Mental & Emotional Distress After a Car Accident

We all know that car accidents can cause serious physical injuries, but what about mental and emotional distress after a car accident? Whether it’s a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury, most people understand that car accident physical injuries can result in life-long disability.  However, those involved in car accidents can also suffer serious and debilitating psychological injuries, such as mental and emotional distress after a car accident.

According to one study, 21-67% of people involved in a car accident experience depressive mood, 47% experience elevated levels of anxiety, and 20-40% experience some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The truth is, a car wreck can be a highly traumatic event that leaves mental and emotional scars long after physical injuries have healed. 

What Is Mental and Emotional Distress?

Mental and emotional distress are not medical terms but rather catch-all terms that describe psychological injuries in the context of a lawsuit.  Just like physical injuries, psychological injuries can be relatively minor and temporary or can be debilitating and long-lasting. 

Common Mental and Emotional Issues After a Crash


Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and is a normal part of life.  Anxiety may induce alertness, restlessness, fear, and apprehension in a person.  We’ve all experienced it.  However, an anxiety disorder involves the body’s response to everyday situations that are not normally stress-inducing.   

Anxiety Word Cloud for Car Accident

Because anxiety disorders are sometimes caused by traumatic events, it’s easy to understand why people involved in car accidents suffer from anxiety.  The anxiety may become so severe that a person is unable to get into a car, let alone drive. 

Symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Nervousness, restlessness, or tenseness
  • Strong sense of fear or impending doom
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Fast heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak, tired, or light-headed
  • Intrusive
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of panic
  • Digestive issues

Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

Major depressive disorder, or more simply “depression,” is the incessant feeling of intense and extreme sadness over extended periods of time.  These depressive feelings can and often do interfere with a person’s ability to perform basic, day-to-day activities. 

Similar to anxiety, depression can be caused by traumatic events such as car accidents. 

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Depressed mood or unexplained sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Restlessness
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Scattered thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts or self-harm
  • Feelings of guilt or unworthiness

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychological disorder suffered after a traumatic event.  Our bodies naturally produce an intense “fight or flight” response during a traumatic event.  However, a person suffering from PTSD will continue to experience episodes of that “fight or flight” response well after the traumatic event has ended. 

PTSD brain cloud for car accident

Car accidents can be extremely traumatic events.  They’re jarring, life-threatening events surrounded by confusion and uncertainty.  That’s why PTSD is a common injury following a car accident. 

Symptoms of PTSD may include:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Bad dreams
  • Intrusive and frightening thoughts
  • Anger management issues
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling on edge or tense
  • Inability to sleep or restlessness
  • Avoiding triggering places, events, or people

If you are experiencing any psychological symptoms after a car accident or other traumatic event, you should seek help as soon as possible. 

Mental and Emotional Distress without Physical Injury

While mental and emotional distress following a car accident usually involves a physical injury, that is not always a case.  That’s because the root cause of anxiety, depression, and PTSD is the traumatic event itself and not necessarily a physical injury. 

Think about it.  If you’ve just been involved in a serious car accident, your adrenaline is pumping and you’re trying to process what just happened.  You might not even know if you’re injured or how serious your injuries are.  Maybe you’re trapped or you might not be able to feel or move an arm or a leg.  You may not know if you will live or die.  There is usually a great deal of uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of a serious car accident.  Thus, even if you haven’t suffered a physical injury, you could still suffer from mental and emotional distress after a car accident. 

Compensation for Mental and Emotional Distress after a Car Wreck

Compensation is available for those suffering mental and emotional distress after a car accident.  That’s true even if such mental and emotional distress does not rise to a diagnosable disorder.  Again, car accidents can be extremely traumatic and almost invariably produce temporary distress that is compensable under the law.

Patient being diagnosed with mental health issue from emotional distress after car accident

However, if the mental and emotional distress suffered after a car accident rises to the level of a diagnosable disorder, it’s important to make sure that appropriate treatment is sought.  The costs of that treatment, including medical bills, can be recovered in a car accident lawsuit.  In addition, if a person’s anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other psychological disorder causes temporary or permanent disability, compensation for loss of wages, income, and spousal and parental support may be available.

What a GKT Car Accident Attorney Will Do

The best car accident lawyers understand that not all injuries can be seen with our eyes.  A knowledgeable and experienced car accident lawyer will take into account the mental and emotional trauma suffered by their clients and make sure their clients receive the compensation they deserve. 

Perhaps more than that, the best car accident lawyers know that their clients aren’t just a name on a file.  At GKT, we understand that our car accident clients are real people with real struggles. Our car accident attorneys know that recovering after a car accident is challenging and difficult, and you can expect to be treated with empathy and compassion.  Our car accident attorneys will do everything we can to alleviate the stress of the car accident so that you can focus on what is most important—your family and recovering from the accident. You can trust GKT to help you. 

Attorney Chris Turak talking with client after car accident

GKT’s Car Accident Lawyers Can Help

If you’ve suffered emotional or mental issues after a car accident in West Virginia or Ohio, our local car accident lawyers can help you.  The car accident lawyers at GKT are always available for a free consultation, and we never collect a fee unless we make a recovery for you.  Contact a GKT car accident lawyer today online, by 24/7 Live Chat, or by phone at (304) 845-9750. 

Christopher M. Turak Attorney Headshot

Christopher Turak

Car Accident Attorney

Christopher Turak is a partner and car accident lawyer at Gold, Khourey & Turak.  His practice includes wrongful death and personal injury, with a special commitment to representing victims injured or killed by drunk or impaired drivers.  Chris has received an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is their highest peer rating standard.  This rating signifies that Chris is ranked at the highest level of professional excellence for his legal expertise, communication skills, and ethical standards.