One of the most traumatic experiences a driver can have is an accident involving a large commercial truck. While your passenger car or SUV might weigh 4,000-5,000 pounds, an 18-wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. If it hits you at highway speed, you're apt to suffer major property damage and catastrophic, life-threatening injuries due to the size and weight differences between the two vehicles.
If you're lucky enough to survive a truck crash, you could be entitled to recover compensation for your damages from the at-fault driver, as well as other defendants in some cases. Those damages include your medical bills, repair or replacement of your vehicle, the income you lose while being treated for your injuries, your physical pain and suffering, and the psychological impact of the accident.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that sometimes afflicts a person who has lived through an extremely frightening, disturbing, painful, or life-threatening experience. Despite surviving the experience, the victim continues to relive its trauma mentally when "triggered" by something that re-awakens the flight-or-fight instincts we naturally experience when we're in extreme danger. Veterans of military combat are often diagnosed with PTSD, but it can result as well from other traumatic experiences like a serious truck accident that injured you, made you fear for your life, or killed a friend or family member who was in the car with you.
If your accident occurred in a place you must drive by afterward, your PTSD could be triggered by that scene. In more serious cases, just getting behind the wheel of a car might trigger flashbacks and fear that make it impossible for you to drive anymore. The sound of screeching brakes or a horn blowing might transport you mentally to the time and place of your wreck and force you to experience feelings of fear and helplessness as you relive the crash in your mind.
Common Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include:
- Recurring, lifelike flashbacks of the truck crash
- Fear of driving or riding in a car
- Severe anxiety or depression
- Panic attacks
- Selective amnesia
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to concentrate at work
- Loss of interest in daily activities, family life, or previous hobbies and pastimes
- Self-harm impulses
- Emotional instability
- Feelings of alienation
- Desire for isolation
Treatment for PTSD usually includes medication such as anti-depressants along with psychological counseling or therapy. Even with treatment, symptoms can persist for months or years after the accident. Some victims suffer indefinitely from their PTSD symptoms after a truck crash.
How PTSD Can Impact Your Life
PTSD can have a significant impact on many aspects of a victim's life after a serious truck accident, including the following:
Feelings of anxiety and inability to concentrate could make it difficult or impossible for you to work effectively at your current position or at any job. Unemployment, financial difficulties, bankruptcy, or even homelessness might result.
Flashbacks, anxiety, and feelings of fear can lead to isolation from family and friends, as well as avoidance of social activities. Some victims become estranged from their families, fail to carry out spousal or parental obligations, or end up divorced.
Inability to carry out daily activities
Lack of sleep, problems with concentration and memory, or fear of getting into a car can interfere with your daily needs to travel, shop, work, visit, or keep appointments. You might require assistance with activities you previously carried out on your own.
Pursuing Compensation for PTSD After a Truck Crash
If you're hurt in an accident with a commercial truck, your injuries could be severe, and your medical bills very high. The good news, however, is that the trucking industry is held to high safety standards and regulated not only by state and local laws but also by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines. Negligent or intentional violation of such guidelines entitles you to compensation for resulting damages.
More good news is that every party associated with the trucking industry is required to carry liability insurance with much higher coverage limits than the average driver must purchase. That means there should be an adequate amount of insurance available to cover your damages. To collect fair compensation, of course, you must prove liability and convince the insurer or a jury that you're suffering from PTSD.
Who Are the Potential Defendants in a Truck Crash Claim?
Defendants who might bear full or partial liability for your damages in a truck accident include:
- The truck driver who caused your accident
- The trucking company, which is responsible for training its drivers and following FMCSA safety regulations
- A truck or parts manufacturer if equipment failure caused your accident
- A repair service if the truck was not properly maintained
- Loading dock personnel if improperly loaded cargo played a role in your crash
These parties might have different insurance companies with which you must file claims. A car accident lawyer can work to identify all liable parties, determine their percentages of responsibility, and demand a fair settlement from each.
Documenting Symptoms of PTSD to Prove Damages
PTSD falls into the category of non-economic damages, as opposed to economic damages like medical bills, lost income, and property damage, which are easy enough to calculate. Pain and suffering are non-economic, as well, but can be proven by your physical injuries and monetarily evaluated with the help of medical evidence. PTSD, however, is a psychological disorder that's hard both to prove and to evaluate due to its lack of external evidence.
The insurance companies of the at-fault parties are likely to dispute, devalue, or deny your claim for PTSD damages because its symptoms are not visible to the eye. This is why you need the services of an experienced truck accident attorney to help you seek fair compensation. Your lawyer can help you prove PTSD and monetize its non-economic damage to you by:
- Investigating your crash with the help of an accident reconstructionist to show how traumatic the experience of the crash was
- Using the statements or testimony of mental health professionals as well as family and friends to prove the wreck's impact on your mental health and establish your long-term treatment needs
- Proving the liability of the defendant(s) by obtaining data from the truck's "black box" recorder and dashboard camera, as well as determining the trucker's hours of service (HOS) from the truck's electronic logging device (ELD)
- Assigning accurate percentages of fault to multiple defendants
- Demanding a reasonable settlement from each insurer and negotiating a fair award
- Taking your case to court and fighting for you at trial if fair insurance settlements are not offered.
Are You Suffering From PTSD After a Charleston, SC Truck Accident?
If you've been hurt in a truck accident, you should speak with an experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Florence, or North Charleston office locations.