Understanding the Relationship Between Car Accidents and PTSD

A motor vehicle accident is one of the most dangerous prospects of driving a car. People involved in traffic accidents are at risk of seriously injuring themselves and others around them. It is a traumatic event that puts those involved at an increased risk of psychological problems, particularly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®), PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may follow a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.

The aforementioned study found that the presence of PTSD in serious motor vehicle accidents at least 30 days post-accident is approximately 25 to 33 percent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 6.7 million police-reported motor vehicle accidents in the country in 2018 that resulted in more than 2.7 million injuries. A study published in the journal Medicine found that the prevalence of PTSD in survivors of motor vehicle accidents was 22.25 percent.

With that in mind, we’ve prepared this piece with an exploration into the relationship between motor vehicle accidents and PTSD.

Risk Factors for PTSD

There are various factors linked to increasing the risk of developing PTSD, including:

  • Experiencing significantly high levels of emotion during or immediately after the accident;
  • Experiencing dissociation during or immediately after the accident;
  • A history of prior trauma;
  • A lack of social support after the accident;
  • A family history of psychopathology;
  • A perceived threat to self or to others; and/or
  • Prior problems with psychological adjustment.

Signs You Need to Look for

It’s perfectly normal for someone to feel a variety of emotions like shock, confusion, guilt, grief, helplessness, and fear, following a motor vehicle accident. That said, if you or a loved one has developed PTSD, these feelings and emotions won’t go away over time, with a possibility that they may even get worse.

According to the DSM-5, a person may have developed PTSD after experiencing or witnessing trauma like a motor vehicle accident, and experience the following symptoms:

  • Feeling changes in emotional reactions;
  • Experiencing avoidance behaviors;
  • Mood and thoughts reflective of negative changes; and/or
  • Experiencing intrusive memories.

If you’ve been involved in a traffic accident in Chico, CA, it’s important that you get a reliable and experienced car accident attorney. Get in touch with our team at The Law Offices of Ron Marquez to learn how we can help you.


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