Can I Sue for Emotional Distress from a Car Accident?

Categories: Car Accident

anthony distress car accident

Car accidents can be emotionally devastating. Not only do you deal with the stress of being involved in a motor vehicle accident, and all that comes with it, but you could be scarred permanently too. You might fear to get behind the wheel, suffer depression, or even have difficulty sleeping.

These emotional symptoms are just as significant as your physical ones. In some cases, psychological complications from an accident can last years after the physical pain is gone – and some are so severe that they impact your quality of life well into the future.

Therefore, you might wonder if you have options when it comes to seeking compensation. While you know you could receive damages for your physical injuries and property damage, how does emotional distress fit into the calculation?

Damages You Can Request in a Car Accident Claim in Savannah, GA

After a motor vehicle accident caused by someone’s negligence, you may be entitled to damages. Damages are a form of compensation designed to return you to a financially “whole” state. While no amount of money can make up for the physical pain and emotional suffering, these damages cover everything from medical costs to your emotional trauma – and try to return you to a comfortable financial state.

In a basic car accident claim or lawsuit, you would have two categories of damages: compensatory and non-compensatory.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages address the financial losses in your accident. These are easily calculated types of damages, including:

  • Medical Costs: Medical costs are by far the most expensive part of a car accident. Not only do you have your emergency care, such as first responders, ambulance rides, and emergency room care, but you also have follow-up appointments, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and prescription medications that add to the costs.
  • Property Damage: Property damage includes the physical damage to your vehicle, any personal belongings destroyed in the accident, and so forth.
  • Lost Wages: Lost wages refers to the income you lose to recover from your injuries. This includes not only the initial time off work but time off work you take for doctor’s appointments even after you return to work.
  • Loss of Future Earnings: If you cannot work in the same capacity (if at all) because of the injuries, you may receive compensation for your loss of future earnings.

Non-Compensatory Damages

Non-compensatory damages refer to the physical pain and emotional trauma you suffer from the accident. These damages vary greatly depending on the case, and emotional distress damages are only awarded (typically) in cases where a person suffers catastrophic injuries.

What is Emotional Distress?

Pain and suffering, which are the damages you would receive in non-compensatory damage categories, refer to the physical pain, but also the mental anguish and emotional distress that you suffer from your motor vehicle accident. Part of these damages include the emotional distress, but only if you can show that a person’s negligence causes you to suffer from mental harm, including:

  • Humiliation
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anguish
  • Terror
  • Stress
  • Torment

To file for compensation for emotional distress, you must show:

  • The emotional distress affects you every day and is not just a one-time occurrence;
  • The negligence by the defendant is the direct cause of your emotional pain;
  • The distress is medically significant to your quality of life.

To prove your case, you will be required to show that you suffered physical injuries as well. While in rare cases the courts will grant compensation to someone who did not suffer long-term physical injuries, most courts want to see physical severe injuries resulting from the accident in addition to emotional distress.

Three Categories of Emotional Distress

While emotional distress usually ropes into the pain and suffering category, it also can be addressed by these three categories:

  • Loss of Consortium – A person may receive damages for emotional distress related to the loss or deprivation of a spouse or parent because of the negligence or intentions of another party.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – When someone intentionally causes your injuries, such as purposely driving their car into yours to cause the accident, you can also sue for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. The individual must know or reasonably suspect that you would suffer emotional distress as a result.
  • Negligent Infliction – In a motor vehicle accident caused by someone’s negligence, you may claim a negligent infliction of emotional distress, stating that the person caused your emotional trauma and suffering because of their negligent acts.

Combining Emotional Distress into a Pain and Suffering Claim

When you file a lawsuit or seek compensation through an insurance claim, you will often put an emotional distress claim in with the general pain and suffering damages. Your attorney will use relevant documentation and evidence to prove that the accident left you with emotional trauma. These pieces of evidence might include:

  • Testimony from a mental health professional;
  • Medical records;
  • Doctor’s statement and notations;
  • Medications prescribed for the emotional trauma;
  • Your statement;
  • Pictures and documentation of the physical injuries;
  • Photographs and documentation showing the severity of the accident.

Your attorney may request higher emotional damages for a severe or disabling injury. After all, if you will suffer physical pain for the rest of your life, it is more likely the jury will award you with higher emotional damages.

The Five Factors

Five individual factors influence the value of pain and suffering (emotional damages) claim. The extent of distress you suffer will depend heavily on these five factors:

  1. The intensity of the distress
  2. The duration of the physical pain
  3. The underlying cause of your physical pain
  4. The related bodily injuries
  5. Your psychological symptoms and their length

Speak with an Injury Attorney

After your accident, be sure that you report the incident to your insurance company quickly. Then, seek medical treatment for your injuries. After you have handled the basics, speak with an attorney like Clarke Nash.

An attorney can help you navigate the process of filing an insurance claim or pursue emotional distress damages via a personal injury claim if your injuries are severe enough.

Schedule your consultation with Clarke Nash today at 912-200-5292 or request more information online.