Pain and Suffering: Emotional Distress From Car Accidents

In personal injury cases, some damages are obvious. The first order of business is to address the victim’s physical health. To do so, the claim will first ask for compensatory damages for medical expenses incurred in an attempt to get the victim as healthy, or as close to healthy, as they were before their accident. These include, first of all, medical bills, rehabilitation and other treatments of physical injuries.

But as many car accident victims will attest, some of the worst injuries aren’t always visible. While physical injuries can be directly addressed in most cases, psychological ones may be harder to diagnose, and even harder to treat. A large and important component of the compensation process addresses emotional pain and suffering.

What is Emotional Distress?

Emotional pain and suffering, often simply referred to as emotional distress or mental anguish, consists of the suffering that exists aside from physical injury. While it may be a result of a physical injury, this sort of injury can’t be healed with a cast or a bandage.

For legal purposes, it’s not even necessary to suffer a physical injury. Emotional distress is often caused simply by being involved in or witness to a traumatic event. It can include or lead to anxiety, anguish, humiliation, torment, depression and other maladies. If A severe event, such as a catastrophic car accident, may even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD

PTSD, as defined by the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD, is a “mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”

The disorder is diagnosed, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if an individual has at least one re-experiencing symptom, one avoidance symptom, two arousal and reactivity symptoms and two cognition and mood symptoms in a one-month span. Depending on the severity, PTSD may completely debilitate an individual for a time period, depending on the event and the individual, from a short time span to a chronic lifelong disorder.

Symptoms of Emotional Distress

WEBMD lists 10 symptoms that may indicate the presence of a disorder:

·      Sleep Disturbance

·      Rapid Weight Fluctuation

·      Unexplained Physical Ailments

·      Short Temper and Anger Issues

·      Obsessive/Compulsive Behavior

·      Fatigue

·      Memory Loss

·      Withdrawing from Social Activity

·      Absence of Sexual Pleasure

·      Erratic Behavior and Mood Swings.

Calculating Damages

If emotional distress has been proven, the next step is to calculate damages and compensation. However, there is no universally accepted method of determining the appropriate amount of compensation.  Instead, most damages for emotional distress are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Typically, the amount of damages awarded depends on the amount of money asked for by the victim and a settlement agreement between the parties; if a settlement cannot be agreed upon, a jury will decide the issue. A jury will take into consideration the extent and duration of the distress and how it has affected the quality of the victim’s life, as well as the level of responsibility of the defendant.

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