Victims who are injured 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 impacts, including emotional and mental distress. Usually, the person who suffered injuries is the one to sue for emotional distress.
In some cases, a spouse or child who shares a close relationship with the victim and who viewed a particularly grisly accident could file an emotional distress lawsuit. Additionally, a surviving spouse could sue for emotional distress damages. This piece dives into emotional distress for which victims may be compensated.
The Difference Between Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Accident victims are generally eligible to recover compensatory damages, which includes both economic and non-economic damages. The courts award both types 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; and expenses for funerals, burials, and cremations.
Non-economic damages, such as emotional distress, do not have a concrete monetary cost, but nonetheless, take a toll on victims. Damages for emotional distress, also referred to as pain and suffering, compensate a victim for the pain and suffering that he or she would not have had to endure, but for the accident.
Other types of non-economic damages include compensation for excessive scarring, amputation, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, loss of quality of life, and inconvenience.
Who Can Recover Compensation for Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress damages are to compensate victims for physical pain they must now endure due to the accident, However, in many cases, accident victims can recover non-economic damages for emotional distress without having to show physical pain and suffering. And, in some cases, someone who is 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 when commercial trucks are involved, are often catastrophic, and even fatal. An accident victim might suffer from catastrophic injuries that prevent them from returning to work for weeks, if at all.
An accident victim could become depressed because of worrying about supporting their family or because of the limitations on their life they experience as they recover—or because they never fully recover.
Going from supporting one’s family to a wheelchair or having trouble walking properly again can cause a severe emotional burden. Many accident victims become depressed as a result of the limitations they face. Naturally, this is a cost for which such victims may recover compensation.
One might also recover compensation for the emotional and mental distress they experience from witnessing a loved one being injured in a terrible accident. To watch a loved one die is emotionally taxing for anyone. In such a case, someone other than the injured may recover compensation for emotional distress.
Signs of Emotional Distress
After having to deal 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 or watched a loved one die or be severely injured in an accident, 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 who are in or who witness an accident may show signs of emotional distress. If you have such a case and notice that your child no longer wants to play with friends, becomes aggressive, suddenly has difficulty concentrating, seems to want more attention from adults, doesn’t want to leave the house, or is no longer interested in their usual activities, they might be suffering from 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 could also become withdrawn.
A child or teen who has survived or witnessed a previous disaster or accident is more at risk for developing 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, he or she is also at a higher risk of suffering 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. Be sure to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.