psychological trauma for children in car accidents

The Psychological Impact of Car Accidents on Children

When parents are involved in a car accident, their thoughts immediately go to the same topic: their children. After making sure their children are physically okay and safe, many parents think that the worst is behind them. However, it’s important to think about the ways a car accident can affect a child’s mental well-being.

Has your child been hurt in a car accident? Don’t wait too long to find out if you are entitled to compensation. Call Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short at 334-560-1936 to set up a consultation with our Auburn personal injury attorneys.

The Myth of Resilience in Children

Although it’s widely known that car accidents can be traumatizing, it’s only recently that research has started to look at how car crashes can mentally impact children. This is because of the lingering myth that children are resilient.

In some ways, this is true. Children can often overcome the trauma from a divorce, the death of a close loved one, or the loss of a support system much more quickly than we may expect. This doesn’t mean, though, that they do not need support as they process traumatic events. It’s crucial to recognize the signs of poor mental health in children, particularly after a traumatizing incident, so we can provide them with the proper help.

Emotional Stress

Children may exhibit signs of emotional stress after an accident. However, stress doesn’t always manifest the same way in children as it does in adults. What looks like acting out or “being naughty” may actually be a child’s brain trying to process what they have been through. Some of those symptoms are explained more below.

Symptoms of Depression

Childhood depression is different from the occasional sad day. Depression symptoms are fairly common after car accidents, and they do warrant psychological help. Look out for:

  • Sensitivity to rejection
  • Social withdrawal
  • Constant sadness or hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Stomachaches and headaches that aren’t linked to any physical injury or illness
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities


After a car accident, some children begin to regress. This is more common in younger children than in older ones. It looks a bit different for each child and is particularly dependent on age. For example, an older toddler or preschooler may go back to thumb-sucking, acting like a baby, or refusing to walk in order to have a parent carry them. Potty-trained children may suddenly begin having accidents again. Children may also appear to lose some of their language or motor skills. These losses are temporary.

Acting Out

Behavioral issues are common, and too often parents turn to discipline and punishment instead of recognizing them as the aftereffects of a car crash. A child that rages after small slights or is unusually defiant may not be intentionally acting naughty. They may be grappling with what they have survived and not know how to process it. This is a lot for a little one’s mind to handle, and it often expresses via misbehavior.

Meeting Your Child’s Psychological Needs

It is crucial to be hyperaware of your child’s mental status and well-being after a car accident. Even if a crash was minor, it’s entirely possible that they will have lingering mental health concerns afterward. It may have been a child’s first experience with an uncontrollable event and something that their parents could not protect them from. For older kids, it can force them to face the fragility of life and their own mortality. These are huge issues, ones that even adults struggle with.

You may want to look into getting your child evaluated by a psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional. The earlier you seek treatment for these and other issues, the easier it is to get them the help they need. Don’t let them suffer longer than they need to—there is help for children struggling after a car accident.

Reach Out to Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short

At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, we know how hard a car accident can be on a family. We’re here to help you pursue the compensation you are owed. Let’s set up a time to talk and explore your options. Call us at 334-560-1936 or reach out online to set up a meeting with a car accident lawyer in Auburn, AL.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *