Psychological Injuries from Car Accidents
People walk away with much more than physical injuries after a car accident. The emotional significance of a collision cannot be understated. People who are confident in their driving abilities or who feel safe as passengers suddenly collide with another car and come face to face with reality: that driving is dangerous and they could get hurt. Even in a minor crash when people walk away with little to no physical injuries, the emotional impact of the accident can linger, affecting a person’s daily life for months or years.
Psychological Injuries Due to Auto Accidents
While each crash victim’s experience is unique, there are common emotional harms that follow this type of trauma: Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, uncontrollable crying, phobias, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
While many car accident victims suffer from these psychological injuries, it is important to note that they can suffer trauma and emotional pain that they have a right to recover for without it being a specific psychological diagnosis. Victims can experienced emotional repercussions for weeks or months following the accident without necessarily falling into depression or experiencing a sleep disorder. That does not mean they do not deserve to be compensated for these injuries.
Your Right to Recover For Emotional Suffering
Under the law, these types of psychological injuries are commonly referred to as pain and suffering. This pain is just as real as physical pain, and a crash victim has the right to recover for their emotional suffering as much as they do for their physical suffering.
Crash victims often turn to their own or the at-fault party’s insurance company for recovery. It is important that they take their psychological trauma into account when discussing settlements. Many people do not seek enough recovery from insurance because they do not take into account non-physical injuries and they do not account for the length of time it may take them to recover from their psychological harms. By working with an attorney, victims can better calculate the recovery that compensates them for their financial and emotional loss.
In many situations, those hurt in auto accidents are not able to recover from an insurance company. This leads victims to file lawsuits against the parties at fault for the accident in order to be compensated for their medical expenses and other financial costs as well as the emotional pain and suffering they have endured because of the crash. An attorney can help translate these non-compensatory damages into figures to ensure victims are made whole following a trauma.
Intentionally Inflicted Emotional Distress
The emotional pain caused by a car accident is often an inherent part of the traumatic event. However, there may be situations in which the victim believes the person who caused the accident intended to cause emotional distress. In this situation, how the victim will seek to recover damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress will differ than attempting to recover for pain and suffering. A claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress will be separate from the personal injury claim.
If the driver at fault for the accident was grossly negligent or purposefully caused the accident, the victim may have a case for intentional infliction of emotional distress. This issue often arises in “road rage” cases, where the at-fault driver purposefully behaved incredibly negligently on the road.
Proving Pain, Suffering, and Emotional Distress
Car crash victims need an experienced personal injury attorney to help them prove the extent of their pain and suffering to an insurance company or court. A person’s psychological injuries may be very real, but they are more difficult to demonstrate in court than a physical injury. A broken leg includes X-rays, casts, walking with a cane, records of physical therapy and more to prove its existence and burden. Anxiety or depression are mostly internal and need different kinds of proof in court – though it can help to link them to related physical injuries.
A lawyer will build the case for your emotional stress through a number of steps. Your own testimony will be key in convincing a judge or jury of what you suffered. If you sought medical treatment, your physician may testify, though you will need to discuss the doctor-patient privilege and what he or she is allowed to disclose in court. If you have a severe psychological injury liked PTSD, it will be necessary for your mental health care provider to testify regarding the diagnosis – an average person is not allowed to do this.
You may need to discuss the specific symptoms of your distress. How long it has been going on, and if it strikes you in episodes, how long each episode lasts. You may also be more likely to recover if you link the emotional trauma to physical symptoms like headaches, sleep problems, and digestive issues.
It is important to speak up when the psychological trauma has affected your everyday life. People who suffer after a car accident might have difficulty in work or school. Some may withdraw from their friends and family. Demonstrating these effects can help prove to a judge or jury that your pain and suffering was not momentary or minor. Instead, it is a now a major consequence of the accident in your life.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
The extent of your emotional distress will affect the amount of recovery you receive for it. Minor pain and suffering due to a car accident is unlikely to increase a person’s damages by a significant amount. However, if a victim suffers severe psychological injuries, particularly a diagnosable disorder, then it is possible for his or her damages to increase significantly beyond simple compensatory damages.
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