Recognizing and Addressing Emotional Trauma Arising from Personal Injuries

Are you feeling anxious or fearful after a personal injury? If so, you’re not alone. Many accidents leave victims with some kind of emotional trauma. If you’re fortunate, this trauma may resolve itself. But for some people, emotional distress can follow them for the rest of their lives.

Below, learn more about recognizing emotional trauma from personal injuries and whether you might be able to recover compensation for your distress.

Signs of Emotional Trauma Following Personal Injuries

It’s normal to experience emotional suffering and distress after any accident, no matter how small. The law classifies emotional distress as a highly unpleasant emotional reaction caused by someone else’s actions.

Emotional trauma from personal injuries can present in many different ways. You may:

  • Have trouble remembering things
  • Have difficulty thinking clearly
  • Experience unexplained aches and pains
  • Worry frequently
  • Feel more tired than usual
  • Feel angry or irritable
  • Feel overwhelmed with life
  • Feel hopeless

If you recognize these symptoms, reach out to a doctor or therapist. They may suggest medication or counseling to help you feel better.

How Emotional Trauma May Affect You

Many accident victims try to ignore emotional trauma, but if left untreated, this distress can seriously hamper your entire life.

For instance, you may develop uncontrollable mood swings that leave you feeling scared one moment and angry the next. Such mood swings can make it hard to sustain relationships with your family and friends.

You may have problems sleeping or sleep too much. Fatigue can affect your performance at work or school. It’s also dangerous to drive a car if you’re not well-rested.

You might lose your appetite, although some people with emotional trauma overeat because they can only find comfort in food.

Is Emotional Distress the Same as Pain and Suffering?

Many people assume that emotional distress and pain and suffering are the same thing. But it’s important to know the difference because these terms affect how much compensation a court may give you.

Pain and suffering refer to emotional pain that accompanies a physical injury. Emotional distress, on the other hand, can include emotional trauma absent of a physical injury.

Pain and suffering may include embarrassment because an accident left you disfigured. If you feel depressed because you’re no longer able to do your favorite activities, that would also fall under pain and suffering. 

Can You Recover Damages for Emotional Trauma?

It’s common to recover legal damages for pain and suffering in a personal injury case. It’s fairly easy to prove how your trauma relates to your physical injuries.

But what if you experience emotional distress without a physical injury? Recovering compensation, in this case, can be much more difficult.

It can be tricky to prove this kind of emotional distress in court. Courts want to avoid fictitious claims that unfairly blame someone for emotional distress. The unfortunate reality is that some people lie and claim mental anguish to recover money or punish someone they don’t like.

But the law does offer a way to recover damages for emotional distress if your case meets the criteria.

The Bystander Theory

The Bystander Theory states that you can recover damages if you witnessed the severe injury or death of a loved one in an accident. The court recognizes that witnessing such an event can cause serious emotional distress. It might award you compensation even if you weren’t directly injured by the defendant. For instance, if a mother witnessed a car hit her child, she would likely qualify for compensation due to emotional distress.

The closeness of the relationship between the witness and the injured affects eligibility for compensation. This theory only applies to close family members, not friends, acquaintances, or co-workers.

Additionally, you must have directly witnessed the accident. You do not qualify for compensation if you merely heard about the accident over the phone.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

It may be possible to recover damages under negligent infliction of emotional distress. For instance, if you witnessed a defective product injure someone else, you may be able to recover emotional distress damages from the manufacturer regardless of your relationship with the victim.

If you signed a contract that directly concerns your personal welfare or comfort, and the other party breached this contract, the court has grounds to award damages.

You may also recover damages if you feared for your life. For example, imagine that a robber assaulted a bank teller in front of you. Even if they didn’t hurt you, you might suffer from anxiety, nightmares, and fearfulness after the event.

Recovering Damages for Your Emotional Trauma

Not every case involving emotional trauma goes to trial. Many people choose to settle their case out of court because trials are expensive and can drag on for months.

Your personal injury lawyer will first try to settle the case out of court. But if the other party doesn’t want to settle or their offer is too low, the next step is to take the case to the courtroom.

Your lawyer may also suggest going straight to a trial instead of negotiating with the defendant. If this happens, it can mean you have a strong case, and your personal injury lawyer thinks you’ll likely prevail in court.

How much money can you expect from a case involving emotional trauma? It’s not possible to say, but your compensation award will likely be higher if you have physical injuries, too.

California does not cap compensation amounts on personal injury lawsuits, with one exception. If you’re suing for medical malpractice because a healthcare provider harmed you, California caps the value of non-economic damages at $250,000.

Contact an Attorney Who Understands the Impact of Emotional Trauma on Accident Victims

Proving emotional trauma from personal injuries isn’t always straightforward. It’s even more difficult if you’re experiencing emotional distress absent any physical injuries.

But emotional trauma makes it hard to live a normal life, and you have a right to pursue damages for the hardship someone has caused you. Our team of personal injury attorneys will fight aggressively to help you get the greatest compensation for your case.

Call Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 for your free consultation today.

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