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Trauma After Car Accidents: Recognising Symptoms

January 23, 2024

Car accidents can be distressing and life-altering events, causing not only life-changing physical injuries but also emotional scars - scars that may not be immediately apparent but can linger for years to come. In the following blog post, we’re going to take a look at the topic of trauma after car accidents, so you can help you recognise the symptoms you or your loved ones might be experiencing. Let’s take a closer look.

Trauma and Its Manifestation After Car Accidents

Do car accidents cause trauma? The answer is both yes and no; while not all individuals involved in car accidents will go on to develop trauma, many do - and it’s a legitimate response to living through a potentially life-threatening scenario.

It's also essential to understand that trauma is not limited to physical injuries; psychological trauma can occur when someone has experienced or witnessed a terrifying event, and this includes a life-threatening car accident. What’s more, is that this trauma can manifest in various ways and affect any given person differently, and may not always occur directly after the accident. But no matter how your trauma manifests after a collision, with RTA Claims accident management services, you don’t need to go through it alone.

Recognising Symptoms of Post-Accident Trauma

  • Flashbacks: Vivid and distressing memories of the accident that feel as if you're reliving the event.
  • Nightmares: Recurrent, frightening dreams related to the accident.
  • Anxiety: An overwhelming sense of fear, unease, or panic, especially when thinking about driving or being near the accident location.
  • Depression: Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Avoidance: A strong desire to avoid anything associated with the accident, such as avoiding the scene or even driving altogether.
  • Irritability: Easily getting angry or frustrated, sometimes over small things.
  • Hyperarousal: Feeling constantly on edge, with heightened alertness and difficulty sleeping.

Immediate and Delayed Responses to Trauma

Trauma reactions can occur immediately after the accident, but they can also be delayed; for example, some individuals may initially feel shock and numbness, only to have symptoms surface weeks or even months later. For this reason, it’s important to recognise that everyone's response to trauma is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all timeline for recovery.

Coping Strategies and Support Systems

If you or someone you know is experiencing trauma after a car accident, seeking help and support is essential. Here are some coping strategies and support systems to consider:


It can be helpful to consult a mental health professional who specialises in trauma; therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), can help you process your feelings and develop coping mechanisms.

Friends and Support Groups

depressed woman sitting on the floor beside her bed

Not many people can understand the trauma of living through a car accident, which is why sharing your experience can help; joining a support group for car accident survivors can provide a sense of community and understanding, and make you feel less alone as you navigate the post-crash aftermath. That being said, you should also lean on your loved ones for emotional support and understanding, even if they can’t fully comprehend what happened.


Practice self-care routines, including exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques, to manage stress and anxiety.

Legal Support

If the accident wasn/t your fault, consider seeking legal advice. At RTA Claims, we offer accident management services and can assist you in pursuing compensation for your injuries and emotional distress.

Impact on Daily Life and Relationships

Post-accident trauma can significantly impact your daily life and relationships, and it may affect your ability to work, drive, or even socialise with friends and family. This is why it’s so important to recognise the signs and seek help early: the earlier you take action, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to prevent your trauma from further disrupting your life. For more detailed advice, you can take a look at the NHS’ official guidance on living with PTSD and trauma.

Healing and Recovery Process

As we mentioned earlier on, the healing and recovery process isn’t a linear one, and trauma stemming from a road accident can take time to heal. But the good news is, with the right support and treatment, anyone can reduce the impact of trauma on their day-to-day lives.

And don’t forget - acknowledging and addressing trauma is a sign of strength, not weakness. So if you or someone you know is struggling with trauma after a car accident, don't hesitate to reach out for help, whether it be contacting your local GP, a private therapist, or even simply airing out frustrations in a support group.

For those wondering about car accident PTSD compensation, you can find out more information by speaking to one of our qualified experts.


How long does it take to recover from post-accident trauma?

The duration of recovery varies from person to person. Some individuals may recover relatively quickly with appropriate treatment, while others may take longer. It's important to be patient with yourself and trust the healing process.

Can post-accident trauma affect my ability to drive again?

Yes, post-accident trauma can impact your ability to drive again, so it's essential to address this issue with a therapist who can help you work through your fears and anxieties related to driving. Gradual exposure and therapy can assist in regaining confidence.

Is post-accident trauma covered by insurance?

Some insurance policies may cover therapy or treatment for post-accident trauma, but it's advisable to check your insurance policy and consult with your insurance provider to understand the coverage available.

Can I file a legal claim for emotional distress if I wasn't physically injured in the accident?

Yes, you can file a legal claim for emotional distress if you can demonstrate that the accident caused significant psychological harm, such as PTSD.