car accident trauma

A car accident resulting in serious injuries is a traumatic event. When someone sustains physical harm in such a crash, they can go into physical shock. This critical medical condition poses a life-threatening risk and requires immediate emergency treatment.

A victim of a car crash might also suffer from emotional shock following the accident, which can lead to enduring psychological pain and emotional distress.

Awareness of shock symptoms following a car accident is crucial for obtaining the necessary medical treatment and can affect your injury claim. Discover more about identifying shock after a crash and how to document it for your damage claim with insurance companies.

What Causes Traumatic Shock?

In a car accident, the suddenness and severity of the impact can cause quick and strong reactions in both your body and mind. These are your body’s ways of responding to unexpected trauma. The term ‘shock’ in this situation can mean either physical or emotional shock, each affecting you differently:

Physical Shock

Physical shock, particularly hypovolemic shock, is a serious concern in car accidents. It occurs when the body loses a substantial amount of blood or fluids, frequently because of internal injuries that may not be immediately visible. This loss leads to a critical drop in blood pressure and reduced oxygen supply to your organs.

Symptoms and Treatment of Physical Shock

  • Rapid, weak, or absent pulse
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lackluster eyes
  • Lightheadedness
  • Thirst and dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Decrease in urine
  • Low blood sugar
  • Loss of consciousness

If you see an injured person who may be going into shock, call 911 or your local emergency number. Hypovolemic shock demands urgent medical attention, as it can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Even if you feel fine immediately after the accident, be aware of these potentially delayed symptoms and get help right away.

Emotional / Psychological Shock and Post-traumatic Stress

Psychological trauma arises when we perceive a threat to our lives that seems inescapable. The impact of this trauma can be immediate or may emerge over time, and its effects can potentially last a lifetime.

Psychological shock after a car accident may be a reaction to your own injury or injury to a loved one, particularly a child or spouse who you were unable to protect. Even bystanders who witnessed a particularly catastrophic car accident may be traumatized by what they saw.

You may experience a wide range of emotions, including:

  • Repetitive and intrusive worrying thoughts or memories related to the event
  • Chronic fear
  • Staring off into space
  • Frozen expression or numbness
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Extreme defensiveness and rigid thinking
  • Irritability
  • Explosive overreactions
  • Continuing discomfort and pain after physical healing
  • Returning to traumatizing situations

Over time, this can develop into more severe conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause recurring nightmares, intrusive memories of the accident, and hypervigilance, impacting the quality of your life.

How to Deal with Shock After a Car Accident

When you suffer shock in a vehicle collision, it’s essential to take steps to safeguard your well-being and legal rights. The presence of shock can affect the compensation you’re eligible for after a crash, as it can lead to a settlement that covers losses associated with physical injuries, lost income, and emotional distress.

The following actions can help you manage the aftermath of the accident and seek a fair recovery award for your injuries:

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Even if the shock symptoms seem mild, visit your provider for a thorough medical examination. They can conduct diagnostic or cognitive assessments to see if you are in shock, aiding in getting the necessary treatment.

This also establishes a documented record of your injury and links it directly to the car accident for legal reasons.

Consult a Mental Health Professional

If you are dealing with symptoms of emotional shock, see a therapist as soon as possible. They can help with managing anxiety, sleep disturbances, or PTSD. They will also maintain treatment notes, which you can use to bolster your claim.

Document Your Injuries and Symptoms

Photograph your physical injuries, such as swelling or lacerations, to document shock-related injuries and losses. Keep a handwritten or digital diary noting your pain, emotional state, and disruptions to daily life.

Keep all medical documents, receipts, and records of missed work or activities like rehabilitation sessions and counseling fees to substantiate your damages.

Speak to an Attorney

Consult a personal injury lawyer to understand your legal rights and options. They can guide you on adequately documenting shock-related symptoms and losses, and will advise you on dealing with insurance claims.

Your lawyer can represent you in any legal proceedings, helping you receive fair compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and emotional distress.

Trauma Recovery Tips After an Auto Accident

Healing from an auto accident encompasses more than physical recovery; it’s a comprehensive journey impacting all facets of life for both the victim and their family and friends. Below are some tips for trauma recovery aimed at assisting accident victims and their supportive network as they navigate the complex road to recovery.

For the Victim

Post-accident trauma recovery involves prioritizing your mental and physical health. Engage in relaxation and mental well-being activities, like meditation or light exercise. Attend all medical and therapy appointments and seek additional mental health support if needed. Be patient with yourself, acknowledging that recovery is a gradual process.

For Family and Friends

Supporting someone after an auto accident requires empathy and understanding. Offer a listening ear and be patient, understanding that their healing journey may have ups and downs. Help with practical tasks like transportation to appointments or running errands. Encourage them to seek professional help, if necessary, and be there to provide emotional support and reassurance throughout their recovery process.

Contact a South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer

Shock is a common medical condition many victims experience post-car crash. After getting the appropriate emergency assistance and medical care needed for shock after a car accident in South Carolina, talk to a car accident attorney from Joye Law Firm to discuss your legal options if someone else caused your injuries.

Joye Law Firm has offices in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, North Charleston, Summerville, and Clinton, and we serve clients throughout South Carolina. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Originally published June 13, 2023. Updated March 14, 2024.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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