If you are in an auto accident, you probably expect to have broken bones, lacerations or bruising. These are injuries that are easy to document, and that your attorney will include in your personal injury case. A common, but often overlooked, effect of being in a car accident is the stress and fear that such an experience can cause. Because stress is hard to measure and is, in varying degrees, a part of everyday life for just about everyone, your reports of an increase in your stress level may or may not be included in your case.
Immediately After Your Accident
In the first hours and days after your auto accident, particularly if it was severe and you had injuries requiring medical care, it would be unusual not to have stress. It's disconcerting to be in the emergency room (possibly after an ambulance ride) and to have to meet with doctors and have x-rays, MRIs and other diagnostic tests. If your pain is not being controlled well or if you find out that you need surgery or extensive rehabilitation, that is stressful. Also, working with the car insurance company to have your car repaired or replaced is not a stress-free proposition. This type of stress is to be expected after a car accident and is not necessarily going to be mentioned as part of your personal injury case.
As Time Passes After the Accident
If, as time goes on, you're experiencing significant stress that interferes with your life, this is something to mention to your attorney. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can occur after a severe car accident. PTSD occurs when your brain is unable to shut off the chemicals, anxieties and reactions that are appropriate during a dangerous event, but not afterward. Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months of an incident, but might crop up years later.
The symptoms of PTSD include reliving the car accident over and over, nightmares, avoiding driving or avoiding the area where the accident took place, and feelings of guilt or depression. You might feel fine much of the time but experience debilitating symptoms during times of unrelated stress.
Being Compensated for PTSD
Because stress is not measurable by any objective standard, it can be difficult to receive appropriate compensation as part of your personal injury settlement or award. If you think you may have this disorder, it's vital that you see a psychiatrist or other expert who can not only diagnose you with PTSD, but also provide expert testimony in a court of law if your case goes to trial.
Be sure to keep track of ways that your excessive stress levels have impacted your life. For example, if you are no longer able to perform certain duties of your job because you panic or have flashbacks, this is information that your attorney should have.
Keep in mind that because PTSD can arise over time, it might be in your best interest to wait before settling your case. Talk to your attorney about whether it's advisable to settle within months of your accident; remember that once you settle, it's nearly impossible to reopen the case if you experience more negative effects from your accident.
Being involved in an automobile accident is disturbing and can cause different manifestations of stress in different people. If you have been in a car accident and you feel that your stress levels have increased markedly and over the long term, do not keep this feeling to yourself. Seek out the services of a mental health professional who can help you work through these issues, and be sure to keep your personal injury attorney in the loop so you can be compensated for your mental anguish and bills for treatment.
For more information, go to websites of local auto accident attorneys.