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Some Scars Just Won't Go Away: Can You Sue for Emotional Distress Caused by Inattentive Driving?

“Emotional distress” may not be what you think. It does not apply to physical or mental harm. It is a legal question of what caused the pain.

If you have been physically harmed in a car accident, you may sue for compensation for the emotional stress related to the injury. The process will usually attribute some emotional distress to physical injury.

Emotional distress attached to mental harm is a different issue. Demonstrating that the defendant “intentionally” inflicted emotional distress deemed extreme and outrageous can be difficult without representation by a firm that represents injured victims.

Some scars last forever!

You can imagine the emotional distress attached to a broken leg, one that keeps you from working for a significant time. But, the distress increases exponentially if you have been paralyzed or scarred by fire or lost loved one in the accident. According to American Family Physician, “It is estimated that 9 percent of survivors of serious accidents develop significant post-traumatic stress symptoms 1 and that many other survivors have PTSD-like reactions.”

Though the scars are real and lasting, making them the center of a lawsuit can still be hard.

What does it take to sue for emotional distress caused by inattentive driving?

There’s much to consider when you think about suing for emotional distress. If you have not been able to resolve your issues with insurance companies following a car accident, you may sue after negotiation has failed.

There are compensatory damages to resolve. You have the right to be made financially whole regarding medical costs, property damage, lost wages, and any loss of future earnings.

Then, there are non-compensatory damages for pain and suffering. As the plaintiff, you must show the pain and suffering resulting in anxiety, depression, humiliation, insomnia, panic attacks, stress, and torment. You must present evidence of incidents, care, and therapies.

  • Emotional stress is a daily event.
  • It significantly affects the quality of your life.
  • And, it was caused by the negligence of the defendant driver.

Your interests may follow one or a combination of courses.

  • Loss of Consortium: Your injuries may deprive you of normal spousal and family relationships.
  • Negligent Infliction: You could claim the pain and suffering followed an accident caused by the negligent act of the defendant.
  • Intentional Infliction: If your injuries came from the intentional actions of the defendant, you may pursue compensation for the emotional distress.
  • Bystander Effect: Your emotional scars may arise not from your injury but from observing traumatic injury to your spouse, child, or other loved one.

Sadly, the process it takes to investigate damages, assess losses, and determine fault is a stress-inducing venture all its own.

Suing for emotional distress is not a DIY project

You can sue for emotional distress. But, the justice system does not always give you what you want. It makes the process difficult to afford the parties to the injury time to analyze and negotiate the damages to property, body, and mind.

There are some scars that just won’t go away after a traumatic experience. Psychology Today describes the condition: “During a traumatic event, the nervous system goes into survival mode (the sympathetic nervous system) and sometimes has difficulty reverting back into its normal, relaxed mode again (the parasympathetic nervous system).” As long as that survival mode continues, the body continues to release stress hormones like cortisol which reduces “the immune system’s ability to heal.”

And, if you want compensation for that pain and suffering, most people can’t navigate these waters on their own. It is good advice to identify a personal injury attorney and carry the contact information with your car insurance identification. Just in case you need the help!

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