Serious accidents can leave individuals not only physically injured but also mentally injured. In addition to seeking medical treatment from a primary care doctor, medical specialist, or physical therapist, an accident victim may need to attend counseling sessions or seek treatment with a psychologist or psychiatrist for their mental distress.
One of the most common forms of mental distress following an injury such as a car/truck accident is post-traumatic stress or PTSD. Individuals suffering from PTSD may experience frequent panic attacks—especially when operating or riding in a car. PTSD symptoms and other types of accident-related mental distress can be just as bad—if not worse—than the physical symptoms an accident victim experiences.
If you suffered mental distress and emotional anguish from an accident, you might be eligible to recover monetary compensation. In addition to seeking the physical and mental help that you need, you should always contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Your lawyer can determine your eligibility for filing a claim and, if you are eligible, will file the claim on your behalf.
As part of your personal injury claim, your lawyer can seek monetary damages for the mental and emotional distress you experienced—and which you may continue to experience—following your accident. If the insurance company is unwilling to offer you the full and fair amount of compensation you deserve, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court for you and pursue favourable economic recovery.
Common Accidents that Lead to Mental Anguish and Distress Claims
Victims of serious accidents can suffer extreme mental distress in addition to their physical injuries and limitations.
Some of the most common accidents that lead to a mental distress claim include:
- Car and truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Slip and falls
- Medical complications that arise from negligence or malpractice
- Product malfunctions that cause injuries
Physical Injuries and Medical Treatment that Cause an Accident Victim Mental Distress and Depression
In addition to experiencing PTSD and other forms of mental distress following a severe accident, some accident victims experience anxiety, mood swings, and depression because of their physical injuries and ongoing symptoms.
Accident victims may also experience mental health issues if their physical injuries prevent them from using one or more body parts—such as with a paralysis injury—or hurt their ability to enjoy life to the fullest. For example, after many serious accidents, victims cannot participate in family activities, social events, sports, and other recreational activities they once enjoyed. As a result, they may become depressed or despondent.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area can help determine if you have a viable mental distress claim. If you do, your lawyer can help you file your claim with the appropriate insurance company and pursue the maximum amount of damages you deserve to recover for your emotional anguish.
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Ways that Mental Distress Manifests Itself
Severe accidents and physical injuries affect different people in different ways. Therefore, mental distress is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Instead, emotional and mental anguish manifests differently, depending upon the accident’s severity and the individual affected.
Some of the most common forms of mental distress following an accident include:
- Extreme nervousness, stress, anxiousness, or anxiety
- Fear of operating or riding in a vehicle
- Heart palpitations
- Breathing problems
- Frequent panic attacks
- Fear and avoidance of the accident scene
- Fear of certain driving maneuvers, such as making a specific type of turn, due to trauma associated with a severe car accident
To recover monetary compensation for emotional and mental distress, you will need to establish the legal elements of your claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer in your area can determine if you’re eligible to raise a mental distress claim and, if necessary, retain a mental health professional to examine you and render a medical diagnosis and opinion.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim That Involves Mental Distress
To recover monetary compensation for your emotional distress and mental anguish, you must satisfy the legal burden of proof in your case. In any personal injury claim, the accident victim has the sole legal burden. The individual who caused the accident does not need to prove anything.
First, the accident victim must demonstrate that the responsible person was negligent in some manner. An individual or entity behaves negligently when they fail to do something that a hypothetical “reasonable person” would do in the same situation. Alternatively, a party is negligent when they do something that a hypothetical reasonable person would not do under the same circumstances. If the accident victim establishes a standard-of-care violation, they prove the fault element of their negligence claim.
In addition to proving fault, however, the accident victim must establish the causation and damage elements to recover monetary compensation for their emotional distress. Specifically, the accident victim must show that the responsible person’s standard-of-care violation effectively caused the accident. Finally, they must show that the subject’s accident was a cause of their mental and emotional distress. To successfully prove this legal element, the accident does not need to be the sole cause of their distress. However, it must be a cause.
To prove medical causation in a mental distress claim, the accident victim must typically have an experienced healthcare provider on board in their case. The provider must be willing to state in writing, and to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that the accident victim is experiencing mental and emotional distress—and that this distress directly resulted from the accident.
In most circumstances, the accident victim’s lawyer will need to retain a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist to make this necessary causal connection. A mental health professional may also opine that the accident victim will likely experience accident-related mental anguish and emotional distress indefinitely.
