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Emotional Trauma After a Car Accident

Whenever 2-3 tons of steel are flying down the freeway at speeds of 70 mph, there's always the risk of significant injuries following an accident. Even what may appear to be a normal fender bender in a parking lot could be devastating for passengers with pre-existing medical conditions like traumatic brain injury. But while physical injuries after a car accident may be easier to identify, often times there exists emotional trauma that's not as easy to see or treat, but which can nonetheless be part of any car accident claim. Here you'll find more information on emotional trauma after a car accident and what this can mean for your car accident case.

What Does Emotional Trauma Look Like?

According to some national estimates, around nine percent of those who survive a car accident eventually develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is significant considering that it doesn't even account for other medical conditions that can arise after a crash such as depression, anxiety or any number of phobias.

You can tell whether you're suffering from emotional trauma by some of the more common symptoms, which often include:

  • Sleep loss or sleep disturbances
  • Nightmares
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Moodiness/irritability
  • Feelings of loneliness, embarrassment or of being overwhelmed
  • Compulsive or obsessive behaviors
  • Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
  • Social withdrawal

The severity of your emotional trauma and its symptoms can depend on any number of factors in a case. These affect individuals differently and, in some cases, have no impact at all. However, an example of some of these factors, which can arise before, during or after a car accident, include the:

  • Existence of any pre-existing medical conditions
  • Degree of physical injuries involved in the accident
  • Potential life-threat of an accident
  • Death or injury of significant others in an accident
  • Low rate of recovery after an accident
  • Reduced social support/coping mechanisms

How Can Emotional Trauma Affect Your Case?

Most jurisdictions allow car accident victims to recover for their emotional distress (also referred to as mental anguish) in the form of non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages which refer to specific costs resulting from your injury (like medical bills), non-economic damages cover losses like pain and suffering that don't easily convert into specific dollar amounts. Because of this, some jurisdictions impose caps on the amount you can recover for mental anguish.

When determining how much to compensate victims for their emotional trauma, juries will look to:

  • The underlying physical injuries and their severity
  • Any formal medical diagnoses relating to emotional trauma
  • The frequency and severity of the symptoms
  • Whether the trauma can be treated in the future

When it comes to both establishing your emotional trauma and recovering damages for it, it's much more likely if your accident also resulted in physical injuries.

Establishing Your Emotional Trauma After a Car Accident

Your ability to recover damages for emotional trauma depends on how well the trauma, and its symptoms, are documented. If you're seeing a medical provider for your emotional trauma, he or she will also want you to accurately document your symptoms as this will help ensure a more accurate diagnosis.

You should keep a log documenting when you experience your symptoms, such as nightmares about the car accident, and how long they last. If these symptoms are severe enough to keep you from going to work or performing other social activities, that's also important to document. Your employer will also likely maintain a record of your absences or days when you were late or had to leave early due to your symptoms.

Discuss Your Emotional Trauma Claim with an Attorney

Emotional trauma after a car accident is more common than you might think. Whether you can recover damages for your emotional trauma will depend on the facts of your case, which is why it's critical to speak with an attorney experienced in motor vehicle accidents.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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