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The Impact of Emotional Shock After a Car Accident


It happens in a second before you can react. The sound and the sight – it is a moment you’ll never forget, though you wish you could.The emotional shock after a car accident is especially profound if there are injuries, death, and/or a property loss.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports at least one percent of the population in the U.S. will experience emotional shock after a car accident every year.

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder and may involve re-experiencing the trauma of the crash, including dreams, obsessive thoughts, a reluctance to drive again, irritability, disturbed sleep, and feelings of detachment.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and brief supportive psychotherapy are all recommended by the APA to avoid a lifelong chronic condition of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

PTSD is the most frequent mental disorder that results in trauma after a car accident for both men and women.

Consider the facts:

  • Injury – There were 948 fatal car accidents in Alabama in 2017, according to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Car accidents are the leading cause of death among all Americans and Alabama has a rate of death per 100,000 population (13.7) almost twice the national rate (7.0).  

The good news is that Alabamans wear their seat belts more often than the national average (90% vs. 86%).

  • Shock – Your first emotions after a car accident will likely be shock that it could even happen to you. Even though your chance of being in a car accident is about one in 77 in your lifetime, shock is still a common feeling.

    Up to 30 days post motor vehicle accident, PTSD is reported in 25-33% of the population, studies show.

  • Guilt – If your car accident led to loss of life you may be feeling overwhelming guilt. Even if you are not to blame, you were one of the vehicles present and had you not been in that place at that time, the accident would not have occurred.  Add to that, the culpability of your share of the accident. Even if you were just 10% to blame, that can weigh heavily on you.

  • Blame – As your emotions grow following a car accident you may be thinking more seriously about who is the at-fault driver. Alabama is an at-fault state so whoever was negligent will carry the burden of the cost of the accident and will forever be blamed for injuries and the loss of life. That will carry over into the financial burden of that loss as well.
  • Anger and Anxiety – There is no doubt that a car accident will cost you. The average Alabama car accident costs thousands and will leave you anxious about who will pay for your injuries and your loss of property. Add to that the loss of time at work as you heal from your injuries.

    The anger and anxiety from your accident may make you reluctant to get behind the wheel again.

Pain and Suffering and Personal Injury Lawsuits

After a car accident you have a few options.  If it was serious, the police would have arrived at the scene.  Those medically in need will be taken to the nearest hospital. It’s always a good idea to be checked out in case you may not be aware of your injuries because you are still in shock.

To seek compensation for your medical expenses and your lost property, you have the option of alerting your own auto insurance carrier, contacting the other driver’s insurance, or filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Under Alabama’s contributory negligence rule, you can be barred from recovering compensation for your injuries if you are found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident.  In other words, if it is determined that you are even 1% at fault for the auto accident that caused your injuries, you could lose out on the compensation you need and deserve.

This is one of many reasons it is important to speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident.  A lawyer can thoroughly analyze your case and advise you of your legal rights and options.  And if you decide to retain legal counsel, they can go to work immediately to help protect and preserve your right to recover damages for your injuries.

The qualified and experienced Alabama car accident attorneys at Smith & McGhee invite you in for a complimentary consultation at their Dothan Alabama office. Contact us at 334-702-1744 so we can start advocating on your behalf.