Am I at higher risk of PTSD following a motor vehicle accident if I have a spinal cord injury?

Anyone who is seriously injured in a major motor vehicle accident or who has witnessed a motor vehicle accident that causes significant injury or death to another person is at risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Serious car accidents can cause a range of injuries, such as fractured bones, internal injuries, injuries to the brain,  and injuries to spine, the latter of which may leave an accident victim with paralysis and partial or total loss of use of the limbs (known as quadriplegia or paraplegia). Is there a higher risk of PTSD for those who suffer a spinal cord injury (“SCI”) as a result of a serious motor vehicle accident?

What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

First, let’s briefly discuss posttraumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a psychological condition that can arise for people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a serious motor vehicle accident. The symptoms of PTSD – which can include having disturbing thoughts related to the trauma, reliving the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks, avoidance of certain situations or people, and feelings of sadness, fear, anger, and detachment from others – may not emerge for weeks, months, or even years after the traumatic accident.

Is there a higher risk of PTSD for those who suffer SCI after a motor vehicle accident?

Some people who suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury may also experience PTSD, while other people with similar injuries to the spine may not (and the converse is true, as a person can experience PTSD without suffering any physical injury). That being said, sustaining a spinal cord injury as a result of a major motor vehicle accident is undoubtedly a traumatic event. Studies suggest that there is an increased risk of PTSD following traumatic spinal cord injury, and there are a number of reasons for this.

Factors that may increase the risk of PTSD after an SCI

Posttraumatic stress disorder may arise from factors such as the trauma of the accident itself (including being catastrophically injured, or witnessing another person’s death or serious injury), dealing with life-threatening complications in the aftermath of a spinal cord injury (for example, cardiovascular or respiratory complications), and processing the emotional reaction to the SCI (such as coping with paralysis, loss of mobility, and loss of sensation), or a combination of all factors. The risk of PTSD may be elevated for those who sustain multiple injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury in addition to a spinal cord injury, or for those who are struggling with chronic pain.

If you suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact Simpson, Thomas & Associates at (604) 689-8888 to request a free consultation. We have considerable experience handling ICBC claims involving spinal cord injuries, including complex personal injury claims involving psychological injuries such as PTSD and catastrophic injuries such as quadriplegia and paraplegia. Our highly experienced Vancouver spinal cord injury lawyers will assist you in getting the help you need and develop your claim against ICBC to get the compensation you deserve for your physical and psychological injuries.



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