After being involved in a traumatic accident, you may find that you are suffering from emotional pain because of it. Can you seek personal injury compensation for this condition? In short, yes, you can. But, doing so successfully will hinge on several factors, including your ability to prove that the trauma you were subjected to in the accident affects your day-to-day life.
The price for severe emotional pain from a personal injury incident can also vary widely on that same factor, so you must have a skilled attorney representing you. It will be their responsibility to create a sound legal argument demonstrating the other party's liability and that their negligent actions caused the accident that resulted in this.
What Is Emotional Distress?
In legal terms, emotional distress is an emotional reaction that directly results from another person's conduct, which justifies seeking damages. For example, maybe you can no longer get behind the wheel of your car because of the fear it causes after a terrible accident. Or, it could be you are suffering from severe panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and other mood disorders because of this trauma and now can't handle the most basic of daily tasks, interacting with your family, or care for yourself.
Individuals who witnessed a traumatic event often experience these forms of emotional distress. If you are experiencing the same, it's crucial that you reach out to a doctor and seek treatment right away. You should also reach out to a personal injury attorney at Morgan & Morgan to discuss your legal options for compensatory damages.
Pain and Suffering and Emotional Distress Are Not the Same
When suing for personal injury compensation, attorneys often ask for "pain and suffering" damages. This type of loss involves one that is caused by someone else's negligence. For instance, if you were struck by a speeding driver who ran a red light, you could ask for financial compensation for the physical pain and mental anguish your injuries caused.
On the other hand, emotional distress focuses on the cause of your anguish. You don't necessarily have to have been involved in the accident but merely witnessed it. For example, if you were standing in your driveway at the corner of a four-way stop in your neighborhood, and you noticed a speeding car strike your child while she crossed the street. This would be highly distressing emotionally for any parent to witness and would likely haunt you for years to come. You may not be willing to let your child play outside ever again, which isn't healthy or reasonable.
This type of damage award covers a broad spectrum of emotions one could experience during and after an accident has occurred. From anxiety and anger to depression and grief, these extreme emotional states can disable anyone and possibly be a sign of a more serious condition, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The reality is that emotional distress is not the same as pain and suffering, but it can certainly affect any accident victim along with it.
Common Conditions That Are Forms of Emotional Distress
Below are a few of the many recognized psychological conditions that would be considered emotional distress in a personal injury case:
Accident victims often experience some depression after suffering debilitating injuries. In addition, being unable to do everyday activities, the stress of financial pressures, and other challenges, can have a physical impact.
They may be sluggish or tired throughout the day, experience loss of enjoyment of life, and could consider suicide to alleviate the distress they're feeling. Treatment may include antidepressant medication, therapy, and potentially hospitalization in serious cases.
Another condition of emotional distress is an anxiety disorder. For example, after experiencing a catastrophic car accident or debilitating fall, victims are often hyper-aware of potential threats to their life and safety afterward. It can leave them in a constant state of worry and lead to self-isolation, interfering with their family and career lives.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is often associated with military veterans who have witnessed traumatizing combat events, but it also applies to emotional distress from accidents. PTSD involves a highly upsetting event that typically threatens severe injury, possible death, or other perceived threats to one's physical self. Much like anxiety disorder, this painful condition requires medical treatment and can manifest debilitating symptoms, including aggression, mood swings, insomnia, depression, and suicidal ideations.
Individuals who survive an accident could also suffer from panic attacks, a severe form of emotional distress that can affect the physical well-being of the sufferer. When a panic attack occurs, the victim may feel they can't breathe, and their heartbeat begins to beat rapidly. Some feel chest pain and tightness, confusing these symptoms for a heart attack, exacerbating their experience further.
The frustrating aspect of this disorder is it can seem to come out of nowhere without any apparent reason to those around them or the sufferer. This unpredictability may keep the victim in a constant state of fear and prevent them from enjoying everyday life activities with those they love, potentially making them housebound. Such levels of severity make the price for severe emotional pain from a personal injury incident even greater.
Emotional Distress Can Be Inflicted Intentionally or Negligently
Another important aspect of seeking emotional distress damages is determining if it was inflicted intentionally or through negligent means. For example, if a delivery driver purposely rear-ended you because you wouldn't change lanes and allow them to pass, this would be considered intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But, let's say that a drunk driver ran a red light without realizing it and struck a pedestrian crossing through the intersection. This would be viewed as negligent in nature. Why? Because they didn't intend to cause harm, but they acted negligently by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
This distinction can significantly impact the price for severe emotional pain from a personal injury incident.
Emotional Distress Can Increase a Personal Injury Settlement or Jury Award
As you can see, severe emotional distress can have devastating impacts on a victim's life after a serious accident. Because of this reality, claims involving conditions that fall under this category often increase the price for severe emotional pain from a personal injury incident.
When courts have to calculate your damage claim, they will usually take one of the following approaches when determining the compensation that is considered fair and reasonable under the law:
- Take your past, present, and future economic damages total and multiply that sum by 1.5 to 5. The higher the multiplier, the more severe emotional distress they believe you have suffered.
- Tallying your accident expenses, such as medical bills, medication costs, and lost wages, and multiplying that total by the number of days you will be impaired.
It's important to remember that you can only be awarded damages that are considered fair for the scope of your distress. Personal injury compensation is meant to make you whole financially and shouldn't profit you in any way. The state where you file your lawsuit may also have caps on this type of damage claim, so make sure to speak with your attorney about how this limitation could affect your final award amount.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Proves Your Emotional Distress Case
Emotional distress damage claims can be more challenging to prove than physical and economic harm. But, the skilled personal injury attorneys of Morgan & Morgan rely on advancements in medical science and years of representing cases involving mental health injuries like PTSD to represent these claims successfully. Our law firm has an in-depth understanding of how emotional distress can physically injure the human body or cause significant sickness, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example.
To prove to the court, jury, and defendants that your emotional distress suit is legitimate, we will provide evidence of the following:
- Show how the severity of your distress impacts your daily life (work, school, family)
- Submit mental health diagnoses from your provider verifying the type of therapy you are receiving, medication you take, and their opinion on the cause of your distress
- Health records showing the physical effects of emotional distress on your body
- How long you have experienced and will continue to suffer from the effects of this condition
Our firm will also request all the necessary medical records, obtain witness testimony, related research, and have you maintain a symptoms diary to help build a strong case of evidence. Don't let the insurance company minimize the emotional pain and distress you are experiencing and get the financial compensation you deserve.