Is PTSD a Compensable Damage in a Car Accident Case?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who have lived through or witnessed a traumatic event such as a major car accident. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD after a car accident, you might be wondering whether or not you can file a claim for damages. Although car accident claims can include financial compensation for physical and psychological injuries, mental trauma is much more challenging to prove. If you were injured in a car accident through no fault of your own, our experienced Hampton personal injury attorneys can help you to help you prove your damages, including PTSD, and file a claim for compensation. Give us a call today to schedule your free case evaluation. 

What Are the Signs of PTSD?

Formerly known as battle fatigue or shell shock, this psychological condition was once thought to impact only those who bore witness to the atrocities of war. However, thanks to research conducted in the 1980s, we now refer to this condition as post-traumatic stress disorder and have come to understand that any traumatic event can trigger it. Sufferers usually experience symptoms such as severe anxiety, night terrors, and flashbacks. PTSD symptoms can take as long as a month to manifest and be serious enough to interfere considerably with a victim’s ability to work, socialize, maintain relationships, and carry out their daily tasks. The severity of the symptoms will vary from one victim to another. 

PTSD symptoms are divided into four distinct categories:


Avoiding certain situations, people, and places that remind them of the accident is common among crash victims experiencing PTSD. They may also avoid talking about and even thinking about the crash. Some may go so far as to change their daily routine for this very reason. For example, a car accident victim may stop driving to work and take the bus instead.  


Re-experiencing symptoms make PTSD victims feel as though they are reliving the collision. Unpleasant memories, nightmares, and flashbacks are all common symptoms of re-experiencing. These symptoms, especially flashbacks, are often accompanied by physical effects such as profuse sweating and rapid heartbeat. The National Institute of Mental Health states that re-experiencing symptoms can be incited by situations, objects, and even words.  

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms include negative thoughts about the world and oneself. The National Center for PTSD reported that people who experience cognitive symptoms often have a hard time trusting people and find it difficult to feel happy. They can also have a hard time remembering major parts of the accident and may feel guilty even if it was not their fault. 

Reactivity Symptoms (Hyperarousal)

Rather than being triggered by a specific situation or person, reactivity symptoms are constant. They often include feeling angry, stressed, easily startled, and jumpy. People experiencing these symptoms tend to have difficulty concentrating and sleeping and may begin engaging in risky or unhealthy behaviors such as drinking, drug use, or reckless acts. 

Feeling afraid following a traumatic event is normal. However, when someone experiences long-lasting symptoms, or whose symptoms have begun to affect their routines and relationships might be diagnosed with PTSD.  

Are Some People At a Higher Risk of Developing PTSD?

Yes, after a traumatic event, some people with certain risk factors, such as previous issues with depression or anxiety, are more at risk of developing PTSD and other forms of emotional trauma. Those who do not have the social and emotional support of family and friends or who are already struggling to cope with another trauma are also at an increased risk of developing PTSD.

What Compensation is Available for PTSD?

Receiving a formal diagnosis and keeping a journal about how the condition is impacting your everyday life is crucial to your recovery. The effects of PTSD are far less obvious than a head injury, broken bone, or other physical injuries related to a car accident. Fortunately, this obstacle can be overcome with the help of a Hampton personal injury attorney who has experience in handling claims involving PTSD. An attorney will use evidence that includes medical records and testimony from healthcare professionals to demonstrate how it has impacted your life and why it should be taken into account in any financial recovery.  

Psychiatric and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are only one element to consider when seeking compensation for a car accident. There are also economic damages like your hospital bills and lost income. With the help of a skilled attorney, you might also be able to recover for:

  • Lost earning potential if the accident left you permanently disabled
  • Out-of-pocket expenses related to your treatment  
  • Property damage
  • Therapy 
  • Wrongful death if a family member was killed in the accident

It is worth noting that although some states allow accident victims to recover for emotional distress due to negligence even without physical injury, Virginia is not one of them. 

All We Do Is Injury Law

If you were injured in a car accident and have since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, you may be eligible to pursue financial compensation for medical expenses related to your mental health as well as your emotional suffering. The experienced Hampton car accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you file a claim and build a strong case on your behalf. That is exactly what we did for one client when we secured a $235,000 settlement after she was struck by a negligent motorist a few weeks before her wedding. To schedule a free consultation regarding your potential car accident claim, call us at (833) 997-1774 or fill out the quick contact form on our website. We have offices in Hampton, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Norfolk.