how much you can get for PTSD caused by a car accident. While it may be difficult to document and prove everything you need to file your claim, it is important to receive mental health treatment as well as medical treatment after an accident.
One thing to remember is that PTSD may not be obvious at first. Symptoms may develop after weeks, months or even years. It is important to have a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional as soon as symptoms show up.
In most cases, the injured party or their family files a claim with the insurance company to receive compensation. If the insurance company does not pay out the amount you deserve, you may choose to file a civil lawsuit. In most cases, the insurance company is willing to settle rather than pay for the cost of a trial.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Even if an insurance company makes you an offer, you may want to consider meeting with a personal injury attorney to make sure the offer is acceptable and will cover your costs. The insurance company may not have insight into how the accident has affected your life in terms of your mental health, and an attorney can help you do the research and document what you need to get the money you deserved. Contact us today if you are suffering from PTSD from a car accident.