Top Emotional Responses After a Car Accident

what to do after car accidentWhen you experience the trauma of a car accident, you may feel shocked at first. You’re in disbelief that it happened and haven’t fully processed the impact on your emotional health. Right after an auto crash, many drivers are busy worrying about trying to find new transportation, dealing with physical injuries, and fighting with their insurance companies. 

Once things start to settle down and you have your car replaced, a treatment plan set up and a lawyer to handle the hassles of insurance settlement negotiations, a wave of other thoughts and feelings may surface. This is completely normal after the initial shock phase has passed. Here are some of the top emotional responses you can expect following a car accident.

Top Emotional Accident Responses 


Right after a car accident, it’s not unusual to experience a sense of shock. While this emotion is different from person to person, feelings of numbness, overwhelming stress, anxiousness, and sudden mood swings are not unusual.  Even if you were only a passenger or bystander, involvement in an auto crash is a traumatizing experience, and you may go through a short period of shock and denial.

Heightened Irritability and Anger

Having angry feelings after an accident focused on the other driver isn’t unusual, and passengers involved may feel this way at first. It doesn’t always matter who was at fault; increased irritability and anger are a natural part of your emotional recovery process. 

Try to recognize when you’re having bouts of agitation that may cause you to lash out at those around you. To avoid this from happening, communicate about how you feel, accept that your feelings are valid, and work through it as calmly as possible. Consider teaching yourself relaxation exercises that help you focus on breathing when you have angry episodes. 

Feeling Guilt

All too often, drivers are too hard on themselves about the accident and the circumstances that led up to it. The “shoulda coulda woulda” causes accident victims and drivers to think about every possible scenario that could have avoided a wreck entirely. These feelings of guilt even affect witnesses to the crash, since they might believe they could have done more to either prevent it or at least tried to render aid afterward. Reminding oneself that we can’t always be the hero of a situation is essential because it keeps you realistic about your expectations.


Traumatic accident experiences create anxiety once the shock of the event has worn off. While this is a natural reaction to go through, it takes time to recover from it and move on with your life. It’s important to take care of your emotional self during this period and seek appropriate mental health care if suffering from increased anxiety after a car crash.  At the very least, turn to close friends and family to share your feelings and not keep them bottled up inside you.


Symptoms of anxiety after an accident include:


  • Inability to relax or sleep
  • Constant feelings of stress
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Isolating oneself
  • Feeling overwhelmed or not in control
  • Lethargy
  • Disturbing thoughts
  • Avoidance behaviors 
  • Irritability


If you experience anxiety that lasts for several months after your auto crash, you may have developed a more severe anxiety disorder. Signs of a more significant mental health issue may include having a hard time working, difficulty focusing on family obligations, or your loved ones expressing concerns about you. It’s not unusual to experience more serious emotional problems after suffering a car accident, so seek professional help for your anxiety right away.  

Fear of Driving

Getting back behind the wheel after a major wreck may seem impossible due to anxiety and fear. You may discover that your driving is more defensive and you panic with the slightest sign of brake lights ahead. This is a typical reaction to a traumatic event, and while it may feel overwhelming to drive again, getting back on the road helps you confront your fears and beat your anxiety. Don’t lose confidence in yourself because of lingering nervousness after you get back to driving. Feelings like this are completely normal for many crash victims. 


Anxiety tends to lead to a depressive mood because everything may feel overwhelming and hopeless due to the devastating consequences of a collision. It’s important to not suffer in silence. Share your feelings with people you trust to help you gain a healthier perspective about your situation. Rest often, communicate your feelings, prioritize your personal needs, and know when to seek professional treatment. 

Alienating Yourself

Putting distance between yourself and the world around you after a collision is a common reaction at first. You need time and space to digest what’s happened to you and may not feel comfortable talking about your experience. Eventually, this desire to alienate yourself will pass and the need for support from your loved ones will return. 

Physical Responses to Emotions

Emotional reactions to a car accident can also bring on physical responses you might not have expected.  Feelings of depression, shock, and anger may cause some bodily symptoms such as:


  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tense muscles and spasms
  • Sudden urges to cry
  • Insomnia
  • Night terrors
  • Upset stomach and headache
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Flashbacks with or without triggering situations


Behavioral therapy treatment by a mental health physician may help to alleviate debilitating physical reactions to your emotional experiences after a collision. 

How to Cope 

When trying to cope with the onslaught of emotions after a car accident, there are several steps you can take to calm your emotional state:

Eat Well

Exercise and a balanced diet are a vital part of any recovery plan. Prioritizing your sleep is also crucial as it directly affects your mental state.

Balance Your Work and Life

All too often, we use our work as a distraction or avoidance to not think about things that stress us out. The added emphasis on work may catch up with your private life, causing burn out or worsening your emotional symptoms after a collision. Try to maintain a balance that won’t add to the pressure you already have to manage.

Talk About Your Car Accident

Whether you’re the driver, a pedestrian, or a bystander when the crash occurred, it’s important to talk about the experience. Share your memories, feelings, and concerns about it with those you trust, like family members or a counselor.

Learn How to Relax When Emotional

It’s challenging to maintain our composure when a mood swing takes over, so learning ways to help relax and control your response is vital. Consider some of the tips below that can teach you methods to stay calm and collected during an emotional time:

Find Your Inner Om

Sometimes speaking with others just isn’t an option because we aren’t yet ready for that step. Practicing meditation methods to calm your inner voices or praying alone or with others often brings that much-needed release from stressful feelings and physical reactions.

Talk With Other Accident Victims

Consider getting together with other family members or friends who experienced the car crash with you. Acknowledge each other by listening to one another’s thoughts and feelings from the traumatic event without judgment or arguing about the details. Offer boundless love and support during this time to encourage regular communication about troublesome depression or anger instead of letting it build up inside you. 

Arrange Special Support for Children Involved

Imagine the effect a car accident has on the mind of a child and compare how tough it is for an adult to deal with all the emotional trauma discussed in this article. For children, finding ways to recover emotionally is difficult due to factors like age, size, and perception of what happened. There are some feelings children can’t even put into words at certain ages, so they rely on their parents, family, doctors, and schools to help them. 


Try to communicate as much as possible with their teachers and doctors about what happened and how your child is currently handling the aftermath. This will ensure that your child receives the support he or she needs to get through any emotional or physical responses that develop as a result of the crash.

Orlando Car Accident Attorneys Who Care

Accident victims who experience emotional ups and downs after such traumatizing experiences need an attorney who offers the best representation possible, while also showing compassion for what their client is going through. It’s vital to work with a lawyer who has your best interests at heart and wants to get you on a path to recovery as quickly as possible. 


The attorneys of The Umansky Law Firm know that your life may feel upside down because of injuries, lost transportation, medical bills piling up, job stress, and so much more. We strive to help take the tremendous burden of dealing with the insurance companies off your shoulders so you can focus on taking care of you and your family. Through our association with organizations like the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, you can trust that we prioritize your needs and best future outcomes above all else. Contact our office today at (407) 228-3838 to receive a free case evaluation so we can explain what your options are and how we can help.