Millions of people are injured in serious car accidents every single year. They suffer physical harm—broken bones, dislocations, brain injuries, etc.—and economic losses—medical debt, unemployment, and loss of wages—but they also suffer injuries that can’t be easily seen or measured.
Car Crashes and Emotional Distress: Victims Have Options
Thousands of car accident victims are plagued by mental trauma, hindering their recovery and drastically impacting their quality of life. Trauma, called emotional distress in the legal realm, can take many different forms and manifest in a wide array of symptoms arising out of a diverse set of disorders and conditions.
Unfortunately, many afflicted with emotional distress don’t know where to turn for help, making their circumstances all the direr. Although it’s common knowledge that physical injuries, such as broken bones and dislocated vertebrae, are actionable, it’s much less known that emotional distress can also form the basis of a lawsuit.
Victims can file a lawsuit to recoup the losses they incurred because of their emotional distress. A successful suit may result in a considerable financial award. This compensation, known as damages, can help victims and their families subsist after a severe crash and expedite their return to normal.
Here’s some basic information about emotional distress, emotional distress lawsuits, and how victims can vindicate their rights through the legal system to obtain help for themselves and their families.
What Is Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress is a nebulous term with many different definitions depending on who you ask. But for legal purposes, it is generally defined as “a highly unpleasant emotional reaction resulting from another’s conduct, for which damages may be sought.”
Emotional distress may manifest itself in a variety of symptoms, including depression anxiety, physical illness, feelings of hopelessness, and an inability to perform basic tasks.
The afflicted may encounter intense feelings of dread, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and recurring flashbacks of the trauma-inducing event. In severe cases, emotional distress can make daily life activities incredibly difficult. It may be hard to ride in a car, hold a job, and attend school. The effects can be so pronounced that caring for yourself and your family may become impossible.
Intentional versus Negligent Emotional Distress
Emotional distress claims are categorized as either intentional or negligent.
In the car accident context, the defendant intentionally inflicts emotional distress if he intentionally causes the accident. For example, if the defendant rammed the plaintiff’s car in a bout of road rage, it could be said that he intentionally caused the accident and ipso facto the emotional distress.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress, on the other hand, requires no intention. To bring a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must demonstrate that:
- a) the defendant owed them a duty of care;
- b) violated this duty when they caused the accident;
- d) they suffered injuries because of this violation;
- e) and their injuries were more than nominal.
Do I Have a Claim?
To have a claim, plaintiffs must demonstrate that they suffered injuries that can be valued in monetary terms, and their injuries were directly caused by the plaintiff’s negligence.
The plaintiff must provide documented evidence that their quality of life has been impacted by their emotional distress. Examples include being unable to work and perform basic life tasks like driving a car. They can also provide evidence of financial losses, such as medical debt.
You must value your injuries in dollars and cents. For example, a claim that emotional distress causes the defendant five minutes of sleep every night is probably not actionable. If the distress causes you to lose days or weeks at work, it probably is.
Their injuries must be directly linked to the defendant’s actions. Even if the defendant’s behavior was totally outrageous and the sole cause of the accident, if the plaintiff cannot prove that it caused their emotional distress, they have no claim.
If the courts find the defendant responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, they will grant the plaintiff a financial award. This compensation, known as damages, is meant to make the victim “whole again” by returning him to the condition he enjoyed before the accident.
Generally speaking, damages can be divided into two categories: monetary and non-monetary.
Monetary damages address concrete losses that are easy to convert into a dollar amount. Medical debt and lost wages both fall into this category. Proving these claims is fairly straightforward and can be done so with documents like bills and receipts.
Non-monetary damages address more abstract injuries that are more difficult to assign a monetary value. Pain and suffering and loss of life’s enjoyment are included in this category. Proving these claims is often more challenging and usually requires testimony from an expert witness, such as a medical doctor.
A person with mental trauma may have difficulty living a normal life—it may be difficult to hold a job, attend school, and even perform basic tasks. Thankfully, victims have rights under the law. They can file a lawsuit for infliction of emotional distress if their mental trauma was the result of an accident caused by negligence or wrongdoing.
Consult a lawyer to obtain a claim for emotional distress after a traffic accident
A lawsuit, if successful, may result in a considerable financial award. This award, known as damages, addresses the harm suffered because of the accident. Victims may get damages for financial losses incurred because of their injuries, such as medical debt and lost wages, in addition to pain and suffering.
The first step is contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer. A lawyer understands the evidence required to prove the case and can launch a thorough investigation to ensure the truth gets told. They can negotiate a settlement with the opposing party and provide a vigorous defense of your rights before a court of law.
However, a lawyer is more than just a professional in a suit. They offer personalized representation, offering candid advice and an empathetic voice throughout the process.
Act quickly. Many personal injury lawsuits require extensive discovery and may take months or even weeks to resolve. Furthermore, every state has a statute of limitations on all personal injury lawsuits. Failure to act promptly could permanently forfeit the right to legal recourse.