Yes, a car accident can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. Sometimes the child experiences a very stressful event that is upsetting. Children are resilient, and most of them bounce back rather quickly from stressors. In extremely traumatic situations, however, the child can develop post-traumatic stress disorder that can last for months or even years.
PTSD in a Nutshell
A child can sustain PTSD either from getting injured in a car accident or from witnessing a gory or fatal crash. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that a child might receive a diagnosis of PTSD if he develops symptoms from the traumatic event that interfere with or upset his relationships and activities, and the signs last longer than a month.
Symptoms of PTSD in a Child
Every child is different, and someone with PTSD might exhibit only one or several of these symptoms:
- Avoidance of places or people that the child associates with the event. For example, the child might have a meltdown at the prospect of having to ride in a car.
- Refusing to admit that the event happened. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the child might be in denial as a coping mechanism because facing the reality is emotionally overwhelming.
- Being unable to feel typical emotions about what happened. The child might feel numb. This emotional response can add to the child’s distress, particularly if the person who sustained significant injuries or died was a close relative or friend.
- Acting “jumpy” and easily startled, as if on guard for possible threats. The child cannot relax and feel safe.
- Intense sadness, fear, irritability, or anger. The child might not understand why he feels or acts the way he does.
- Nightmares and other sleep problems are common with children after a traumatic experience. In a child with PTSD, the sleep issues continue long after the event. The child might struggle with insomnia, night terrors, and sleepwalking.
- Having an extreme emotional reaction to anything that triggers a memory of the accident. For example, if the wreck involved a blue car, he might start screaming, burst into tears, or run and hide at the sight of any blue car.
- Flashbacks and frequently playing the crash back in his head.
- A very young child might repeatedly reenact the collision with toy cars.
If your child displays any of these symptoms after a significant car crash, you should consider taking him for a professional evaluation.
How PTSD Can Affect a Child’s Life
We know that PTSD can turn an adult’s life upside-down, making it difficult to maintain employment and sustain personal relationships. It should not surprise us, then, that PTSD can have a profound impact on a child’s life.
We already mentioned the sleep issues that PTSD can cause for a child. This disorder can also affect the child in these ways:
- Emotional disturbances. The initial symptoms of PTSD can develop into chronic depression and anxiety.
- Behavioral issues. When the child’s emotions are out of control, he can act out in ways that are not typical for him. If a parent or other adult does not understand the underlying cause—the PTSD—the adult can misinterpret the child as misbehaving. Punishing the child for the PTSD symptoms can exacerbate the behavior and make the child feel more misunderstood.
- Trouble at school. When a child is suffering and overwhelmed with emotional responses, he can get in trouble at school. He might feel hopeless and see no point in doing his schoolwork, which can cause his grades to drop.
- Relationships. The child with PTSD might withdraw from friends and family. He might do this because he feels they cannot relate to what he experienced, or because he is afraid to care about anyone, in case they get killed in an accident.
- Self-medicating. Sometimes teens with PTSD will “self-medicate,” turning to drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy behavior in an attempt to either numb the emotional pain or be able to feel any emotions at all.
Damages for PTSD From a Car Accident
PTSD is a legitimate medical condition. Depending on the facts of your child’s case, he might have a claim for compensation when medical evidence supports the allegations.
How We Prove a PTSD Claim
Proving a claim of PTSD from a car accident is not as straightforward as, for example, showing that a person suffered a broken arm. There are no blood tests or imaging studies that can definitively diagnose PTSD.
The evidence we use to prove the PTSD can include the child’s medical records from his pediatrician and other professionals who treated the condition. Also, we can work with expert witnesses to explain your child’s PTSD to the judge and jury when needed.
How to Get Help for Your Child’s PTSD Claim From a Car Accident
At S. Burke Law, we care about you and your family. When your child is suffering from PTSD due to injuries after an accident or what he witnessed in an accident, a car accident lawyer will work hard to get you all the compensation you need to help him. Call us today at 404-842-7838 to get started. The consultation is free.