Psychological Effects of Car Accidents

woman with emotional trauma after an accident - Emotional Trauma after an Accident

When traffic accidents happen in New York, they frequently leave more than just physical scars. The trauma from a car crash can seep into our mental and emotional well-being, leaving invisible injuries that need care and attention. At Finz & Finz, P.C., we understand the profound impact such an event can have on your mental health, and we want to help you find your way toward healing. Your emotions are valid, and your recovery is just as crucial as any visible injury. Let’s explore the often unspoken mental health consequences of New York car accidents.

How Often Do Car Accidents Cause Mental Health Conditions?

According to one study of 188 car accident victims ages 18-70, about one-fifth of those studied suffered from an “acute stress syndrome” after the accident, and their symptoms often included mood issues and painful memories of the crash. While most of those studied improved in the year after the crash, about ten percent of crash victims had some mood disorder one year after the accident.

Mental Health Conditions Related to Car Accidents

Car accidents in New York can cause a range of mental health conditions, some of which are manageable and some of which can ruin someone’s life. Some of the most common mental health issues related to car accidents include:

  • Anxiety disorders: Following a traffic accident, victims may develop various anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or specific phobias – particularly vehophobia, the fear of driving. Day-to-day tasks might become more challenging as the mind is continuously mired in worry and fear. Victims may find it hard to concentrate on work or maintain productivity, as their thoughts might continually veer towards the traumatic event. Anxiety can also strain relationships, as loved ones may find it challenging to comprehend and respond to the person’s heightened fear and worry. In severe cases, victims might avoid driving or traveling in cars altogether, severely limiting their mobility and independence.
  • Depression: It’s not uncommon for people to develop depression after a traffic accident. This is not just a case of “feeling blue” but rather a genuine, diagnosable condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and a constant state of sorrow and despair. Physically, depression can cause symptoms like fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and even unexplained aches and pains. These symptoms can compound any physical discomfort from the accident, making the recovery process even more challenging.
  • Insomnia or nightmares: The connection between car accidents and subsequent sleep disturbances is a topic often shrouded in silence. Yet, it’s a reality that many accident victims face. Constant lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, decreased cognitive functioning, and mood changes. Simple tasks can become Herculean challenges as you grapple with tiredness and reduced focus. Nightmares, on the other hand, can leave you in a constant state of fear, exacerbating insomnia and creating a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and fear.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: Following a car accident, individuals with PTSD may relive the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares. They may also experience heightened emotional distress, physical reactions to reminders of the incident, and feel a general sense of being “on edge.” It’s also common for people with PTSD to avoid situations or reminders that might bring back memories of the trauma, including driving or even being a passenger in a car.
  • Traumatic flashbacks: Some people are plagued by intrusive, distressing flashbacks after surviving a car accident. These are sudden, vivid recollections of the traumatic event that feel like the accident is happening again. This sudden recall can be disorienting and may lead to avoidance behaviors as victims may begin to fear triggers that bring on flashbacks. Reliving the trauma can also reignite the fear and anxiety experienced during the accident. Flashbacks can also have a direct impact on your physical health. The stress response triggered by these flashbacks can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, heart palpitations, and chronic pain.

Pursuing Compensation for Mental Health Conditions After a Crash

You have the right to seek compensation for your mental and emotional distress after a New York car accident, but recovering this compensation is often challenging. First, you must work around New York’s no-fault car insurance laws, which say you can’t sue someone unless you have suffered a “severe injury.” According to state law, severe injuries include:

  • Any injury causing the permanent loss of an organ, member, function, or bodily system
  • Any injury that prevents you from performing your usual activities for at least 90 days in the six months following the crash
  • Bone fractures
  • Dismemberment, including the loss of part of a limb
  • Significant disfigurement

Even after demonstrating that you suffered a severe injury, you can’t recover compensation for your mental or emotional distress until you prove that the other driver caused the crash through their negligence. In a legal context, someone is negligent when they fail to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing an injury.

Furthermore, while you don’t have to have suffered a physical injury to recover compensation for mental or emotional distress, proving your case without an accompanying bodily injury is much more complicated. If you want to sue the other driver for your mental or emotional distress after a car accident, you’ll need help from a capable and experienced attorney.

How Finz & Finz, P.C., Can Help After a Car Accident

The New York City car accident lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C., understand that a collision’s mental and emotional toll can be just as severe as physical injuries, if not more so. We can help you recover compensation for your mental or emotional distress by:

  • Advocating for your rights and best interests in discussions with insurance companies
  • Connecting you with mental health professionals who can support your claim
  • Documenting and organizing all evidence related to mental health impacts
  • Ensuring you understand all aspects of the legal process related to your claim
  • Quantifying your mental or emotional distress in financial terms
  • Joining you in court proceedings, representing you and your interests
  • Making sure all filing deadlines for your claim are met
  • Structuring a legal strategy tailored to your unique situation

Our team is ready to fight for the compensation you deserve. Call us at (855) TOP-FIRM or complete our contact form for a free case evaluation.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.