Car accidents are traumatic events. When one happens, it generally takes some time for those involved to realize what has happened. Vehicular damage and physical injuries are a real possibility—the latter of which should be attended to immediately. But, what about the emotional injuries? How does a person go about overcoming the guilt of causing a car accident?
The emotional stress of causing a car accident, even if you were only partially at fault, can take a significant toll on a person’s everyday life. Let’s take a look at the concept of guilt after an accident, trauma reactions, and what steps you can take to overcome guilt.
Car Accidents and Guilt
Millions of people are in car accidents every year. It’s common to experience guilt or anxiety after a wreck, especially if you think you may have played a role in causing what happened. If you’re experiencing guilt, it’s important to break it down so you can work on overcoming it. Some of the most common reasons for accident guilt include the following:
- Injuring someone else. Car accidents are one of the most common causes of accidental injury and death in the United States. It’s normal to feel guilty after a crash if someone sustained injuries or had to seek emergency medical attention.
- Causing property damage. Property damage is nearly unavoidable after a wreck. You may feel sorry that the other driver has to get their car fixed—especially if it sustained more damage than yours.
- Not having the proper insurance coverage. When you don’t have adequate car insurance or any policy at all, it makes dealing with an accident significantly harder. You may have to worry about fines or even jail time depending on your lack of coverage.
- Totaling your only means of transportation. If you share a car with family members or your car is the only way you have to get around, it’s understandable to feel guilty if the car was totaled.
- Having medical bills you can’t afford. If you can’t afford medical bills after a crash, particularly if you have to cover yours and the other driver’s, you may experience guilt.
Once you have an understanding of why you feel guilty, you can begin working on understanding your trauma reactions to the crash and moving past it.
Understanding Trauma Reactions
In the days following a traffic collision, it’s normal to experience emotional turmoil. Whether you were at fault or not, being involved in a crash is traumatic—and not just on the body. It’s important to not overlook emotional suffering, as it can turn into a bigger problem over time if it’s not addressed properly. In most cases, however, the symptoms tend to fade. If they persist, it’s important to seek help to cope with the trauma you’ve experienced.
Following the crash, you may experience dissociation, sleep problems, flashbacks, high stress, depression, fear, anxiety, memory problems, irritation, and a sense that the world is a bad place. When any of those symptoms is combined with guilt, it can be challenging for a person to overcome those feelings and move forward confidently and comfortably.
Steps You Can Take to Overcome Guilt
After any accident, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Even if you were partially at fault for what happened, remember that humans make mistakes and you will be able to move forward and past your guilt. It’s also important to focus on your recovery and improving your health. Do what you can to eat sensibly, stay hydrated, exercise if possible, and follow your physician’s recovery plan.
In the event you are seriously struggling with guilt, you may want to consider asking for help from doctors, counselors, clergy, friends, or family. Talking out what you’re experiencing can often lighten the burden and make the guilt easier to cope with.
If just speaking with someone isn’t enough, a doctor or psychiatrist may be able to prescribe you medication to help ease your emotional trauma. Once you’ve worked through that trauma, you’ll be able to ween off the medication.
Moving Forward After a Crash
Determining fault after a crash isn’t always straightforward. Because West Virginia operates under a modified comparative negligence law, this means that both parties can be deemed partially responsible for what happened. In the event it’s determined you are partially responsible, you may still be eligible for compensation to cover your injuries and losses. To learn more about fault determinations and what your rights are, contact DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC today.