PTSD: Can This Happen To Me?

Truck driver having bad headache.

Many people ignore the emotional trauma suffered after a car crash or injury. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an emotional illness that affects people of all ages. PTSD is commonly associated with military veterans, but it can develop after any traumatizing incident, such as car crashes. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, car accidents are the leading cause of PTSD among civilians, and nearly 1 in every 10 car accident survivors develop some form of PTSD.

Personally, I have suffered from PTSD since my vehicle was violently rear-ended by a drunk driver in 2008. During my recovery which included multiple surgeries, I began to experience feelings of hopelessness, weakness, frustration, anger, and anxiety. I was embarrassed by these feelings and tried very hard to ignore them. Eventually, I began to experience panic attacks while driving. Then, I could no longer ignore the impact the crash had on my emotional well-being.

What is PTSD?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as a disorder people develop following dangerous or shocking events. It is an intensification of the fight or flight response causing people who have PTSD to experience fear, stress, and anger even when they are not in situations warranting such a response. According to the NIMH, observing symptoms of PTSD can be difficult. Often, signs and symptoms develop within three months of a distressing event, and if they last longer than a month, it is considered to be PTSD.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD are flashbacks to the event, avoiding similar situations that are reminders of the traumatic event, and a continued feeling of being tense. PTSD symptoms may also occur when the individual is triggered by something that reminds them of their trauma. For example, the sound of tires screeching might make someone with PTSD remember the moment of their crash, triggering a panic attack or a flashback.

How Do I “Get Over” Having PTSD?

With the help of therapy and specialized medications, even severe PTSD can be managed and treated. However, without proper treatment, PTSD may be life-altering in an extremely negative way.

I sought counseling to learn how to “get over” my symptoms. Imagine my surprise when I learned you never “get over” having PTSD. You learn to live with it and manage the symptoms. It didn’t happen immediately, but I eventually learned how to accept my new life. I learned my PTSD was NOT a sign of weakness. In fact, I learned to be kind to myself, to acknowledge that
I had experienced a trauma that has left me feeling damaged far beyond any of my physical injuries.

If you suffer from PTSD because of a traumatizing car accident or injury, you may be eligible to seek compensation from the responsible party.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.