If the accident victim can prove all of the claim elements, they may be eligible to recover various damages. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area can help you prove the legal elements of your claim and establish your eligibility for compensatory damages. Your lawyer will then do everything possible to maximize those damages on your behalf through settlement or litigation in the court system.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit for Mental Distress
The first step to recovering monetary compensation for physical injuries and mental distress is to file a personal injury claim with the appropriate insurance company. In most situations, an accident victim’s lawyer will deal with the insurance company for the responsible individual. For example, in the context of a car accident, the accident victim’s lawyer will likely file a claim and negotiate with a responsible driver’s insurer.
The process begins when an accident victim’s lawyer submits claim documents and a settlement demand letter on the accident victim’s behalf. Potential claim documents include mental health treatment records, along with other medical records from healthcare providers. The accident victim’s lawyer may also include photographs of the accident scene and property damage, along with a victim impact statement.
A victim impact statement describes, in the accident victim’s own words, the physical and mental effects the accident had on them personally. For instance, the accident victim might reference their physical pain and suffering, the mental health treatment they underwent, limitations on their ability to function, and how the accident and injuries continue to affect their daily life.
Once the adjuster receives this information, they will review it and determine if the insurance company will accept fault for the accident. If the adjuster accepts liability, then the settlement negotiation process can begin.
In most instances, initial settlement offers—including those for mental distress claims—are far below the actual value of the personal injury claim. After all, adjusters are trying to save their insurance company as much money as possible. Insurance companies lose money when they have to pay out large settlements and jury verdicts. Therefore, most adjusters will see if the accident victim is in a rush to settle their claim by making a low initial offer.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can negotiate with the adjuster on your behalf and pursue additional compensation. If the insurance company does not raise its offer significantly, your lawyer can threaten litigation and, if necessary, file a lawsuit in court.
Once litigation begins, the case may still resolve. In fact, most personal injury cases do settle at some point between initial filing and trial. However, if the case does not settle, the parties may take their case to a jury trial. At trial, the jury will determine what, if any, compensation to award the accident victim, including compensation for their mental distress and emotional anguish. The parties may consider mediation or binding arbitration as an alternative to trial.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area can help you decide whether you should accept a settlement offer from the insurance company or litigate your case in the courtroom.
Monetary Compensation for Past and Future Mental Distress
Accident victims who can prove the legal elements of their claim may be eligible for past and/or future mental distress damages. Monetary compensation for past mental distress compensates accident victims for the emotional anguish they experienced between the accident date and the present time. However, suppose a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional determines that an accident victim will likely experience mental distress. In that case, the accident victim can recover compensation for future mental distress.
If your personal injury case goes to trial, your lawyer can introduce a life table into evidence on your behalf. The life table approximates an individual’s anticipated life expectancy based on gender, age, race, and other factors. Therefore, your lawyer can use this table to estimate the number of years you will likely experience mental distress and emotional anguish going forward. Jury members can then use this information at their discretion when calculating a final damage award in your case.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer near you can assist with proving the legal elements of your claim and pursuing the compensation you deserve for your past and future mental suffering.
Deadline to File a Claim or Lawsuit for Mental Distress
As with physical injury claims, accident victims only have two years from their accident date in which to make a claim for mental distress and emotional anguish. If the accident victim fails to file a lawsuit within that time frame, they waive their right to do so later. Consequently, they will not be eligible to recover damages for their emotional distress, mental anguish, PTSD, and other past/future symptoms.
The best way to prevent running afoul of the statute of limitations is to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you in your case as soon as possible. Your lawyer can immediately begin investigating the circumstances of your accident and determining if you are eligible to raise a mental distress claim. If so, your lawyer can include the necessary mental health records in your initial settlement demand package and pursue favorable settlement compensation on your behalf.
Call an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today to Learn More
In addition to physical injuries and medical treatment, victims of serious accidents may also endure significant mental trauma and emotional anguish. Fortunately, these damages are legally compensable in certain situations.
If you suffered physical and mental injuries as a result of your accident, it is essential that you promptly speak with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area. Your lawyer can discuss the claim with you and determine your legal options for moving forward. If you are eligible to make a claim for mental distress, your lawyer can collect the necessary mental health records from your treating providers and file the claim on your behalf.
Your lawyer can then negotiate with the insurance company adjuster in pursuit of a fair settlement offer. If the insurance company will not take your case seriously and fails to offer you the full damages you deserve for your mental distress, your lawyer can litigate the case in court to an efficient conclusion.
Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.