Victims who suffer injuries in car wrecks or slip and fall accidents in public places, such as hotels or casinos, may recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include intangible effects of an injury on your life, including emotional and mental distress. Additionally, a surviving spouse could sue for emotional distress damages in a wrongful death claim. Emotional distress is an important component of a personal injury lawsuit that you should never overlook. This piece dives into emotional distress, for which victims may seek compensation. For information about possible emotional distress damages in your case, reach out to a trusted personal injury lawyer today.
The Difference Between Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Accident victims are generally eligible to recover compensatory damages, including both economic and non-economic damages. The courts award these damages to make the accident victim whole again. This means that the victim recovers damages to cover expenses and costs that they would not have incurred but for the accident. Economic damages are those that have a tangible monetary value, such as:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property
- Expenses for funerals, burials, and cremations.
Non-economic damages, such as emotional distress, do not have a concrete monetary cost, but these losses hurt victims. Damages for emotional distress compensate a victim for the pain and suffering that they would not have endured but for the accident. Other types of non-economic damages include compensation for:
- Excessive scarring
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality of life
Who Can Recover Compensation for Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress damages compensate victims for the physical pain they must now endure due to the accident and its impact on their emotional well-being. However, in many cases, accident victims can recover non-economic damages for emotional distress without showing physical pain and suffering. Further, in some cases, someone related to the victim can recover non-economic damages for emotional distress. The following are some examples of emotional distress for which victims may recover.
Emotional Distress Examples
You might recover compensation for emotional distress for many reasons. Car accidents, especially involving commercial trucks or rollovers, are often catastrophic or even fatal. An accident victim might suffer catastrophic injuries that prevent them from returning to work for weeks, if at all. Catastrophic injuries can limit a victim’s abilities in both their personal and professional lives. An accident victim might suffer from depression because of worrying about supporting their family or the limitations on their life they experience as they recover—or because they know they will never fully recover. Going from supporting one’s family to a wheelchair or having trouble walking can create a severe emotional burden, and many accident victims suffer from depression due to the limitations they face. The following factors stemming from injuries might cause emotional distress after your injury:
- Feeling chronic physical pain from your injuries
- Not working anymore
- Losing your hard-earned career advancement
- Not exercising or participating in sports
- Not picking up or playing with your children
- Needing assistance with daily tasks or self-care
- Losing a romantic relationship due to your injuries
- Isolation from loved ones following a serious injury
- Not engaging in activities you once loved
Fortunately, this is a cost for which victims may recover compensation. However, proving all the emotional distress, pain, and suffering you experience is difficult.
What Are The Signs of Emotional Distress?
After dealing with physical injury recovery and worrying about how to cover medical bills, the last thing any accident victim wants to deal with is emotional distress. If you were in an accident and suffered injuries, you should look for signs of emotional distress. Visiting a mental health professional when you notice signs not only helps you deal with the emotional distress but is also the “proof” you need to recover compensation for emotional distress. Signs that you might be suffering from emotional distress after an accident or after losing a loved one in an accident include:
- Changes in eating habits.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Loss of energy.
- Not wanting to be around people, including loved ones.
- Not doing the things you used to love doing, whether they were hobbies or chores you loved to do.
- Unexplained headaches, stomachaches, and other aches and pains.
- Inability to readjust to life, whether at work, home, or both.
- Having a constant worry at the back or forefront of your mind.
- Feeling guilty but not knowing why.
- Feeling helpless.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Turning to drugs, drinking, prescription medications, or excessive smoking.
- Thinking of suicide.
- Thinking of killing someone else.
Signs of Emotional Distress in Children
In some particularly tragic cases, children in an accident may show signs of emotional distress. If your child suffered injuries and you notice that they no longer want to play with friends, become more aggressive, suddenly have difficulty concentrating, seem to want more attention from adults, don’t want to leave the house, or are no longer interested in their usual activities, they might have suffered emotional distress. This may include depression, anxiety, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. In teens, the symptoms might include resisting authority, becoming disruptive, and experimenting with high-risk behaviors such as doing drugs or drinking. They might also withdraw socially. A child or teen who survived a previous disaster or accident is more likely to develop emotional distress after a second incident. Additionally, if your child lost a loved one because of an illness, age, or another reason other than the accident, they are at a higher risk of emotional distress. Children are especially vulnerable, and tending to their potential emotional trauma after an accident should be a priority. If your children are in or witness an accident, take them to see a mental health professional as soon as you notice signs of emotional distress. That not only can help them recover psychologically but can provide the evidence you need to seek compensation from the responsible party. Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
How Can Emotional Distress Damages Help?
If you suffered emotional distress from an injury, you might not count it as one of your losses. You might focus on getting compensation for your bills and expenses you need to pay. If you lost income, you might worry about getting reimbursed for lost income and having some financial support for the future. Your focus is likely not on your emotional distress damages. However, emotional distress can be costly, too. You might need to pay for psychological treatment and medication to manage your symptoms. Some people increase alcohol use, spend more, or engage in other expensive habits to self-medicate their emotional distress. Feeling pain and suffering might prolong your hiatus from work or other productive activities. Damages for emotional distress can often increase your overall compensation quite a bit. There are different ways to calculate these damages to determine the overall value of your claim.
This calculation method for pain and suffering considers your economic losses and multiplies them by a number depending on the severity of your injuries. For example, for less serious injuries, the insurance company might multiply your economic damages by two to determine your pain and suffering value. If you have catastrophic injuries, the insurance company might multiply your economic damages by five. For someone with permanent paralysis for a spinal injury, their economic losses might be $1 million. This might be multiplied by five to determine the value of pain and suffering at $5 million. On the other hand, someone with only $10,000 in economic damages and a multiplier of two will have $20,000 in pain and suffering damages.
You might also determine how many days you experienced pain and suffering between suffering your injury and your recovery. Your attorney might assign a dollar amount to each day and multiply it by the number of days you felt emotional distress.
Factoring in Actual Costs
If you needed treatment for your emotional distress, your lawyer should factor those expenses into your compensation. This can include therapist or psychiatrist appointments, cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and more. The best way to know how much you might receive for pain and suffering is to Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.