The aftermath of a car accident can cause injuries to your health. Most people focus on physical injuries and recovery after a car accident. Still, many car accident victims suffer debilitating effects on their mental and emotional health after an accident.
While many people understand the process of recovering from losses associated with a physical injury, recovery from emotional distress can prove more complex and less straightforward. For some accident victims, the emotional distress suffered after an accident will significantly impact their daily lives and affect their abilities to function and move forward after the accident. Under certain circumstances, car accident victims can sue for the emotional distress suffered by an accident.
To know whether you can seek compensation for emotional distress or other damages from an accident, always consult a car accident lawyer. Someone with experience handling complex cases stemming from traumatic crashes can evaluate your rights and options.
Damages in a Car Accident
Many damages can occur in an automobile accident. A car accident victim can seek recovery for these losses through a personal injury claim and, if necessary, a lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for the accident. The law separates damages into two types: compensatory and punitive.
In most car accident cases, only compensatory damages apply. Compensatory damages refer to the losses that victims of an accident have sustained. Compensatory damages include (1) economic and (2) non-economic.
Economic damages constitute objective, quantifiable monetary losses that have already occurred or will occur in the future.
These damages prove easier to calculate due to the verifiable cost associated with each loss related to your car accident.
Examples of economic damages in a car accident case include:
- Medical bills – Expenses related to emergency care, treatment, and rehabilitation for your physical injuries from the car accident. This may include current losses and future expenses that your injuries require.
- Lost wages – Income lost due to missed work, reduced hours, and/or impacts on your ability to perform your work duties due to your injuries. The losses can include lost wages now or in the future.
- Property damage – The costs of repairing or replacing any personal property involved in the accident. Regarding car accidents, this often refers to your vehicle but can also include other property, such as a cell phone, eyeglasses, or other property damaged due to the collision.
- Other expenses – A car accident can bring about other costs or expenses that may not fall into one of the categories above. However, if you can verify the expense monetarily, they will likely qualify as economic damage. Some examples include towing service for your vehicle, transportation services, and special equipment you may need for your recovery.
It often proves difficult to quantify all damages from a car accident. Whether certain damage includes a bill or price tag, it likely still feels very real to a victim and can affect an injured individual’s ability to live life. These types of damages constitute non-economic damages. While the calculation of these damages can prove complex, the law allows monetary compensation to represent the loss suffered by a victim.
Injured individuals may struggle to recover certain non-economic losses; however, victims can receive compensation for the impacts on their lives. The most common type of non-economic damage is pain and suffering. While this term is often used as a catchall to represent these non-monetary damages, pain and suffering can mean very different things to each victim.
Common examples of non-economic damages in a car accident include:
- Pain – The severity of your injuries – and the surgeries and treatments necessary to heal from those injuries – will hold great weight on the extent of recovery for pain from those physical injuries. The more severe the injuries involved, the more likely you will receive monetary compensation for the pain experienced.
- Suffering – This includes not only the suffering from your physical injuries but the emotional distress and psychological impacts of the accident itself, as well as the trauma from the injuries sustained and throughout the recovery process.
- Reduced enjoyment of life – When an injury leaves a victim with lifelong disabilities, deformities, or chronic pain, the individual’s quality of life suffers. The law allows for the monetary recovery for this loss as non-economic damage.
What Qualifies as Emotional Distress?
The term emotional distress can mean different things to different people. Accident victims are unique, and their personal experiences and impacts on their emotional and mental health after a car accident can prove drastically different. Emotional distress can manifest itself in various ways, making it complicated to evaluate and calculate. The law defines emotional distress as the suffering or impact on an individual’s emotions from a particular event, such as an automobile accident.
Signs and symptoms of emotional distress may include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Mood disorder
- Feelings of guilt or hopelessness
Can You Always Sue for Emotional Distress?
Most cases for car accident damages settle out of court through a personal injury claim with the insurance companies involved. In many situations, injured individuals include emotional distress as non-economic damages of pain and suffering within a claim. However, a case may need to proceed to court for a resolution in certain situations.
Injured individuals may include emotional distress damages in a personal injury claim or lawsuit that arises from a car accident. However, the amount of monetary compensation that a court or insurance company ultimately awards can prove limited based on the severity of the injuries and circumstances in your case.
