Children and PTSD after car accidents

When children are involved in car crashes, they may be injured. Even if they are not, extreme mental distress such as PTSD can occur.

The physical toll of car accidents in California can be enormous and may include traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries and whiplash. In some cases, the physical injuries are relatively minor or even nonexistent, yet post-traumatic stress syndrome may develop. This is especially true when it comes to children. Here is a look at why.

Lack of experience

Adults know that car accidents can and do happen. They have probably been in a couple of minor fender-benders themselves or know people who have. Furthermore, adults are no strangers to doing things that are unexpected and unpleasant in life, for example, having to help a friend with a cancer diagnosis or coping with the dread and pain of a dental visit.

The point is, adults have gone through a lot already and likely have developed, at a minimum, rudimentary coping skills. On the other hand, children are still experiencing things for the first time. A typical car accident experience for a child may look like this:

· Sudden loud noises, jolting, crashing, screaming

· Their mother or father crying out

· The possible sight of blood

· Their mother or father frantically checking on the children and possibly panicking

· Loud, angry words exchanged between their parents and other drivers/passengers

· Abrupt police questioning

· Pain

· Testing in the hospital

· Injury treatment and possibly surgery

· A hospital stay

· A change in routine afterward, especially if the car is not drivable and/or the adult was injured

Take out the physical injuries to a child, and there is still a lot to traumatize a young person.

Lack of coping skills

Emotional stress after a car accident may manifest itself through the child refusing to get into the car, becoming anxious near the scene of the crash and having nightmares about the crash.

Even teenagers can experience trauma and may "act out" by skipping school and taking excessive risks. Elementary-aged children may be prone to bursts of anger and physical issues such as stomachaches and headaches. Even younger children may regress into behaviors such as thumb sucking, clinging to parents and being afraid of the dark.

One reason for these reactions is a lack of coping skills. For instance, children may not have the language or presence of mind to be able to process their emotions, much less communicate them. If they are able to, the adults in their lives might dismiss their concerns or tell them to be a brave boy or girl.

The children's lives have suddenly become unpredictable or even more unpredictable, and they are not sure what to do about that or what it means.

In California, both adults and children can feel tremendous physical, mental, emotional and financial consequences from a car crash. A lawyer may be able to help the affected parties seek compensation for their sufferings.