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Emotional Trauma After a Car Accident

Whenever 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 a traumatic brain injury.

While physical injuries after a car accident may be easier to identify, there may be emotional trauma that's not as easy to see or treat. Emotional trauma can be an important 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 may not account for other medical conditions that can arise after a crash such as depression or anxiety.

You may be able to identify suffering from emotional trauma by some of the common symptoms, which often include:

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

The severity of your emotional trauma and symptoms can depend on several factors. Trauma affects individuals in different ways. An example of some of these factors, which can arise before, during, or after a car accident, include:

  • 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 in the form of non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages which refer to specific costs resulting from your injury, 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 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 mental anguish damages, it's 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 may depend on documenting the trauma and its symptoms. If you're seeing a medical provider for your emotional trauma, they 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.

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