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Mental Trauma After Car Accident: Symptoms, Treatment & Legal Rights

Mental Trauma After Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Mental trauma after a car accident is a very real and serious injury that, unfortunately, is often not given the attention it requires.   While physical injuries like broken bones are easy to see and treat and often resolve fairly quickly, a victims’ psychological suffering can last for years or even for a lifetime.

Mental trauma after a car accident is also frequently ignored or downplayed because many people still attach a stigma to psychological injuries like this one often being undiagnosed and untreated.  But the emotional cost and suffering of this injury is very real and often debilitating.  

What is mental trauma?

Mental trauma describes the mental health conditions or psychological or psychiatric injury that a person may suffer after having been involved in a collision. 

What to do for mental trauma after a car accident

If you suffered mental trauma after 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 psychological injury after a crash, 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 psychological injury 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 injury after a crash. 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 car accident was the cause of your mental trauma. 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 an automobile crash 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 psychological injury may be symptoms of a far more serious injury that may even become fatal if you don’t seek treatment right away. As a car accident lawyer, I’ve seen so many instances where people felt like they didn’t want to “complain” about their mental trauma, 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 mental trauma 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 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 mental trauma 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 crash. (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  8. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your motor vehicle crash: 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?

In Michigan, you start your claim for mental trauma 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 for mental trauma after a car accident?

Yes, you can sue for mental trauma after a car accident. If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to the psychological injury you suffered, 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 crash-related injuries, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the collision and that your psychological injury 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.


If a person is experiencing any of the following symptoms, then he or she may have suffered mental trauma after a car accident and should seek medical attention:

  • Feelings of anguish
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Mood swings
  • Bouts of anger
  • Difficulty controlling temper
  • Fearfulness
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of humiliation
  • Loneliness
  • Embarrassment
  • Crying
  • Sleep issues
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Losing appetite
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Compulsive or obsessive behaviors
  • Memory loss
  • Fearful of driving or being a passenger in a car


Two common forms of this psychological injury are:

  • Acute stress disorder – Sufferers of acute stress disorder experience significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • Adjustment disorder – This is stress-related psychological injury brought on by the stressful changes to a person’s life after he or she has been injured in a motor vehicle crash. Sufferers of adjustment disorder experience sensations of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, hopeless, depressed and anxious.

Treatment for mental trauma after a car accident

Treatment for mental trauma after a car accident can include psychiatric or psychological care, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Seek prompt medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you are suffering from mental trauma after a car accident, call now (800) 968-1001 for a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers. There is no cost or obligation. You can also visit our contact page or use the chat feature on our website.

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