Victims of a car crash, deal with physical injuries and property damage, psychological trauma may also be present as discussed in this month’s conversation on PTSD after a car accident. Children are no different, but it can be much harder to diagnose whether they’ve developed PTSD. Clinical psychologist Dr. Melissa Goldberg-Mintz discussed how kids experience and demonstrate trauma in her book, Has Your Child Been Traumatized?
Dr. Goldberg-Mintz states that “When the symptoms (of PTSD) don’t resolve, or maybe even get worse, we can confidently say that a child has been traumatized.” Even if the child was not personally harmed in the crash, they might suffer psychological effects that must be considered in a personal injury claim.
Recognizing PTSD symptoms in children after a car accident is only one step in proving it to an insurance company or jury. Caregivers must collect documentation showing how the child has been affected in a measurable way. This supports a claim for compensation for non-economic damages that the child has suffered.
How PTSD is Defined
PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is defined as an anxiety disorder that develops after a significant traumatic event. It is most often seen in the weeks and months following an experience such as a car crash. In some instances, symptoms may not appear until six months or more after the event.
When a child experiences a car accident within their formative years (0-8 years of age), they may incorporate the trauma into their psyche and be affected for life. Careful diagnosis and therapeutic treatment are needed to assist the child in recovering, which could take years.
PTSD can result in victims who avoid anything that reminds them of the event, including discussions with parents or medical providers. The disorder can affect how children play, learn, interact with family and friends, and respond to their basic needs. Finding experts to help the child heal can be expensive and time-consuming.
PTSD Symptoms Vary Widely Among Victims
Even if two children were in the same car crash, they might exhibit vastly different reactions to the event. In fact, one child may suffer trauma while the other recovers quickly and does not develop PTSD. In addition, minors of different ages will show different signs. Common symptoms of PTSD in children include:
- Separation anxiety from parents or other family members
- Clinginess or fear of being out of sight of their parents
- Increase or decrease in communication
- Change in school performance
- Skipping school or other activities
- Regression to behaviors such as bed-wetting
- Insomnia or sleeping excessively
- Changes in appetite
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities
- Flashbacks about the event
- Sudden obsession with the death of themselves or loved ones
- Avoiding places or situations that trigger memories of the crash
- Dissociating from reality
Teenagers may engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, aggressive actions, or begin to abuse alcohol or drugs. Children of any age may also suffer or claim to suffer headaches or stomach aches, which could be from internalized stress or an attempt to avoid interacting with others. They can also develop mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Diagnosing and Proving PTSD Symptoms in Children
Children who have been in a car accident need psychological care as well as medical care for their injuries. Scheduling consultations with a pediatric psychologist or psychiatrist will allow the parents to determine if a child is demonstrating any PTSD symptoms. Parents can also report any changes they observe at home to the doctor.
Diagnosis is made if the symptoms occur for one month or longer and negatively affect the child’s life and how they function. Even if the child keeps themselves busy with schoolwork, hobbies, and friends, they may be doing so to avoid thinking about the traumatic event. Collecting a timeline and notes of all symptoms will support a diagnosis for further treatment and strengthen a compensation claim.
Treatment plans and progress notes also demonstrate the validity of a PTSD claim, along with receipts for medications and therapy visits.
Seeking Compensation for a Child’s PTSD After a Car Accident
PTSD can take a tremendous toll on the lives of children and their caregivers. In addition to the initial evaluation and treatment, children may need therapy for years to overcome flashbacks, triggers, and emotional setbacks. Family members ensuring their child has the best of care can wind up with high medical bills.
A valuable way to calculate the full list of losses suffered when a child develops PTSD is to speak with an attorney who specializes in these cases. They can collect evidence and documentation that supports a range of economic and non-economic damages.
Parents may lose income when they are out of work from their own injuries. They may also need to miss work to care for the child suffering from PTSD. In addition, a teenager may be so dramatically affected that they cannot work. They may even be unable to take a job in a certain field if the effects of their PTSD linger into adulthood.
Compensation typically includes any medical bills resulting from the crash itself, but some children can turn to self-harm or substance abuse due to PTSD. Treatment for these issues can potentially be included in compensation.
Seeking a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD for the child can cost a lot of money. Depending on the child’s ability to recover, treatment can last for months or even years.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Along with isolation and loss of society, children may experience a loss of enjoyment of life. When they are unable to enjoy hobbies, time with friends, or attend school, their condition can worsen. Parents may need to drastically change their schedules to accommodate the child’s care and needs.
Pain and Suffering
While hard to measure, the pain and suffering after a car accident are nonetheless very real. Asking the child to share a personal pain journal or diary entries can provide a window into the way they have been affected by their PTSD. Notes from mental therapy sessions can also corroborate the child’s journal entries.
Helping a Child Who Has Developed PTSD After a Car Accident
While medical and psychiatric care is essential, there are a number of things family members and parents can do to support the needs of their child with PTSD. It is important to focus on their individual needs, which can change from day to day. Some ways to help the child cope include:
- Listening to the child as they talk about their feelings and concerns, with minimal interruptions or judgment
- Frequently reminding the child that they are safe
- Increasing opportunities for the child to spend time with supportive friends and family members
- Maintaining normal routines, adjusting them as needed as the child recovers.
- Being aware that each child may react differently to the same accident
In many cases, the parents themselves may be experiencing the same concerns and feelings as the child. Sharing those feelings within age-appropriate limits can help the child feel less alone.
If you are looking to recover damages for PTSD from a car accident, call the firm today at 504-526-2222 or contact us online so that you can set up a consultation.