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Can I Get Compensation for Emotional Trauma After a Car Wreck?

September 28, 2020

After a car accident, the first thing to do is check for obvious physical injuries, such as cuts, bleeding, and broken bones. However, a car accident victim can also experience a less obvious type of pain, emotional trauma. What a person may not realize is that pain and suffering can be financially compensable.

Claim damages are awarded to repay victims for their medical bills and lost income after car accidents; therefore, damages also compensate victims who cannot work because of emotional trauma.

What is Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish?

When assessing damages for a legal claim, the courts classify pain and suffering as physical pain and emotional distress. In legal terms, physical pain and suffering relates directly to bodily injuries and how these injuries impact a person’s quality of life.

Emotional distress or mental anguish refers to mental harm caused by another party’s negligent actions. For example, if a drowsy driver collided with another vehicle, they may be held liable for damages. If the accident victim is burdened with anxiety, flashbacks, or other emotional symptoms, they may be able to recover compensation.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Negligent inflection of emotional distress is a legal term associated with personal injury cases. It means that a driver acted recklessly or carelessly and caused an accident that emotionally impacted a victim. Under this legal theory, the negligent driver is responsible for a victim’s mental injuries that resulted from the accident.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

In some cases, a negligent driver will try to intentionally cause emotional distress to a victim, which is called intentional infliction of emotional distress. In this scenario, a reckless driver would be responsible for the emotional stress and resulting injuries, such as a miscarriage.

What is Loss of Consortium?

Loss of consortium is another type of emotional distress caused by another person’s negligent or intentional acts. What if the person injured by a truck driver is so traumatized that they are unable to be a good companion or parent? In some cases, the loss of companionship is considered emotional trauma and is compensable with financial damages.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Any person who experiences or even witnesses a traumatic event can suffer from emotional trauma. With time, self-care, and professional help, they can recover without lasting damage. For other victims, the effects are ongoing and more difficult to overcome.

An estimated nine percent of car wreck victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Common PTSD symptoms include:

  • Avoidance: This means that a victim tries not to think about the car accident event and avoids people, places, and other triggers.
  • Changes in Emotional and Physical Reactions: Also called arousal symptoms, the person may feel tense and extremely alert, guilty, shameful, and they may also engage in self-destructive behaviors.
  • Intrusive Memories: Ongoing memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, frightening dreams, and reoccurring night terrors.
  • Negative Changes in Mood and Thinking: Negative opinions of oneself or the future, trouble sustaining relationships, and emotional numbness.

Symptoms vary in intensity from person to person and from day to day. Symptoms often start when the person sees or experiences something that triggers memories and feelings of the initial trauma. Since PTSD symptoms do not always occur immediately after a traumatic event, the condition often goes misdiagnosed.

A person who believes they have PTSD should seek professional help as soon as possible. Effective treatment can decrease symptoms.

What are the Signs of Emotional Trauma?

PTSD is perhaps the most severe mental condition accident victims can face. It has a significant impact on a person’s daily life. Aside from PTSD, there are other signs of emotional trauma one can experience after a wreck:

  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Sense of being overwhelmed, anxious, and alone
  • Social withdrawal
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight fluctuations

Some factors will contribute to mental anguish and emotional distress. If anyone was permanently disfigured or killed in the accident, or if they suffer from particularly debilitating injuries, they are more vulnerable to trauma. Emotional distress can also occur if a victim has trouble finding coping techniques, emotional support, and other avenues to recovery.

Every personal injury case is different, but most victims can recover compensation for emotional trauma. Proving that an accident caused mental anguish is the first step to recovering damages that can help cover the costs of lost income and medical expenses.

Compensation for Trauma After a Car Accident

If a plaintiff, under the guidance of their attorney, can successfully prove their case, they are awarded financial damages. Damages are generally divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are out-of-pocket costs resulting from emotional trauma, including medical bills and lost income. Non-economic damages are for emotional pain, trauma, and the loss of enjoyment of life after an injury or accident.

How Do I Prove Emotional Distress?

Mental anguish is hard to quantify, which is why it is important to establish the details of a car accident and use them to build a solid case. Before suing for emotional distress, the plaintiff and their attorney should consider the following:

  • How emotional distress has impaired the plaintiff’s ability to earn an income, provide support to family members, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
  • Has the emotional trauma manifested in pain, migraines, ulcers, or other physical symptoms?
  • Was the mental anguish caused intentionally or due to negligence?
  • Does the plaintiff have medical records to confirm a diagnosis of PTSD or other mental trauma?
  • Is there time to file a claim before the statute of limitations runs out?

What Should I Document for a Claim?

As an accident victim, the plaintiff plays an important role in assisting their lawyer. They can help support their case by providing crucial documentation that tells the story of their accident and why it was so traumatic. Police reports, eyewitness accounts, accident scene photos, and medical reports are all pieces that show the judge or jury exactly what took place.

Anyone considering taking legal action against another person or company should always keep and copy any information and records related to their case. It is extremely important to submit all documentation to an attorney in a timely manner.

Why is it Important to Hire a Lawyer?

Car accidents can cause physical and mental injuries, and both types of injuries are devastating. Whether a defendant acted intentionally or carelessly, they should be held responsible for pain and suffering. In Virginia, a victim can sue for emotional distress, but these types of cases are harder to prove. A person suffering mental anguish requires the skills of a highly experienced personal injury attorney to achieve good results.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Understand That Emotional Trauma is Just as Harmful as Physical Injuries

Our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers help car accident victims get compensation for emotional trauma. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we believe in pursuing justice for clients who battle mental anguish after car wrecks. For more information and a free consultation, call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.


381 Edwin Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-352-2220

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