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Can I Sue for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?

by Tracy Finke

Following a car accident, one will most probably deal with physical injuries. Due to the traumatic event and the physical damage sustained, a person may also experience anxiety and emotional distress. This can make life harder for the victim, as it may stop them from fulfilling important tasks.

Most people are aware that they can get compensation for their losses and physical injuries after a car accident, but they are confused when it comes to emotional distress. Can you obtain compensation for this type of suffering?

Keep reading to find out if you can sue for emotional distress after a car accident.

What Exactly Is Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?

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Everyone will have a different experience following a car crash. Some will be lucky to come out of it with nothing but a few scratches, while others get their car destroyed and have to be treated for severe and potentially life-threatening injuries.

But one thing’s for sure: whether you’ve sustained bad physical damage or not, the accident was an awful experience. You may deal with stress for a while, and it can get in the way of your work and other activities.

Some people may have newly diagnosed conditions after a car accident. In this case, emotional distress is quite common, and it’s important for anyone to identify the type of stress they are dealing with.

Depression is one condition people may suffer from following a serious car crash. It makes someone feel like nothing will ever feel better again and can make them lose their motivation in any aspect of their lives. What makes depression even worse is that the suffering individual may have a hard time eating or sleeping because of it.

Anxiety can also be caused by a car accident, and if the individual already had anxiety before, it might get even worse after such a terrible event. People with this condition can fear getting into their car or any vehicle for that matter. Furthermore, they may even try to avoid certain situations or places that give them anxiety.

PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is also very common after car accidents. After all, you’ve experienced something traumatic, so it only makes sense it triggered PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD vary from one person to another depending on the severity of the accident, the circumstances of the event, and other aspects.

Some individuals with a more severe form of PTSD may get flashbacks of the incident and may refuse to get into any vehicle. They may also avoid going close to the location where the accident took place.

Can You Sue for Emotional Distress After the Car Accident?

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Yes, you can sue someone for emotional distress after a car accident. There are different types of damages one can suffer after a car crash, with emotional distress being part of the non-economic category.

In general, car accident cases are settled out of court. There are a few instances when going to court is necessary, though.

You should bear in mind that laws are different from state to state. Some places will allow you to recover from emotional distress following car crashes. Still, in other states, you may also need to have some physical injuries for them to consider emotional distress as part of the damage incurred.

Having a personal injury lawyer by your side is something you should consider if you want to have a high chance of winning the case and getting compensation for your emotional distress. This page has more information on car accident attorneys you can hire.

Bear in mind that you can only sue for emotional distress within a specific timeframe, also referred to as a statute of limitations. If you go past that timeframe and do not file, then you lose the right to do it at a later day.

The statute of limitations may differ from one state to another. For instance, in some states, you have a limit of up to two years after the accident. Other states such as Florida will offer you up to 4 years.

You’ll have to check with your state’s laws. The earlier you do so, the better, because these lawsuits can be messy and take a lot of time to resolve.

Can You Prove Emotional Distress?

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Although it is often harder to see than physical injuries, emotional distress can also be proven. Some of the strongest claims for emotional distress are:

  • Psychological effects like anxiety, PTSD, or depression
  • Physical impact (including headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, cold sores, recurrent infections, and so on)
  • Severe distress intensity (which gets in the way of work, school, or anything else)
  • Confirmation from a health provider (such as a new diagnosis, therapy, and prescription drugs)
  • Symptoms that last for a very long time (months or years)

How Courts Calculate Monetary Damages for Emotional Distress?

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When it comes to determining the financial cost of emotional distress, things can get rather complicated. One cannot easily quantify the emotional effect that a car accident had, as there was no physical damage that can be seen on an x-ray. Even so, you still need to quantify monetarily just how much the at-fault party is supposed to pay.

When calculating how much you will be paid in emotional compensation, the court of law will partially take your physical injuries into account. There’s no exact formula for this, and the amount may vary on the method used, as well as the insurance company.

This is why you need to work with a good personal injury attorney when determining how much money you are supposed to get. They have the necessary resources for this, as well as experience with cases such as yours. They will know at least an average of how much compensation you are supposed to get.

The Bottom Line

You can sue someone for emotional distress after a car accident. How much you can recover depends on how strong your case is, as well as your jurisdiction, the circumstances of the accident, and the number of injuries sustained.

Make sure to look for a good, experienced lawyer for your personal injury case if you want to be successful in getting compensation for emotional distress.