While some jurisdictions will allow recovery for emotional distress after a car accident, regardless of injury or impact, a few jurisdictions, including Florida, require some physical impact to occur for a victim to successfully recover from the infliction of emotional distress in a car accident. In a motor vehicle collision, negligent infliction of emotional distress will likely constitute the legal grounds for recovery in a lawsuit.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
Negligence causes the vast majority of automobile accidents. Negligent infliction of emotional distress applies to these scenarios because the party did not act intentionally to harm you. Still, the party’s negligence led to your sustained physical and emotional injuries. In states like Florida, a plaintiff must establish certain elements to show that a party acted negligently and should thus bear liability for resulting emotional distress.
Elements that injured individuals must prove to establish negligent infliction of emotional distress include:
- An emotional injury to the victim occurred;
- The emotional injury resulted from the negligence of the at-fault party; and
- The victim suffered a physical impact due to the accident.
The physical impact element requires that an accident victim have a physical injury to recover compensation for emotional distress. In most circumstances, a victim cannot recover compensation for emotional distress damages if the victim did not suffer any physical injuries directly related to the accident. However, if a victim suffers injury in any way, they should also seek compensation for any emotional distress that results from the accident.
How Do Victims Establish Emotional Distress in a Car Accident Case?
Medical imaging or diagnostics will often serve as evidence of a physical injury; however, an emotional distress injury involves an individual’s personal experience and thus may prove more difficult to detect. You cannot always see emotional distress, and the extent or severity of the emotional impacts on a victim’s life may vary greatly from one accident to another. Individuals who suffer injuries in a car accident can establish emotional distress after an accident.
Evidence of emotional distress can include:
- Medical records – Can include statements, records, and evaluations by medical providers, including mental health professionals that have diagnosed or treated you for symptoms of emotional distress after the accident.
- Witness testimony – Statements by friends, family, or coworkers regarding the accident’s impact on your emotions, well-being, and ability to function in your daily life.
- Personal records – Your log or experiences of the distress caused to you after an accident; this can include videos, written notes, or a journal of the effects of the accidents on your mental and emotional health.
How Do Courts Calculate Damages for Emotional Distress?
Determining the monetary cost of emotional distress can prove complex. Quantifying the emotional impacts of an accident can pose challenges. However, when it comes to a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you must monetarily quantify what level of compensation an at-fault party should provide you following an accident.
The calculation of emotional distress in a lawsuit will often depend on the extent of your physical injuries. This process does not involve an exact formula and can vary depending on the method used by the courts, insurance companies, and attorneys in a case.
You should consult a personal injury attorney to recover compensation for emotional distress after a car accident. An auto accident attorney has the necessary resources and experience to help you understand the damages you may pursue for the emotional distress you’ve suffered due to your injuries and the accident.
You Have Limited Time to Sue for Emotional Distress After an Accident
When you want to recover compensation for emotional distress in a car accident, you face the same statute of limitations that applies to all accident claims within your state. You must file a legal action within the specified time frame in your jurisdiction, or you may lose your right to seek compensation.
For example, in Florida, the statute of limitations specifies that injured individuals must file a lawsuit for emotional distress within four years of the motor vehicle accident.
Personal injury claims and lawsuits can take time to resolve. To maximize your chances of recovering compensation, you should contact an auto accident lawyer immediately after an accident occurs. If you or a loved one suffer mental and emotional trauma after a car accident, you may pursue compensation for these damages and other losses.
What Should You Do if You Suffer an Emotional Injury After a Car Accident?
If you suffer from the signs or symptoms of emotional distress, you should take immediate action to protect your health and rights.
Your priority when you think your mental and emotional well-being has suffered after a car accident is getting the help and treatment you need. Seek help through your medical provider or mental health professional.
Car accident victims frequently experience feelings of hopelessness and despair following an accident. Focus on your physical and emotional recovery, and follow through with the recommended treatment plan set out by your medical team to help you get back on track after an accident.
Keep a Log
After a car accident, try to keep track of everything. In a journal, record your experience and relevant information about your physical and emotional injuries. Weeks and months down the line, you may struggle to remember the details of your experience; by keeping a log of your recovery, you will more easily remember how you felt throughout your recovery.
Should You Retain a Car Accident Attorney?
Following a serious car accident, you may feel overwhelmed, anxious, and unsure of your next steps. Don’t try to handle your legal claim on your own. Consulting an experienced car accident attorney can help reduce stress and increase your chances of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries.
Contact an experienced attorney today for a free consultation, during which you discuss the details of your accident, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation.