Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition commonly experienced by people subjected to traumatic experiences. Car accidents are one of the traumatic experiences that can trigger PTSD in adults and children. The events of a car accident, such as screeching tires, sirens, ambulance lights, flashing police lights, and shattered glass cause more trauma to children than adults. This means that children are more likely to develop PTSD after a car crash compared to adults.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has confirmed the susceptibility of children to developing PTSD after a car accident. According to the network, children are more likely to experience trauma after events like car crashes.
Scientific Studies on Child PTSD and Car Accidents
Studies have shown that 1 in 4 children hospitalized after a car crash show symptoms of PTSD. One cross-sectional study done through telephone surveys included parent drivers and children between the ages of 5 and 15 years as participants. The study found that 1.6 percent of children and 4.7 percent of parents involved in car crashes develop symptoms of PTSD. The study also found that sustained injuries and the subsequent medical care increased the likelihood of children developing symptoms of PTSD.
Factors that were found to contribute to the development of PTSD in parents include child injury, the severity of the crash, and the medical attention children receive after an accident. Studies show that 1.5 million children are involved in car crashes in the U.S. every year, and about 300,000 children sustain injuries from the same.
The Symptoms of Child PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD that children exhibit varies according to the age of the child and maturity level. Children of all ages can sustain severe trauma from car accidents. The symptoms of PTSD in very young children can manifest in different forms, and they include fear of darkness, separation anxiety, and bed-wetting.
Children who are old enough to attend elementary school at the time of the accident may show symptoms such as anger outbursts, change in behavior in school or social life, headaches, sleeping problems, and nightmares. Adolescents and pre-teen children with PTSD may show poor performance in school, anxiety, depression, or sleeping problems. Some teenagers involved in car accidents may develop a driving phobia, once they attain the driving age.
Children who exhibit the symptoms of PTSD after a car accident need urgent pediatric treatment and psychological counseling. This step is vital in preventing PTSD from developing into a severe mental condition.
Treating Child PTSD after A Car Accident
PTSD in children does not threaten their development because the condition is easily treatable if detected early. PTSD can be treated through different cognitive behavioral therapies and medication. The fundamental aspect of cognitive behavioral therapy is creating an environment that allows the child to talk about the accident freely and teaching the child coping skills to help the child deal with the flashbacks.
Play therapy can also be used to treat PTSD in children, although its use is not widespread. Play therapy is used sparingly to treat the symptoms of PTSD in young children. Play therapy uses games and activities like drawing to assist children to deal with traumatic memories linked to the accident.
Can Children Who Develop PTSD after A Car Crash Claim Monetary Compensation?
Proving that a child has developed a mental condition after a car accident can be an uphill task, especially in cases involving children too young to verbalize their emotions and feelings. Additionally, adjusters in insurance companies become skeptical when handling compensation claims that involve mental trauma.
In most cases, insurance companies try to avoid or do away with compensations awarded for mental trauma or treatment. The issue even becomes complicated by the fact that adjusters always aim at saving the insurance company money by paying as little compensation as possible in cases involving personal injury.
One of the ways insurance companies try to avoid or reduce the amount they pay as compensation is by identifying other potential causes of the mental condition. The insurance company may cite previous traumatic experiences such as the death of a loved one as the cause of PTSD. Prior treatments such as psychological counseling that a child underwent before the accident may also be cited as a cause of the PTSD.
For a child to receive compensation for the mental and emotional distress he/she underwent because of an accident, the attorney will have to prove that the motor vehicle accident caused the symptoms. One of the ways to determine such cases is introducing the testimonies of experts in mental health such as psychologists and psychiatrists. Mental health experts can examine the facts about the accident and link the PTSD to the car crash.
Even children who had pre-existing mental conditions such as anxiety or depression can claim compensation for psychological trauma after a motor vehicle accident. The mental health professional will have to prove that the accident worsened the pre-existing psychiatric conditions.
Therefore, children who have been involved in car accidents and have developed symptoms of PTSD may be eligible to file for and receive monetary compensation for mental damages under the law. The compensation recovered for personal injury can be used to pay for psychological, medical, or psychiatric treatment that is needed after a car crash. Children can also be compensated for the pain and suffering they experienced during the car accident.
Children can develop PTSD after an accident. The likelihood of children developing the disorder depends on the severity of the accident. The events of accidents such as flashlights, loud noise, debris, and blood can send children into shock, and increase their likelihood of developing PTSD. Moreover, the treatment and physical injuries children sustain after an accident also contributes to symptoms of PTSD.
The common signs of PTSD in children are fear, nightmares, bedwetting, difficulty sleeping, and avoiding events that remind them of the accident, for example, riding in a car. If a child shows symptoms of PTSD, then professional help should be sought immediately, so that the child receives treatment early. Most importantly, children can receive compensation for psychological damages they suffer because of the accident.