Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Near-Drowning Accidents

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Near-Drowning Accidents

Public health and safety officials estimate that as many as 800 children under the age on 12 drown each year. Many of these same sources estimate there are at least as many, if not more, near-drowning accidents in this age group. Since many children who survive near-drownings will be left with at least some degree of impairment, it is vital that such disabilities be recognized early in order to maximize the potential for recovery. One possible complication of a near-drowning accident is the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

In today’s post, the drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will explain how PTSD may appear in children who survive a near-drowning accident. He will then explain how PTSD is diagnosed and close with suggestions for parents who suspect that their child may have developed this condition.

What is PTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes PTSD as “… a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event…” Note that although PTSD can develop after someone witnesses a particularly disturbing event, we will limit our discussion to PTSD that develops after a child has survived a near drowning accident.

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and school counselors, emphasize that the symptoms of PTSD vary and that it is very rare to find two children who will show identical symptoms following a near-drowning accident. However, these professionals also recognize several general types or classes of symptoms that tend to appear in many children who develop PTSD after a near-drowning accident. The most common symptoms of PTSD in these children include:

  • “Reliving” their near-drowning experience through nightmares, or through “flashbacks” while awake. As an example of a flashback, a child may recall his or her experiences after seeing a picture of other children playing in a swimming pool or after riding past a pool in a car or school bus.
  • An intensely negative reaction to situations that are, at best, only remotely related to their accident. By way of another example, a child may refuse to wear swimming trunks or refuse to go near toys that may have been present when the accident occurred.
  • Withdrawal or self-isolation from family members and former playmates.
  • Extreme, sometimes violent, reactions to unexpected stimulation such as accidental touching or to loud noises such as fireworks or an ambulance siren.

It is important to note that PTSD after a near-drowning accident is frequently a delayed response. This means that PTSD, as a distinct clinical syndrome, is most frequently seen at least a month, and often several months, after a near-drowning accident. A similar condition known as Acute Panic Disorder usually develops within days of the accident but tends to “resolve” or “disappear” within a month. Since the symptoms of Acute Panic Disorder and PTSD are similar, most mental health professionals believe that PTSD represents a “long-term” form of Acute Panic Disorder.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD is a clinical diagnosis, meaning that there are no laboratory tests or special studies such as CT or MRI scans that can be used to confirm that PTSD is indeed present. Instead, PTSD is diagnosed based on the child’s medical history and behavior patterns since the near-drowning accident.

First of all, PTSD cannot be diagnosed unless the child has experienced a profoundly-disturbing psychological traumatic event. For our purposes, we will assume that a near-drowning meets this requirement.

The child will then be evaluated by mental heath professionals with extensive experience in both pediatric psychology and the diagnosis of PTSD. Depending on the child’s age, and degree of disability resulting from the accident, this evaluation often lasts for several months and may require observations conducted in a controlled hospital environment.

Finally, although there are no specific diagnostic imaging exams that can diagnose PTSD, that is not to say that exams such as CT and/or MRI scans are of little value when evaluating PTSD. Since the human brain will sustain at least some injury if a child is rendered unconscious for more than 30 seconds during a near-drowning accident, these exams can be important in monitoring a child’s overall recovery.

Why you will need a drowning accident lawyer

As you have probably concluded, the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD following a near-drowning is very expensive. In fact, our drowning accident injury lawyer tells us that the cost of merely establishing a diagnosis of PTSD in a child can easily exceed $30,000! Since these children will usually require long-term medical care for both PTSD and any other conditions related to their accident, the lifetime costs of a near-drowning injury can easily exceed $1 million!

In order to protect your child’s best interests, if he or she has been injured in a near-drowning accident, and regardless of how minor your child’s injuries may appear, your first move toward that goal should be to speak with a drowning accident lawyer with extensive experience in managing both childhood drowning and near-drowning accident injury cases. One such lawyer is the drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a national law practice with offices located throughout the country.

When you contact our drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer, you case review and first consultation with our firm is always free and does not obligate you in any way to hiring us to be your legal counsel. Should you decide that a lawsuit regarding your child’s near-drowning accident is in order, and that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to assume all costs necessary to prepare your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the settlement we will win for you and your child.