When we think of PTSD, we may think that it is something that happens mostly to veterans of wars, victims of assault and abuse, or a parent losing a child. However, PTSD can happen to anyone who has been a part of any traumatic event, and one of the most common causes of PTSD are actually vehicle accidents, especially truck accidents.
Being in an accident with a truck is a terrifying incident, and often leaves the victim with catastrophic injuries that may affect them for the rest of their lives. It is only natural to be traumatized by such an event. In personal injury lawsuits, while you may know that you can seek compensation for your physical injuries and the hospital bills accrued for your treatments, you can and should also seek compensation for your emotional injuries as well.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur in response to a traumatic event, such as being in a truck accident. It’s characterized by a range of symptoms and emotional responses that persist long after the traumatic incident has occurred.
PTSD can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. It can also manifest months or even years after the traumatic event. Seeking professional help from mental health experts, such as therapists or psychiatrists, is essential for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment often includes psychotherapy (talk therapy), medications, or a combination of both to help individuals cope with and recover from the effects of PTSD.
What are the symptoms?
- Recurrent intrusive memories. Individuals with PTSD may experience distressing and intrusive memories of the truck accident. These memories can be vivid and may include mental images, thoughts, or flashbacks of the traumatic event. These intrusive memories can be triggered by various reminders, such as seeing a truck on the road or hearing loud noises that resemble the accident.
- Distressing dreams. Nightmares related to the accident can be a common symptom of PTSD. These dreams often replay the traumatic event, such as a moment of impact of the effects on the vehicle as the truck hits it.
- Avoidance. People with PTSD may go to great lengths to avoid anything that reminds them of the accident. This avoidance behavior can include avoiding driving, refusing to ride in vehicles, steering clear of highways, or even avoiding conversations about trucks or accidents. When the truck driver is the victim, it can mean being unable to go back to work.
- Changes in mood and cognition. PTSD can lead to mood swings or persistent negative changes in a person’s thoughts and feelings. This might manifest as feelings of guilt, self-blame, or a distorted sense of responsibility for the truck accident. Affected individuals may also develop a pessimistic outlook on the world, feeling as if the world is an unsafe and hostile place.
- Detachment and emotional numbing. Emotional numbing is another hallmark of PTSD. People may find it challenging to experience positive emotions and may feel emotionally detached from loved ones. They might describe feeling “numb” or emotionally distant.
- Increased arousal and reactivity. PTSD often leads to heightened arousal and reactivity to potential threats. Individuals may be easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements, experience irritability, and have difficulty concentrating. This can affect the way they drive or behave as passengers, which could increase the risk of being in another crash.
- Negative physical reactions. People with PTSD may experience physical symptoms when reminded of the truck accident, such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, or sweating. These reactions can be triggered by seemingly innocuous stimuli associated with the trauma.
- Hyper-vigilance. A state of constant vigilance or hyper-awareness of the surroundings is common in PTSD. Individuals may be on high alert for potential dangers on the road, while entering or exiting a vehicle, or even when walking by a truck.
While these symptoms are common in PTSD, not everyone with the condition will experience all of them, and the severity can vary. Additionally, the onset of symptoms can occur shortly after the truck accident or may be delayed, sometimes emerging months or even years later.
Is PTSD a compensable injury in Mississippi?
It depends on what caused the PTSD. In a truck accident case, yes – PTSD is compensable. This is because a condition like this can affect your claims for:
- Medical expenses. PTSD isn’t like a broken bone, where you have a rough estimate as to when it will heal. It can take a victim months, years, or maybe a lifetime to heal in some capacity. SThis means long-term therapy and care.
- Lost wages. One of the more insidious aspects of PTSD is that it robs you of your daily routine, including going to work. Some people cannot bring themselves to get back into a vehicle and commute to work; others may have positions where there are constant triggers. Imagine, for example, being a professional driver – commercial trucks, Uber, a school bus, etc. – and having a flashback every time you get behind the wheel. Or imagine working in a kitchen and having a flashback of the crash every time someone drops a pan.
- Pain and suffering. Emotional and physical trauma are compensable under Mississippi law, and PTSD clearly fits this bill. Loss of companionship, loss of quality of life, loss of normality – these are the long-term effects on victims’ bodies and souls. If there were fatalities from that truck accident, the suffering could be even more pronounced.
Can you seek punitive damages for PTSD after a Mississippi truck accident?
Possible. The bar for punitive damages in Mississippi is high. Under MS Code § 11-1-65, “Punitive damages may not be awarded if the claimant does not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted with actual malice, gross negligence which evidences a willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others, or committed actual fraud.”
What this means is, if the truck accident was the result of “simple” negligence – the type of ordinary mistakes people make without intending to cause anyone harm or distress – then punitive damages may not be available. But if the truck driver was being intentionally reckless, engaging in an act of road rage, or was drunk or high behind the wheel, then punitive damages may apply. The same is true if the trucking company itself knew there was a problem with the truck (or the driver) and failed to address it.
There are many long-term effects associated with untreated PTSD, but effective treatment and support can mitigate many of these challenges. Seeking help from mental health professionals, engaging in therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy), and, in some cases, using medication can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can prevent or reduce the long-term impact of PTSD.
If you have suffered PTSD due to your Mississippi truck accident, then you need a trusted truck accident attorney to help you pick up the pieces of your life. At Merkel & Cocke, we understand how traumatic a truck accident can be. It leaves you terrified for your life, injured, and scarred both physically and mentally. You deserve compensation for all that you have suffered due to the truck accident. To set up a free consultation, call us or fill out our contact page. We have offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, and Oxford for your convenience. We’re here to help.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.