After a car accident, most people expect physical injuries: broken bones, soft tissue damage, cuts, and lacerations, or more serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injuries, that can cause permanent challenges for the victim. What many people fail to take into consideration, however, is the possibility that a car accident will often cause immense emotional distress as well.
You may have a lot of questions about your right to compensation following a car accident that caused significant emotional distress, including questions like, “Can I sue for anxiety after a car accident?” or, “Can I sue for emotional distress after a car accident?”
If another driver’s negligent behavior on the road causes a car accident, and that accident results in serious emotional distress, you have the same right to seek compensation that you would if you sustained serious physical injuries. If you suffer physical and emotional injuries because of your car accident, you can seek compensation for both of those damages.
When can you sue for emotional distress after a car accident?
In general, you may need to consider several factors when determining whether you have the right to sue for emotional distress following a car accident.
Did the other driver’s negligence cause the accident?
Before you can claim compensation for emotional distress suffered during your car accident, you must first establish that the other driver’s negligent actions led to your accident, your injuries, and the distress you faced. If the other driver’s actions did not cause your car accident, you may not have the right to claim compensation through a personal injury claim. Negligent actions may include everything from ignoring the rules of the road to texting and driving or driving while intoxicated.
Did you suffer substantial emotional implications from the accident?
Most people feel a little shaky immediately after a car accident, especially one that results in serious injury. Even if you did not sustain a serious injury during the accident, you may feel immense distress related to the accident. Many factors can trigger emotional distress during an accident, from the fear that often rises during an accident itself to getting stuck in the vehicle after the accident, which can trigger feelings of claustrophobia and worry.
Emotional challenges related to the accident may include a variety of common conditions.
Many people notice increased overall anxiety after a car accident. Anxiety includes persistent worries or concerns, often about factors out of the individual’s immediate control. Anxiety can make it very difficult to, for example, go about normal daily tasks, engage with the people you normally would, or even get in the car again after the accident. Many car accident victims may have trouble allowing someone else to drive, taking control of a vehicle, or going past the accident scene in a vehicle, especially if the accident occurred in a high-traffic area.
Anxiety from the car accident can also start to creep into other areas of the victim’s life. Some people notice an increase in anxiety over other circumstances in addition to circumstances involving vehicles and driving. They may start to worry about things in other aspects of their lives, including things they cannot control or that have nothing to do with getting behind the wheel.
Changing life circumstances, especially those entirely outside the victim’s control, can trigger serious depression. Often, depression manifests in car accident victims who have sustained serious injuries, especially injuries that prevent them from engaging in many activities and tasks they enjoyed before the accident. Accident victims who have not suffered a serious physical injury, but did suffer immense emotional distress, may also have trouble with many of the challenges they face after the accident, including financial losses or difficulty managing their circumstances.
Depression may manifest as a loss of overall interest in the things that the patient once enjoyed. The patient may sleep more often than usual or can't generate the energy to participate in daily activities, including many things that once filled the patient’s day.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, often gets triggered as a result of very frightening events. Getting in a car accident, for example, could trigger an extreme case of PTSD. People who witness car accidents may also suffer from that condition.
Patients with PTSD may have severe nightmares, immense anxiety, and trouble with flashbacks that seem to take them back to the accident scene. They may have a hard time dealing with the emotional aftermath of the accident, including going back to the accident site or talking about it with anyone. PTSD can cause increased irritability and interfere with the victim’s relationship with loved ones. PTSD may also make it very difficult for the patient to get out and do normal things, particularly since riding in a car can trigger PTSD-related symptoms.
How can I claim emotional distress after a car accident?
The emotional distress related to your car accident may cause immense complications in your life, whether you suffer from increased depression and inability to take care of the activities you once enjoyed or you have struggled with PTSD and heightened anxiety. You have suffered immense losses, and you may feel that you deserve considerable support and compensation for the losses you have faced.
Proving emotional distress after a car accident, however, is much more complicated than proving a physical injury. To claim compensation for your emotional distress, you may need to work closely with an experienced car accident attorney who can go over the conditions that led to your accident, the party liable for the accident and your injuries, and the compensation you should expect. Further, an attorney can put together the vital evidence you need to establish your right to compensation for emotional distress.
