The effects of being injured in a serious car accident can linger long after physical injuries have healed. If you are suffering from anxiety that is interfering with your ability to work or perform the activities of daily living, you may be entitled to personal injury compensation.
The Risk for Anxiety Disorders After a Car Accident
It is normal to experience some degree of anxiety immediately after a car accident, but feelings that persist may indicate an anxiety disorder. The risk of developing an anxiety disorder after a car accident can be attributed to a number of factors. These include:
- Suffering from permanently disabling injuries in the accident
- Watching someone else lose his life or become permanently disabled as the result of the accident
- A history of mood disorders
- Exposure of past trauma such as abuse, natural disasters, or being the victim of a crime
- Lack of social support from friends and family
Symptoms of Anxiety
The most common symptoms of anxiety after a car accident include:
- Trouble with concentration and memory
- Flashbacks of the accident
- Fear and panic triggered by sights or smells such as the sound of screeching brakes or gasoline
Anxiety can also cause a number of physical symptoms that may initially be misdiagnosed due to the trauma you have suffered. These include:
- Stomach upset
- Pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
- Uncontrollable shaking or trembling
In severe cases, people with anxiety can have episodes of intense panic or fear that cause them to believe they are dying. These episodes, also known as panic attacks, are often mistaken for heart attacks. However, the symptoms generally peak within about 10 minutes and rarely last for more than 30 minutes.
Anxiety is primarily treated through cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy that focuses on addressing anxiety by modifying dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Exposure therapy, a treatment where patients are gradually exposed to situations that trigger episodes, may also be used if anxiety is interfering with the ability to drive or travel.
Medication may be used in some cases, although the potential for side effects means that you must be carefully monitored. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the most common types of medications used to treat people with anxiety.
In addition to therapy and medication, self-care strategies that can help treat anxiety include:
- Setting a strict bedtime routine to promote healthy sleep habits
- Getting regular exercise
- Doing deep breathing and mindfulness meditation exercises
- Journaling about your feelings
If driving continues to trigger anxiety, a therapist may recommend taking a course for adult drivers. A refresher on driving safety can help you feel more empowered and better prepared to get behind the wheel.
Receiving Compensation for Anxiety
Personal injury settlements can include compensation for lost wages, pain, and suffering. Anxiety disorders can affect your settlement in several ways:
- Cost of therapy and prescription medications
- Lost wages if you have been unable to work due to severe anxiety
- Pain and suffering compensation to reflect the ways anxiety has affected your ability to enjoy hobbies and relationships with loved ones
Since anxiety disorders aren't immediately apparent in the same way that broken bones, burns, or lacerations would be, keeping careful documentation is essential. You should keep copies of all medical records and bills you receive, as well as records from your employer to document lost wages. Journal entries detailing how your anxiety has affected your daily life can also prove helpful in documenting the extent of your pain and suffering.
Witness testimony often plays a vital role in corroborating claims involving anxiety disorders. Your therapist can testify on your behalf, as well as your employer, family, and any friends who have seen specific examples of how your anxiety impacts your ability to function throughout the day.
The Value of Experienced Legal Representation
An attorney is not required in a personal injury claim, but having someone to advocate for your interests helps ensure that you receive the highest possible settlement for your anxiety disorder. Your attorney can document your damages and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
The award-winning legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault has extensive experience protecting the rights of Louisiana residents who've been injured in accidents caused by another party's negligence. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.