The Psychological Impact of Car Accidents in Massachusetts and Throughout The Country

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a person is injured in a car accident every 10 seconds. Crashes affect approximately three million Americans annually. From fender benders to catastrophic collisions, car accidents can be costly.  Statistics show that motor vehicle accidents are the leading type of traumatic event for men, and the second most frequent trauma for women in the United States. The psychological effects of even the most minor accident may become debilitating over time. Anxiety, depression, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder are the most common conditions experienced by car accident victims. These issues may call for medical attention or time away from work.  Our Massachusetts car accident lawyers have seen how such a trauma can effect accident victims.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A recent study reveals that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects 10% to 45% of car accident victims. While feelings of fear, loss of control, anxiety, and stress are typical responses after any kind of trauma, they tend to dissipate over time. What differentiates PTSD from these other conditions is the long lasting or recurring nature of the symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Re-experiencing Symptoms – Often referred to as flashbacks, this is when a victim has episodes of physically and emotionally re-living the accident. This may also manifest through nightmares and other negative experiences.
  • Avoidance – This is a defense mechanism used to keep the victim from initiating memories of the crash. He or she may avoid the site of the crash, or any people involved that trigger anxiety.
  • Changing beliefs – A traumatic car accident may induce a shift in a victim’s perspective of people, activities, or self-image. This is usually considered as another avoidance mechanism. New feelings of fear, guilt, and shame are common.
  • Hyper-arousal – This is when an accident victim exhibits a nervous, hyper-alert state. He or she has trouble releasing tension and may have difficulty focusing or sleeping.

Researchers discovered that the combination of fear of dying and dealing with post-accident legalities and injuries increases a victim’s chance of developing PTSD. For this reason, those who have experienced a previous motor vehicle accident have a higher risk of developing PTSD.


After a traumatic experience, a victim may develop symptoms of “reactive depression.” These are typically short term psychological reactions to a harrowing situation evoking feelings of fear, shock, and loss of control. These symptoms may include the following:

  • Excessive sorrow
  • Emotional numbness
  • Fluctuating moods, including irritability, anxiety, indifference, or cynicism
  • Problems concentrating
  • Tendency to isolate from social situations
  • Fatigue and nausea
  • Uncharacteristic eating and sleeping habits
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol

Post-Traumatic Phobias

Fear instigated by a traumatic motor vehicle accident can subsequently become excessive and exaggerated, developing into a phobia. Phobias can be triggered by the site of the accident, a person involved in the accident, or even by simply riding in a car. Symptoms can become debilitating and may include:

  • Uncontrollable physical reactions including increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and trembling
  • Feelings of panic and terror
  • An understanding of the excessive nature of the fear, with an inability to gain control over it
  • Invasive, automatic thoughts that are extremely difficult to control.
  • Avoidance taken to extreme measures

Altman & Altman, LLP – Massachusetts’s Accident Injury Law Firm

While medical expenses and lost wages frequently result from traumatizing car accidents, many underestimate the lingering psychological effects. If you suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety, or phobias due to the negligence of another driver, Altman & Altman, LLP can help. Our experienced legal team of Boston car accident lawyers are committed to providing the personalized attention you deserve. We will examine every aspect of your case to provide the best possible legal solution. Altman & Altman, LLP has been providing legal services to the greater Boston area for nearly 50 years. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge of Massachusetts’s car accident liability laws. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

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