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Counseling for Emotional Distress After an Accident

You’ve just been in a car accident and have luckily left the scene in one piece, not even a bruise or a scratch. Perhaps you were a pedestrian struck by a car, and you’ve sustained physical and emotional damages. Many people consider the “trauma” of car collisions to be purely physical, but any collision can have an adverse psychological effect. Traumatic memories can trigger long-term mental and emotional health conditions like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’ve experienced mental distress after a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation.

Damages classified as non-economic, such as emotional distress, are typically only awarded when severe physical injuries occur. Unlike a broken arm, there are no X-rays that a doctor can point to and prove someone is suffering from mental or emotional distress. Because emotional pain is one of the most difficult injuries to prove to insurance companies and in court, it is a good idea to seek the advice of one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. To learn more about how to substantiate a claim for psychological injuries and seek counseling for emotional distress, please read the sections below.

Psychological Impact After a Crash

When the human mind experiences a traumatic event such as being struck down by a vehicle, it goes into a heightened state of panic. Your body releases more stress hormones and attempts to ease itself within hours or days of the accident. If the anxiety fails to decrease after a few months, it is advisable to seek a mental health counselor. Because symptoms can take up to a month or more to manifest, delayed reactions to stress are emotionally debilitating. There is no right way to cope with a car collision’s psychological aftermath, and how most people cope with their emotional injuries varies substantially by case.

Some people do not experience emotional distress at all; however, general studies on motor vehicle accidents indicate that 9 percent of car crash survivors develop post-traumatic stress disorder. With almost 7 million crashes reported yearly, this means approximately 590,000 car accident survivors experience some form of emotional injury, whether it be depression, anxiety, mood swings, or the development of specific phobias. Having a valid emotional distress claim may indicate how someone’s actions caused you to suffer mental harm such as anguish, torment, anxiety, or insomnia. Pain like a headache is not a valid emotional distress claim. You must be able to prove that these feelings of distress are more than a fleeting moment and that the defendant’s actions are directly responsible for your feelings of despair.

Additionally, the distress must be medically significant enough to make a valid claim. Most states require you to prove that any physical injuries you’ve sustained are related to your emotional distress. It is essential to seek a mental health counselor’s help if you think you’re suffering from mental trauma after an accident caused by a motor vehicle.

Common symptoms and conditions of mental health stressors that may occur after a car collision include:

  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Inability to extract enjoyment from everyday activities
  • Withdrawal from social events or human interaction
  • Persistent mood swings, including feelings of anger or frustration
  • High levels of stress
  • Insomnia
  • New phobias developed, such as fear of driving or riding in a car
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Feelings of guilt or responsibility
  • Feeling sad or fearful

Psychological injuries resulting from traumatic events, such as car accidents, are prevalent, especially if the event happened unexpectedly or the victim felt they could have prevented it. These injuries often go undetected and sometimes untreated by mental health professionals, often leading to secondary complications, including relationships or work conflicts. In extreme cases, it can lead to the inability to function normally throughout your daily life. To cope, some individuals often abuse substances like drugs and alcohol. They may also exhibit issues with driving, being intimate with their partner, or functioning in their job. For these reasons, it is paramount to find a counselor that can guide through the process of mental health recovery.

Counseling After the Accident

Following an accident, it’s normal to experience emotional distress. During the healing process, you may begin to see increased signs of post-traumatic stress, have issues sleeping, or experience depressive mood swings. Intense emotions can feel debilitating and lead to an emotional avoidance or detachment from what’s important. If your post-traumatic symptoms begin getting in the way of your everyday activities, you should be prompted to take action. Finding a counselor who can instruct you in the best methods towards recovery can be immensely beneficial.

When asked if we’ve ever undergone a traumatic experience, many of us would not consider even mentioning a car accident that we were involved in years ago. People often associate trauma with the death of a loved one or a natural disaster, but trauma can be anything that deeply disturbs or distresses you. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, it is crucial to increase self-care and focus on the life aspects you can control. These feelings can lead to us neglecting our basic needs like getting exercise or catching up with friends. Your doctor may recommend medications to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress or depression, if needed.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has additional resources like webinars, educational materials, and a therapist finder to help you locate a mental health professional in your area. You might also visit the National Center for PTSD to learn more about treatment options. Additionally, underlying physical injuries caused by the accident might also be the real culprit affecting your emotional health. Going to a doctor to address physical injuries may be the first step towards emotional healing. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, stretching, controlled breathing, and other light exercises can help alleviate physical and emotional trauma in the aftermath of an accident.

Substantiating a Claim for Emotional Distress or Psychological Injuries

Seeking damages for emotional distress or psychological injuries can be difficult. Having a personal injury attorney can be tremendously beneficial for your case. Substantiating claims for emotional distress is not as simple as declaring that you’ve suffered psychological injuries. Proving that your recent fearful or anxious feelings directly result from the accident you were involved in is important. You can start by seeking a mental health professional. If necessary, obtaining referrals for more specific treatments, including counseling, therapy, and sometimes medication, can help prove your claims to the insurance company.

Keeping a journal and writing how you’re feeling while detailing your symptoms’ exact impact on your daily life can also be immensely helpful. Seek help from friends and family, avoid isolation, or ignore painful feelings. These are all great ways to substantiate the injury that’s taking a toll on your mental health.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

If you or someone you know has been injured due to another person’s negligence, our skilled attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers will guide you through the process of acquiring a fair amount of compensation for damages you have suffered, which include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We do not charge any fees until your case has been settled.

Call us today at (888) 979-9356 or email [email protected] to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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