If you had the misfortune to be on the road at the same time as a distracted, impatient, drunk, or otherwise careless driver, and you were hit while riding your bike as a result, it is entirely understandable that you might develop a fear of riding in traffic. Some bike crash victims become afraid to drive, even though they were hit while riding. But fear alone is not indicative of PTSD. There are many other signs that you may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and this blog will reference general and basic information that is widely available through medical sources. Nightmares, avoiding thinking about the crash, forgetting details of the incident, angry outbursts, depression, anxiety, inability to sleep, self-blame, reckless behavior, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, and an inability to experience positive emotions are just a few of the signs and symptoms of PTSD. As a bike crash victim suffering from PTSD, there are treatment options, as well as a path to paying for the therapy and other financial damages caused by PTSD. Most importantly, if you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of PTSD it is imperative that professional evaluations are obtained, so that an accurate diagnosis can be made.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that affects some people, though not all, who are the victim to a traumatic experience. While we often think of combat soldiers when we discuss PTSD, anyone, regardless of occupation, age, or personality traits, can develop PTSD. While there are comorbidities that increase a person's risk of developing PTSD, such as childhood trauma or an underlying mental illness, PTSD is not uncommon in bike crash victims.
PTSD is an injury like a broken arm is an injury, except in this case, the brain suffers the injury, not a bone, skin, muscle, or other body part we think of as being at risk of injury in a bike crash. The part of the brain responsible for processing fear, the amygdala, can become hyper responsive to traumatic experiences following PTSD. This makes discerning between real threats and non threats more difficult for someone with PTSD. The prefrontal cortex can also be impaired because of PTSD. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating emotions. As such, a patient with PTSD may develop angry outbursts, anxiety, or depression. While it makes practical sense for us to be fearful of danger so that we don't get injured or killed—think of our ancestors being chased by a large predator and the healthy fear they would have when approaching such an animal in the wild—PTSD does not produce a useful or beneficial response, and it should be treated like any other injury: by healthcare professionals.
What the Research Says on PTSD, and the Recovery Process
According to the American Psychological Association, post traumatic stress disorder can be treated with the following methods:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Cognitive Processing Therapy
- Cognitive Therapy
- Prolonged Exposure
- Brief Electric Psychotherapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
- Narrative Exposure Therapy
- Various medications: sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine and venlafaxine
The time frame for treatment may be months, years, or in some extreme situations for the rest of the patient's life. Furthermore, the outcome of the patient's PTSD is never a known factor; they may be "cured" of PTSD in six months, or they may still be dealing with it six years after the crash, particularly if they choose to continue riding a bike. While psychotherapy has been proven to help reduce the symptoms of PTSD and cure others of all symptoms, continued exposure to the trauma (riding in traffic) greatly reduces the patient's likelihood of making a full recovery from PTSD. And, once the PTSD has become chronic, it becomes harder to treat, according to the National Library of Medicine. Because of this, when symptoms indicate a need, it is highly encouraged to seek out professional help from a trained therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist soon after the bike crash to begin treatment at an early stage.
How PTSD is Diagnosed and Proven
PTSD is diagnosed during an evaluation with a psychologist or psychiatrist. During the evaluation, the doctor will ask the patient various questions about flashbacks, sleep issues, loss of interest in doing things they formerly enjoyed, avoiding certain thoughts, and generally how the traumatic experience is affecting the patient's life. In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, the patient must display one element of each of the following symptoms for at least one month:
- Re-experiencing (such as nightmares)
- Avoidance (such as staying away from places or activities related to the trauma)
- Arousal and reactivity (such as having angry outbursts)
In addition, the patient must also display at least two cognition symptoms and two mood symptoms in order for a positive PTSD diagnosis. Cognitive and mood symptoms include difficulty remembering key elements of the traumatic experience and negative thoughts about themselves or about the world, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. As such, PTSD can actually be medically proven, which is necessary when it comes to establishing damages caused by the PTSD. The degree of PTSD from which the patient suffers (whether it is mild, moderate, or extreme PTSD), as well as the likely long term outcome, impacts the potential compensation the patient may be entitled to.
Damages for PTSD in a Bike Crash
Damages directly stemming from post traumatic stress disorder may include the following:
- Lost wages due to an inability to work short or long term
- Cost of therapy and other forms of treatment for PTSD
- Emotional distress and lost joy of life caused by PTSD (non-economic damages)
While lost wages and cost of PTSD treatment have real, tangible financial quantities attached, the emotional distress and loss of joy of life damages caused by PTSD are impossible to truly quantify with a dollar amount. If the crash victim never rides a bike again because of the collision and resulting PTSD, how can any sum of money erase that loss? However, there is still a method to estimate what a plaintiff is owed when it comes to pain and suffering, including PTSD. Contrary to popular belief, there is no table, equation, or ‘multiplier method' used to determine what a plaintiff is owed for a non-economic damage such as PTSD. The best way to estimate that number is for an experienced attorney to evaluate the case and simply estimate what a jury of six strangers would deem fair and reasonable. Sometimes, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and PTSD are the largest financial aspect of a settlement or verdict.
A Colorado Bike Crash Attorney Can Help You Seek Fair and Reasonable PTSD Damages
Treatment for PTSD is expensive and time consuming. Therapy is an ongoing process that often takes months or more before a bike crash victim begins to see real results. The cost of this therapy can be included in a personal injury claim. Other damages caused by PTSD should also be considered, including loss of joy in doing the things you used to love, such as riding your bike. If you were injured in a bike crash, call bike crash attorney Brad Tucker of ColoBikeLaw today at 303.694.9300 to schedule a free consultation.