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Depression After Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Depression After Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Depression after a car accident is often both common and debilitating.  This mental condition can be caused by the trauma of being involved in a serious and life changing motor vehicle crash, or by the chronic pain and the many injuries suffered as a result.  

Either way, this psychological disorder can upend a person’s life.  It is often said that unlike many other injuries, this condition can take on a life of its own and create its own vicious downward spiral for many of the people who suffer from it.  Prompt diagnosis and treatment for this mental condition is crucial.

It’s essential that victims know what this psychological disorder is, what the symptoms are and what treatment options are available so they can better and make a full medical recovery.  This can also help you to protect your legal rights, including your ability to obtain No-Fault insurance benefits to pay for medical bills and lost wages, and to recover pain and suffering and other economic damages.

What is depression after a car accident?

Depression after a car accident is a medical illness that involves both the mind and the body.  It can affect the way a victim thinks, feels and behaves.  Victims who suffer from this condition often experience sadness and apathy, which interferes with their lives.

What to do for depression after a car accident

If you suffered depression after a car accident, follow these steps:   

  1. Get examined immediately: Time may be of the essence. When it comes to properly diagnosing the cause of the depression after a car accident, the sooner a person gets the proper diagnostic tests and medical treatment for these symptoms, the sooner they can rule out a potentially life-threatening injury. As an injury lawyer, I always advise people that the sooner they can get the necessary and appropriate medical care, the sooner they can get back on the road to good health and a full recovery, but with this mental condition the key is to rule out a much more serious injury as soon as possible. 
  2. Get medical treatment and get a referral for the appropriate diagnostic imaging to detect and diagnose if you have suffered from this psychological disorder. A doctor can’t treat you until he or she knows what is causing these symptoms, and the appropriate diagnostic testing – often a CT scan – will enable your doctor to prescribe the best course of treatment for you and make the appropriate referrals for you. 
  3. Early documentation always makes it easier to avoid future problems with your own insurance company. Early medical documentation, such as in an emergency room or as soon as possible with your family doctor, will prove to a health insurance company or a No-Fault insurance company that the crash was the cause of this psychological disorder. If it does turn out to be a more serious injury, you’ve documented the early symptoms and again will be able to avoid many of the problems that arise when an insurance company is denying a causal relationship and refusing to pay for medical treatment. Early treatment and medical documentation create the temporal relationship that insurance companies will be looking for when they are being asked to pay for necessary medical care. 
  4. Showing a clear temporal relationship between a motor vehicle collision and the documentation of treatment for a condition or injury also makes it easier to get a full and fair legal settlement for your injury when it is caused by another driver’s carelessness or negligence behind the wheel. Delays in seeking treatment hurt your ability to get better faster and make a good recovery, but it also often makes it harder for your attorney to get a reluctant insurance company to pay for your treatment and makes it harder to get a fair legal settlement after your crash.
  5. Don’t try to “tough it out”: this mental condition may be symptoms of a far more serious injury that may even become fatal if you don’t seek treatment right away. As a lawyer, I’ve seen so many instances where people felt like they didn’t want to “complain,” but within days or weeks what they thought would be a minor injury or something that would go away becomes far more serious.  
  6. Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people injured in car accidents. Most experienced lawyers have helped people suffering from depression after a car accident. The initial call is always free so at the very least you will be informed as to what your insurance company is responsible to pay and what medical help and wage loss you are entitled to. An attorney can also help you review your medical records as well as the treatment and care you’re receiving to make sure bills are getting paid and they will use a car accident settlement calculator to help you assess what your case might be worth if your pain and disability was caused by another driver’s negligence or carelessness. 
  7. Tell your auto insurance company about your depression after a car accident. If you live in Michigan, make sure to include this in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the accident.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  8. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your motor vehicle collision: Until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests, do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.

How to claim for depression after a car accident

In Michigan, you start your claim for depression after a car accident by filing an application for No-Fault benefits with the responsible auto insurance company, according to the No-Fault law’s “priority” rules. The No-Fault insurer will pay for your medical bills and your lost wages if you cannot return to work.

Can I sue?

Yes. If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to the mental condition you have suffered and may be continuing to suffer, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills, attendant care, medical mileage, replacement services and lost wages because your injuries have prevented you from returning to work.

You can also sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your motor vehicle collision-related injuries, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the crash and that your mental trauma constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under our auto law.

Additionally, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for other economic damages, such as excess and future medical bills and lost wages.

Can you get depression after a car accident?

Yes. A person can get depression after a car accident. Both the stress and anxiety of being in an accident and the injuries, pain and disability that result from these traumatic events can cause victims to suffer from this mental condition. 

Is it normal to get it after a motor vehicle collision?

Yes, getting this psychological disorder is normal after a collision. It is a common and frequent medical condition that many victims are forced to struggle with and overcome.

It can be caused by the trauma of the accident, the injuries and pain that a person suffers and/or the disability that results from a person’s motor vehicle crash-related injuries. 

Pain can wear a person down, interfering with sleep, causing stress and, thus, affecting his or her mood.

Similarly, when accident-related injuries prevent a person from working, participating in family events, playing with their children and exercising, this can have a depressing effect on the person.

Additionally, this condition is the frequent result of the stress and anxiety that comes with dealing with injuries, seeking medical care and treatment, and worrying about one is going to support one’s family when injuries prevent a prompt return to work.

Types

There are three main types of depression after a car accident:

  • Major depression with psychotic features – This type involves reduced contact with reality, which is referred to as psychosis. Symptoms include false beliefs (delusions) or seeing or hearing something that isn’t really there (hallucinations).
  • Major depression with melancholic features – This type usually involves features that are primarily seen in strictly biologically-based. 
  • Major depression with atypical features – This type involves atypical features such that sufferers can experience an improved mood as a result of positive events occurring in their environment.

Symptoms of depression after a car accident

Symptoms can vary from person to person. But if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, then you may be suffering from this mental condition and you should seek medical attention:

  • Feelings of sadness, unhappiness, and emptiness most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, normal activities most of the day, nearly every day
  • Significant changes in appetite nearly every day
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping nearly every day
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Fatigue, tiredness or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt nearly every day
  • Trouble thinking, speaking, and concentrating nearly every day
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason

Diagnosing

To be diagnosed with this psychological disorder after a motor vehicle collision, a victim must be experiencing symptoms severely enough that it causes noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others.

A physical exam and a psychological evaluation can assist doctors in determining whether a victim has suffered depression after a car accident.

Treatment

The treatment options available for depression after a car accident include:

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – This treatment, which is used when other options have not produced the desired results, involves sending electrical currents through the brain
  • Hospitalization and residential treatment programs
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) – This treatment involves a “surgically implanted pulse generator” that uses electrical impulses to affect mood centers in the brain
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) – Like VNS, DBS uses “surgically implanted electrodes” to affect the mood center of the brain
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – TMS uses strong magnets to stimulate the parts of the brain that affect mood

Need help for depression after a car accident? Call the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

If you have suffered depression after a car accident and would like to speak to an experienced injury attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.

Depression