Most individuals focus on healing from physical injuries following a serious car accident. But these injuries are not the only type of damages that accident victims encounter after a car wreck. Many injured individuals experience serious and long-lasting mental health issues after a serious collision. Although some of the non-physical effects of the accident may fade over time, other psychological effects of the traumatic event are ongoing and will substantially impact the individual’s relationships, work productivity and general well-being.
Individuals suffering from long-lasting emotional distress as a result of a car accident require professional mental health support, similar to the treatment required for physical injuries sustained in the crash. It is important to be candid with your doctor about all of your physical and emotional distress caused by the accident in order to be provided with appropriate medical advice, coping methods, psychological or psychiatric referrals or medication.
MOST COMMON MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES CAUSED BY CAR ACCIDENTS
The three most common mental health issues caused by car accidents include post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), persistent anxiety and major depressive disorder.
A psychological injury can be defined as an event or series of events that resulted in an individual developing a mental health condition that prevents him/her from completing everyday functions such as work, caregiving or recreational activities.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is the most common mental health issue experienced by survivors of car accidents. The Canadian Mental Health Association defines PTSD as a mental illness following exposure to a traumatic situation involving death or the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Signs of PTSD may not become apparent until weeks after the accident.
The criteria for diagnosing PTSD include:
- Exposure to a traumatic event;
- Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma;
- Extended symptoms of stimuli beyond one month; and
- Significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
You may be experiencing PTSD if you exhibit the following:
- Recurring thoughts and flashbacks of the accident;
- Experience emotional numbness and difficulty connecting;
- Avoid people, places or activities that remind you of the accident; or
- Are regularly hyper-vigilant or paranoid.
Untreated PTSD can lead to anger management issues, loneliness and depression and even suicidal thoughts. It is therefore recommended that those suffering seek treatment from professionals who can help the individual to regain a sense of control over their life. Support groups, relaxation techniques and returning to recreational activities are also recommended ways to assist in recovery from PTSD symptoms.
It is very common that individuals involved in a car accident will experience anxiety, which can be present for weeks or even months after the accident. Anxiety has been found to significantly impact daily life.
Anxiety caused by a traumatic event, such as a car crash, can also cause the following:
- Phobias: These include the fear of driving or being in a vehicle, the fear of people or places related to the accident and the fear of being in another car accident.
- Panic Attacks: Panic attacks can be triggered by the sights or sounds of things that remind the individual of the accident.
- Sleep Disorders: Individuals that experience high levels of anxiety also tend to have sleep issues, which include fatigue, the inability to relax, frequent nightmares and flashbacks.
- Physical symptoms: These symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, chest pain, nausea and muscle tension.
If your anxiety symptoms fail to improve and continues to impact your daily life, work and relationships, it is best to contact your doctor. A mental health professional can help you learn coping mechanisms, provide support and may even prescribe medication to help reduce your symptoms.
Major Depressive Disorder
Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mental health issue that is often found in survivors of serious accidents.
Depression is a very serious issue and should be addressed by a professional as soon as possible. The following symptoms are signs of depression:
- Daily fatigue and lack of energy;
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
- Lack of enjoyment or interest in activities;
- Recurring suicidal thoughts;
- Decreased concentration;
- The inability to sleep or difficulty waking up;
- Irrational irritability or anger; and/or significant weight loss or gain.
Physical injuries of a car accident often limit the victim’s ability to work, exercise and enjoy daily activities. Being unable to partake in activities that you used to enjoy due to debilitating pain often leads to depression. In addition, the stress and concern that victims have due to financial difficulties caused by the crash can also trigger depression.
COMPENSATION FOR NON-PHYSICAL INJURIES
Although non-physical injuries are more challenging to litigate as judges and juries are more likely to award compensation to those suffering from visible injuries, there have been cases that demonstrate that victims should be awarded reasonable compensation for psychological injuries that lead to a loss of enjoyment of life.
The Supreme Court of Canada decision in Saadati v. Moorhead held that both physical and mental injuries should be equally compensated. Saadati suffered serious psychological injuries as a result of multiple car accidents. The court recognized “what is needed to establish mental injury is a serious and prolonged disturbance that rises above ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears”. This case determined that psychological injuries should be considered equal to physical injuries suffered by accident victims and compensated accordingly.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a serious accident and suffer from serious injuries, including PTSD, anxiety or depressive symptoms, you are entitled to fair compensation to help you recover from your injuries. To receive answers to any questions you may have, please contact the experienced and award-winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP to discuss your case today. For a free case evaluation, please contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 to make an appointment. We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.