Can You Receive Compensation for Emotional Distress After an Accident?

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After an injury or accident, getting proper compensation is extremely important. When most people consider compensation for injuries, they think of physical injuries, but experiencing an accident and going through the recovery process can take a serious emotional toll. In fact, everyone experiences some kind of emotional distress after an accident or after suffering an injury. The event can be traumatic, recovery can disrupt your regular routine, and it adds significant stress that can threaten your wellbeing and other aspects of your life. Sometimes emotional distress is negligible, and sometimes it is severe. So, when does this distress qualify as psychological injury for which you can receive compensation?

Well, the first question to ask is: what defines emotional distress?

Defining Emotional Distress

In general, emotional distress is categorized as lingering psychological damage directly resulting from an injury, accident, or specific event. In terms of personal injury law, it is considered one part of “pain and suffering” compensation. Everyone expresses distress differently, and there is no specific pattern of behavior or feelings that constitutes emotional distress, but symptoms often include the following:

  1. Frustration, anger, or bitterness: Lashing out or having periods of significant irritability can be a sign of distress, especially if they disrupt or damage professional and personal relationships.
  2. Insomnia, lethargy, or depression: Feeling helpless, having difficult sleeping, feeling less enjoyment from typically enjoyed activities, and having less energy are all common results of an injury or accident.
  3. Fear, nervousness, or anxiety: Feeling uneasy or anxious when talking about or thinking about the injury, and avoiding activities, people, or places related to the injury can be a sign of anxiety and traumatic response.
  4. Shame, guilt, or humiliation: Feeling emotionally responsible for the event or damages involved, or feeling embarrassed about being injured and your personal recovery.

According to Eaccidents attorneys we spoke to, experiencing any of these emotions or patterns of behavior are common reactions to an injury or accident and can qualify as emotional distress for which you can be compensated. Speaking to a personal injury attorney can help you determine how much compensation you are eligible for by calculating your emotional damages.

Calculating Emotional Damages

Measuring emotional distress and calculating compensation is not straightforward. Everyone will experience emotional distress differently, and what is distressing to some is not as distressing to others. Trauma and mental health are very personal and subjective matters, so it can be difficult to put a number or price on someone’s suffering. Compensation largely depends on the evidence provided and the apparent severity of damages.

There are two types of damages in a personal injury case: Economic and non-economic.

Economic damages can be calculated directly from costs, such as hospital visits, prescription medications, and property replacement. Emotional distress can lead to economic damages, mostly in the form of treatments and medications for emotional damage. For example, to treat PTSD, an ongoing long term treatment plan is usually required. Both the cost of therapy sessions and the cost of medications can count as economic damages related to emotional distress. This can be traditional SSRIs and therapy, or any of the newer treatments for PTSD like ketamine therapy or TMS. 

Non-economic damages are all damages that don’t have a specific cost attached. This category includes experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and the disruption of any parts of your life.

Clearly, economic damages are easily calculated. Determining the value of non-economic damages gets a little trickier. It all comes down to working with your lawyer to determine the severity of your emotional damages and providing evidence.

Best Ways to Ensure Compensation for Emotional Distress

With such a subjective type of damage, it’s important to do all you can to ensure you’ll get proper compensation for your emotional distress:

  • Document all symptoms: Write in a personal journal about your symptoms and the distress you experience on a day-to-day basis. Include specific examples of how this distress disrupts your daily life.
  • Create detailed documentation about the event: Another way emotional distress is calculated is based on the actions of the defendant. If there is evidence that the defendant directly caused emotional damage by negligence or intention, you may be able to receive more compensation.
  • Keep documentation: Make copies of all written evidence such as medical records, bills, and therapy session notes to serve as unbiased evidence of emotional distress and lifestyle disruption. Always take photos or videos to document distress if possible.
  • Focus on treatment and recovery: In addition to compiling evidence, it’s important to prioritize your mental health and focus on getting better. An effort to recover and improve will also help you create documentation of your psychological injury.

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