Being involved in an accident carries trauma that goes beyond physical injuries. Even seeing an accident, especially one involving a loved one, will carry a mental toll that can impact your ability to live life to the fullest.
It can be possible to get compensation for the trauma, but only if it’s properly documented along the way. Here are some important tips on how to prove emotional distress in a personal injury lawsuit.
What to track
A court case will always require some level of documentation. Keep a journal of your symptoms—are you always anxious, suffering from a lack of sleep or find yourself filled with fear? These are clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which qualifies as emotional distress.
The journal is a good place to start, but more evidence will be required. You should seek professional help—for your own good, and also so a recognized professional can document your struggles and potentially testify to them in court.
You also need to be ready to document the actual physical injuries. While your claim may involve the more intangible factor of emotional distress, a physical injury is a prerequisite.
You will not be able to claim emotional distress if you or a loved one were “almost” in an accident. An actual accident with real injuries must have taken place and will need to be established in court.
What factors will be considered
As the court hears your claim, the following factors will be considered:
- How long have your symptoms been going on? Is there a direct cause and effect that is related to the triggering event?
- How intense is your emotional trauma? Are you dealing with tension headaches that are unfortunate or annoying, or are you dealing with mental pain that is debilitating and leaves you unable to work? The degree of your suffering will be a significant consideration.
- Are there any physical problems that can be traced to the emotional distress? Headaches and insomnia are the most common, but physical side effects can also include trouble with digestive health, ulcers and assorted other maladies.
- What was the triggering event and how abnormal was it? Fender-benders are unfortunate and you can certainly get compensation for physical injuries and vehicle damage, but they are less likely to win you an award for emotional trauma. But what if sloppy mechanical work caused your engine to blow up and the car was engulfed in flames with you in it? That’s considerably more traumatic and will be treated as such.
- Is your claim validated by a trained professional?
- Who was the victim of the triggering event? If you were the person that suffered the physical injury, your claim will be strong. If it was your child or a close family member, you will still have a good case. A close friend? Maybe, but the legal bar will be higher. A workplace colleague that you get along with, but don’t see outside the office? Far less likely.
Of course, every relationship is different for each individual person, but courts will want to know why this particular person (if it wasn’t you) triggered such a traumatic reaction.
Emotional distress is a legitimate claim because it has real-world consequences. You just have to be certain you document everything and consult with an attorney when you bring forth your claim.