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How to Prove Mental and Emotional Distress After an Automobile Accident

Aug. 16, 2019

Car accident victims often suffer more than just physical injuries. The effects of mental and emotional distress can compound trauma long after the injuries have healed. A victim can be compensated for these types of injuries. Because mental and emotional damages are not always as obvious as physical ones, however, they are typically more difficult to prove.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Evidence of distress includes anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, apprehension, and confusion. Some accident victims lose interest in things they once enjoyed, or experience dramatic shifts in their attitudes and temperaments. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, take note of these and other changes you observe.

There are various types of evidence that may substantiate a claim of distress, not the least topf which is therapeutic, psychiatric, and prescription records. In addition, witness testimony from family, friends, co-workers, and other individuals can attest to changes in someone's disposition after an accident. At times, video or photographic evidence can provide some of the strongest proof that a victim's demeanor has been altered.

As with any accident case, you will need to establish liability to claim distress. This means proving the other driver was negligent in his or her actions, and that the negligence caused the accident.

However, not everyone affected by an accident can assert mental or emotional distress. The law is narrow enough to prevent individuals from claiming distress simply over hurt feelings or the shock of witnessing something. For example, random, unrelated bystanders to an accident cannot claim distress. If that were the case, the number of claimants could be astronomical.

A victim who sustains a physical injury, which in turn causes mental or emotional anguish, can claim distress. But there are also cases of non-injury distress resulting from an accident. An example of this is loss of consortium. This refers to the deprivation of a family relationship because of an accident, such as the death of a spouse or parent.

In court, it will be your lawyer's job to attempt to quantify the degree of mental or emotional distress. Numerous factors will be taken into account, including the intensity of suffering. The duration and underlying causes of the distress are also relevant, along with the physical injuries (if any) associated with it. Finally, psychological symptoms can demonstrate the degree of the victim's suffering.

The Takeaway

In the final analysis, mental and emotional distress is a complex blend of science and law. Accident cases usually require expert witnesses and extensive medical records. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash, make sure you get the treatment you need. Follow all advice from your physicians, therapists, and other mental and emotional health professionals. Lastly, speak with an accident attorney about your rights.