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Post-traumatic stress and my compensation claim

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after being involved in or witnessing a traumatic or distressing event, such as a road traffic accident. In some individuals, symptoms occur right away, or they can take months or even years to appear. If you have suffered PTSD after an accident then you could be entitled to claim compensation. PTSD is a common consequence of physical injuries, but even if you haven’t sustained any physical injuries you should be able to make a claim for mental and emotional trauma after your accident. Accident Advice Helpline has over 16 years’ experience handling claims for post-traumatic stress disorder compensation, and we’re here to make sure that you get the compensation you are entitled to if you are suffering.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life. Some sufferers experience periods where symptoms are less noticeable, followed by spells where they get worse, whilst for others consistent, severe symptoms are the norm. It’s estimated that around one in three people will be affected by PTSD after a traumatic experience. Most people suffer from an Acute Stress Reaction which will usually go away within a few weeks.

Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person but can include:

  • Nightmares and flashbacks of the incident
  • Lack of sleep or trouble staying asleep
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feeling detached from people and life generally
  • Alcohol/drug dependency
  • Chest and stomach pains, headaches
  • Hyperarousal, feeling constantly ‘on edge’
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Giving up activities you once enjoyed

Many sufferers also develop other mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and phobias, which can lead to problems at work and the breakdown of personal relationships. It’s not just adults who can be affected by PTSD either – children can also suffer from the condition, with common symptoms including bed-wetting and anxiety at being separated from a parent or adult.

What is the treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder?

If it has been more than a month since your accident or the incident which caused your trauma, and you are still experiencing symptoms, or if your symptoms are particularly troublesome, then it’s a good idea to see your GP for a diagnosis. If necessary, they can refer you to a mental health specialist who can assess your symptoms. For mild symptoms, a ‘watchful waiting’ approach may be helpful, where your symptoms are carefully monitored to see what happens. Two in every three people who develop issues after trauma will get better in a few weeks with no need for medical treatment. However, although treatment can still be effective after years of suffering from symptoms, in these cases you are unlikely to get better without seeking treatment.

Treatment is usually in the form of psychotherapy and/or medication. Psychotherapy can take the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) or group therapy. EMDR is one of the newest forms of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and can help to reduce symptoms. In severe cases, antidepressants may be prescribed – Sertraline and Paroxetine are both specifically licensed for PTSD treatment and a minimum course of 12 months is usually recommended.

Other helpful complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, Yoga, Tai Chi and physiotherapy may help with symptoms too.

How has PTSD affected your life?

If you have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder then you’ll need to inform the DVLA of your diagnosis, as symptoms can affect your ability to drive safely. If you work in a job where you need to drive on a daily or regular basis, this may mean taking time off work until you feel better. PTSD can also make it difficult to manage relationships at home as irritability and anger can accompany flashbacks and nightmares, and lack of sleep can impact your energy levels. Seeking treatment is vital if your PTSD symptoms are having an effect on your day-to-day life. You may also want to think about making a claim for personal injury compensation with Accident Advice Helpline. If somebody else was responsible for the accident which caused your PTSD, you could find yourself in a position to make a no win no fee personal injury claim, and you could be compensated for your pain, suffering and loss of earnings.

Are you at risk of PTSD?

Whilst not everyone will go on to develop PTSD symptoms after a stressful or traumatic event, there are certain groups of people who are more at risk than others. A survey of people in the UK revealed that three in 100 screened positive for PTSD. Of these people, one in five firefighters and one in three teenage car crash survivors suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Females are more prone to developing PTSD than males, and if you have previous mental health problems or a family history of mental illness then you are at an increased risk.

Claiming compensation for PTSD – what happens next?

The first thing to do is to ensure that you seek a diagnosis from your doctor or a mental health professional if you are suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Once you have been diagnosed you can start to get the treatment you need, and your doctor can provide useful medical evidence should you decide to pursue a claim for personal injury compensation. It’s worth noting that there’s a three-year time limit in place to make a claim, so you should get in touch with a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after your accident. If you decide to go ahead with a claim, you’ll ideally want to choose a solicitor who specialises in personal injury law, and that’s where Accident Advice Helpline can help you.

You can call our freephone helpline on 0800 689 5659 if you have suffered PTSD symptoms after an accident that wasn’t your fault. Our expert advisors will be able to talk you through the claims process and offer no-obligation advice that can help you decide whether or not to make a claim.