1. Break down the compensation you deserve for emotional distress by working closely with an experienced car accident attorney.
Compensation for a car accident usually breaks down into two key categories: special damages, or damages that you can assign a specific financial amount, and general damages, which do not have an immediate financial value, but for which you still deserve compensation. General damages usually include things like pain and suffering.
You may find that your losses due to the emotional anguish associated with a car accident fit into both of those categories.
Special Damages Associated With Emotional Distress
Special damages include the elements of your claim that you can reflect in financial terms: the direct financial impact you have faced because of your accident, and the compensation you deserve as a result. Generally, in a car accident claim, special damages include things like missing wages and medical costs.
Emotional distress following a car accident can cause both.
In the immediate aftermath of your car accident, you may have had physical medical bills, including an emergency room visit or even long-term medical care as you worked to recover from your injuries. Like your body, your mind and emotions may require assistance and support from a medical professional as you work to heal. You may, for example, have multiple visits to a professional, either a psychologist or psychiatrist. In addition, for many types of mental conditions and struggles, you may receive medication to help treat the symptoms while you work on using other tactics to manage them. While those medications may help, they often carry a heavy price tag. You can include the cost of those medications as part of your car accident claim.
Some types of emotional struggles can make it very difficult for you to go back to work. If you suffer from PTSD, you may find it difficult to go out around other people or to work in a public place, especially if you suffer from flashbacks. Increased anxiety or depression can make it very difficult to get out of bed and take care of your normal tasks each day. The longer those symptoms go on, the longer you may need to remain out of work. Your employer may even insist that you stay out of work until you deal more effectively with those conditions, especially if you have had flashbacks or performance issues as you tried to return to work after the accident.
General Damages and Emotional Distress
General damages associated with a car accident claim include the non-financial losses you faced due to the accident and your injuries. When you claim emotional distress after a car accident, your attorney will work with you to quantify the distress you have faced and the compensation you deserve as a result. For example, you might claim compensation for the anxiety and depression you struggled with after the accident, or for the long-term impact of PTSD.
2. Establish evidence of your emotional distress and the losses you faced due to that distress.
Your attorney will help you break down the compensation that you deserve for emotional distress and go over the evidence you will need to establish to seek the compensation you deserve. Before you can seek compensation, however, you may need to prove the challenges you have faced due to your injuries.
As the injured party and the one experiencing difficulty, you can certainly testify about the challenges you have faced after your accident. However, your attorney may recommend collecting additional evidence to establish the losses you have dealt with due to your car accident and your injuries.
Testimony From Your Medical Care Provider
In the aftermath of a car accident, you may work with a psychologist or psychiatrist to pursue treatment for your distress and your conditions. Through that treatment process, you can gradually recover and start to live a more normal life. Your care provider can offer evidence of the steps you have taken to improve and the limitations you faced because of the emotional distress you faced after the car accident. Your medical care provider can also provide a specific diagnosis that will establish what challenges you may have faced after your accident.
Testimony From Others
You may need witness testimony to help establish some of the other ways your emotional distress after the car accident has influenced you. Your employer or manager, for example, may speak to the time you have spent out of work or the challenges you faced in returning to work and how they impact your ability to advance in your career.
Your friends might talk about how your habits have changed, including your inability to enjoy activities that you normally would have participated in with them. Your family might talk about the flashbacks you have faced. An attorney can work with you to establish what testimony you may need to help establish all the challenges you have faced due to your car accident and the emotional distress that followed.
Do I need a car accident lawyer to sue for emotional distress after a car accident?
Any time you have the right to seek substantial compensation for car accident injuries, including the emotional distress and PTSD that may follow a serious accident, having an attorney on your side can provide an immense advantage. When it comes to filing a claim for emotional distress, however, that attorney can become even more critical.
A car accident lawyer can help you break down the compensation you deserve and collect the evidence you need to establish emotional distress after your car accident. Many car accident victims find that working with an experienced attorney can help increase the compensation they can recover. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about the compensation you can expect for emotional distress after a car accident.