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Serious Long-Term Psychological Effects of a Car Accident

According to ICBC statistics British Columbia drivers were involved in approximately 300,000 automobile accidents during 2015, including crashes that occurred in parking lots or involved parked cars. Of these accidents, 57,000 automobile accident related injuries were reported.

Not all injuries are visible or can be diagnosed immediately. Sometimes weeks, months or years pass before a serious health effect from a car accident is even assessed. Mild traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic depression and anxiety are some examples of potentially long lasting psychological injuries, discussed here below.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A mild TBI can entail physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms, including head aches, sleep disturbances, vertigo, excessive irritability, memory and concentration problems. The symptoms can all occur in the absence of any loss of consciousness. Often, many symptoms dissipate within a few days or weeks after the accident, though sometimes they are not evident until you return to work or school. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that up to 15% of patients diagnosed with mild TBI may experience persistent and disabling disorders.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a shocking, disturbing or scary event, such as a serious car accident. PTSD leaves you feeling hopeless, helpless and emotionally shattered, and makes you fear for your safety, especially if the event felt unpredictable and uncontrollable. Common symptoms are re-experiencing the traumatic event, including through recurring nightmares, avoidance behaviour, increased anxiety and emotional arousal.

One in 10 individuals involved in a collision may be traumatized and develop PTSD. However, passengers can just as easily develop persistent anxiety as drivers. While most crash victims recover within a few months, you may be one of those accident victims that develop chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which delay or prevent you from fully recovering. A full psychological assessment may be required to determine if you will suffer future and long term disability.

Chronic Depression and Anxiety 

After a car accident, it is not uncommon to develop chronic depression and/or anxiety at the same time. Compensation for emotional pain after a car accident may be warranted and often is provided as non-pecuniary damages, for pain and suffering, especially where there is chronic pain involved.

Legal Compensation

A Vancouver personal injury lawyer can help you seek compensation when the quality of your life has been adversely impacted by an automobile accident. To obtain compensation for invisible injuries, the psychological injury suffered by you must be a foreseeable consequence of the at fault driver’s negligent conduct and the psychological injury must be documented as a recognizable psychiatric illness. Of course, people are very different in how they cope and adapt to traumatic events and the same accident could impact two people who experience or witness it very differently.

Case Examples 

Tan v. Mintzler and Miller, 2016 BCSC 1183 is a case example where compensation was awarded even though a mild TBI wasn’t diagnosed until much later. Emergency records indicated that the plaintiff, Ms. Tan, hit her head on the side window of her vehicle and she testified that, on August 24, 2012, “she heard the sound of the impact and that her next memory of the accident is a policeman knocking at the window of her vehicle.”

Ms. Tan’s family doctor was not qualified as an expert witness, but he provided evidence in the form of her observations during Ms. Tan’s office visits. The doctor testified that Ms. Tan had become more agitated over time, and continuing into 2015, Ms. Tan was teary, upset and did not appear to be getting better. A neurologist, who presented evidence, found that Ms. Tan did indeed suffer a complicated mild TBI or the equivalent of a moderate TBI at the time of the accident. Based on the evidence, Justice Groves accepted that Ms. Tan suffered a TBI from her accident and awarded her a total of $736,493 for her injuries and long term care.

Lafond v. Mandair, 2017 BCSC 523 is a case example where compensation was ordered after the plaintiff suffered chronic soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulder and back, and cognitive deficits, including depression and anxiety resulting from the accident. Mr. Lafond was described by witnesses as happy-go-lucky and was extremely active before he incurred the motorcycle accident of July 25, 2011, where he was hit, spun around, and fell off the motorcycle.

Mr. Lafond remained a dedicated employee to his friend and employer following the accident, but his physical abilities and mental capabilities to complete his constructions tasks declined. The employer stated that Mr. Lafond “blew up” on several occasions and he had not behaved that way prior to the accident.

The Judge noted Mr. Lafond’s passivity in seeking treatment, but considered all the medical and witness evidence provided. Mr. Lafond was awarded $343,529.58 for his permanent injuries and loss of future earning capacity. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Perhaps the most important part of recovering from the trauma of an accident is recognizing that you are having a problem and getting the help you need. If you have a change in your functioning or behavior or are suffering from chronic pain which may develop months after the accident, you may need a specialized assessment. A psychologist or diagnostic testing by an ophthalmologist, neurologist, neurosurgeon or psychiatrist can determine your injuries. 

For a Car Accident Lawyer, Call Kenneth Cristall Law Corporation

If you have been involved in an automobile collision as a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian, you should obtain the medical attention and legal advice you need immediately. We can provide medical professional referrals that will assist you in determining any possible hidden injuries you may have sustained. You are entitled to be compensated for resulting injuries that could affect your quality of life currently and in the future. Contact us for an experienced car accident lawyer in at 604-654-2250. We serve Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and New Westminster and have satellite offices to better suite your needs.

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