Hurt in a Motorcycle Accident? How to Cope with Emotional Trauma

It goes without saying that riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience. But as any biker knows, that thrill comes with serious risks. In the state of Florida, there were 10,331 motorcycle accidents in 2016 alone, resulting in 515 rider fatalities, 30 motorcycle passenger deaths, and 8,256 reported injuries. According to the NHTSA, motorcycle riders are fatally injured 28 percent more frequently than the occupants of other vehicles.

Even when riders are fortunate enough to survive, they might suffer broken bones; road rash; soft tissue damage; and head, neck, and spinal cord trauma. These injuries can be incredibly expensive to treat, and they often put the victim out of work for an extended period of time.

Beyond the physical and financial impact of a serious crash, the emotional trauma suffered by injured riders can be debilitating. In this article, we will discuss the psychological effects of being involved in a severe accident and potential treatment modalities.

Psychological Injuries Associated with Motorcycle Accidents

The two most common psychological conditions diagnosed after a motorcycle crash are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Below we’ve provided an overview of these two conditions, their symptoms, and potential treatments.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition than a person may develop due to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event like a serious accident, natural disaster, or violent assault. Motorcycle collisions can result in profound distress that endures for many weeks, months, or even years following the incident. It can affect not only the accident victim but also his or her loved ones.

PTSD Symptoms

Someone experiencing PTSD may notice a variety of symptoms that start developing immediately following the collision. If these symptoms persist for longer than a month, a medical evaluation for PTSD may be advisable. Without treatment, the symptoms could continue for several months or years.

The symptoms of PTSD are commonly grouped into three categories: avoidance, re-experiencing, and hyperarousal. Signs of these may include:

  • Avoiding friends and family;
  • Social withdrawal;
  • Inability to concentrate or focus;
  • Being easily startled;
  • Hesitation to participate in favorite activities;
  • Excessive alcohol or drug use or engaging in other self-destructive behaviors;
  • Aggressive behavior;
  • Irritability;
  • Impaired memory;
  • Flashbacks to the traumatic event;
  • Avoiding people, places, or events that remind them of the accident;
  • Frightening and distressing thoughts;
  • Insomnia;
  • Bad dreams or nightmares; and
  • Trying to block all thoughts or feelings connected to the accident.

Diagnosing PTSD

Diagnosis involves a thorough physical and psychological evaluation. You can review the criteria for diagnosing PTSD on the American Psychiatric Association’s website.

Treatments for PTSD

People who develop post-traumatic stress disorder have a number of treatment options available. Examples include psychotherapy and medications. The goals of PTSD treatment include:

  • Mitigating symptom frequency and severity;
  • Teaching strategies to cope with symptoms; and
  • Treating co-occurring problems such as substance abuse or depression.

Psychotherapy may take several forms depending on the needs of the patient. Several types may be used individually or together. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients recognize and change negative and irrational thought patterns. Exposure therapy allows a patient to safely confront experiences that are causing irrational fear or other symptoms. Therapists may also teach stress management skills.

Several medications have been approved to help treat PTSD symptoms. Antidepressants can help depression and anxiety symptoms, and they may also improve sleep and concentration.


Depression is a common diagnosis following any sort of traumatic brain injury, which occur frequently in motorcycle accidents. Fortunately, treatments for depression have advanced tremendously over recent decades.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, loss, despair, or hopelessness. Symptoms can vary from patient to patient but may include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless;
  • Tiredness or lack of energy;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Social withdrawal;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Sleep or appetite changes;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, or like a failure; and
  • Lack of interest or enjoyment in usual activities.

Nearly 50 percent of all people diagnosed with TBI suffer depression within one year of injury. That number jumps to nearly 66 percent within seven years of injury. Research suggests that physical changes and emotional response to the initial injury may contribute to the onset of depression.

Treatments for Depression

Depression suffered by motorcycle accident victims due to a head injury may be managed through a variety of methods. Often a combination of medications and counseling is the most effective approach. Some patients find that other interventions such as exercise, acupuncture, and biofeedback are helpful for reducing symptom severity and frequency.

Can Accident Victims Obtain Compensation for Emotional Trauma?

In the state of Florida, personal injury claimants may be able to obtain compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. While economic damages encompass the objectively calculable losses resulting from a tort (medical bills, lost income, property damage, etc.), non-economic damages refer to intangible effects such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of life enjoyment.

  • Pain and Suffering: These damages might be available in cases that involve permanent disfigurement, significant scarring, or permanent injury. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, amputation, or serious physical scarring, these damages might be recoverable.
  • Loss of Life Enjoyment: This refers to a diminishing of a plaintiff’s quality of life due to a permanent disability.
  • Emotional Distress: Someone who is physically impacted during a tortuous event and suffers anger, grief, anxiety, irritability, fear, or depression may be entitled to emotional distress damages.

If you were diagnosed with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, you may be able to obtain compensation for non-economic damages in addition to any reasonable and necessary medical interventions you need to manage the condition.

How Can My Personal Injury Lawyer Prove Non-Economic Damages?

The best motorcycle accident attorneys are well-versed in the case law and statutes pertaining to non-economic damages awards. They know the kinds of evidence needed to prove these damages and the most effective settlement negotiation tactics to employ.

Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer might use the following evidence to strengthen your claim for non-economic damages:

  • Medical Records: Lab test results, diagnostic images, and other records may be used to prove your diagnosis and prognosis. If you suffered a permanent disability, your medical records will play an essential role in proving as much.
  • Photos of Injuries: Pictures may be used to show scarring or disfigurement.
  • Medical Expert Witness Deposition: It’s not uncommon for the defense to dispute the diagnosis of a psychological condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. If such a dispute arises, your lawyer might depose various medical experts to strengthen your case. Medical experts might also be deposed to prove that you have suffered a permanent disability.
  • Deposition from Close Friends and Family: The deposition of close friends and family might be useful for describing the struggles you face on a daily basis as a result of your physical and psychological injuries.
  • Your Personal Injury Journal: You should write daily journal injuries about the physical and psychological symptoms you experience throughout the recovery process. Make note of the frequency of those symptoms as well as their severity on a scale from 1 to 10. Also, record any medication side effects, and describe the various ways that the injuries are diminishing your personal well being.

How Can My Personal Injury Lawyer Prove Economic Damages?

Some of the same evidence used to prove non-economic damages can be used to prove economic damages. For instance, your medical records will serve as evidence of your diagnosis and prognosis and therefore will play an important role in demonstrating the cost of medical care. The deposition of medical experts could also be valuable in this regard.

Other evidence of economic damages might include:

  • Financial records to show the amount of income lost during recovery;
  • Receipts and invoices for domestic assistance, childcare, and transportation;
  • Contractor estimates for property repairs; and
  • The deposition of medical and financial experts.

Approximating a fair settlement figure can be incredibly complicated in a personal injury case. This is especially true when a victim has suffered a long-term or permanent disability, or when they intend to seek compensation for non-economic damages. It is therefore important that you hire an attorney who has a track record of winning substantial settlements and verdicts in cases that are similar to yours.

Discuss Your Case with a Personal Injury Lawyer in Stuart

At Donaldson & Weston, we have extensive experience and a track record of success helping personal injury victims seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Our attorneys know the most effective strategies for maximizing the potential value of these cases. We will use all the resources at our disposal to help you pursue the highest possible settlement or verdict.

Our legal team understands the devastating physical, financial, and psychological impact that an unexpected injury can have. We will treat you and your family with compassion and professionalism through every stage of the proceedings, but we will aggressively fight for the compensation you need to move on with life. For a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Stuart, call 772-266-5555 or send us an email.