Car accidents often prove extremely traumatic. Not only can they result in severe injury, they can increase anxiety or prove difficult for many people to cope with. You may find yourself suffering from a range of emotional challenges, including increased anxiety or PTSD.
Can you claim compensation for anxiety or emotional distress after a car accident?
We recommend consulting with an experienced car accident lawyer to learn more about how to move forward with a personal injury claim.
Emotional Distress and Trauma Responses Following a Car Accident
The trauma from a car accident can cause immense emotional distress that may, in many cases, impact several areas of your daily life. Different people react differently to that trauma and stress, often depending on past events in their lives and personal sensitivities.
Anxiety Over Events Surrounding the Car Accident
Sometimes, events that remind victims of serious car accidents of the incident itself can create anxiety in the victim of a car accident. For example, if your accident occurred when you rode in a car as a passenger, you may have a hard time getting into a car with someone else driving without suffering immense anxiety. If you drove the vehicle during the accident, you may have a hard time driving as you deal with the emotional aftermath of the accident. Other people may have a hard time driving through the area where the accident occurred.
Some people may not realize that a car accident triggered the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, or that they suffered a serious increase in the amount of anxiety they faced following a car accident. Generalized anxiety might seem to have nothing to do with your car accident. You may suffer from increased anxiety around general life events, or feel as though your anxiety increases when you think about future events that have nothing to do with getting behind the wheel of a car. Patients with a generalized anxiety disorder may have general persistent worries, notice trouble sleeping, or over-think even relatively minor plans and situations. You may also find yourself thinking more about possible worst-case outcomes and coming up with tragic resolutions to those scenarios.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, occurs in many victims who witness or live through terrifying and traumatic events. Not only can PTSD cause an increase in general anxiety, it may cause the victim to dwell excessively on the event. PTSD may cause flashbacks, nightmares, and intensely anxious reactions that make it very difficult for the victim to engage in the activities of daily living.
Sometimes, symptoms of PTSD after a car accident will center around the car: driving, or driving past a certain area, for example, might make those symptoms much worse. Other times, however, you may find that symptoms of PTSD interfere with every area of your daily life, with flashbacks triggered seemingly at random.
Often, depression occurs in patients who have suffered some severe injury in a car accident, including injuries that may permanently prevent them from engaging in their normal daily activities. Suppose, for example, that you suffered a back injury in your car accident that prevents you from going hiking or biking, which might represent some of your favorite activities.
As a result of that ongoing suffering, you may find yourself sinking into depression or losing your general enjoyment of life. Often, that depression can make it hard to take care of yourself in other ways, including making it more difficult to put in the effort needed to regain ground in therapy.
How to Claim for Anxiety After a Car Accident
Following a car accident, if you suffer immense anxiety, you may have the same right to seek compensation that you would after a physical injury. Emotional distress, in some ways, offers many of the same challenges that you would face following a physical accident. Emotional distress may affect more areas of your life than physical injuries and may lead to several equally significant costs.
However, emotional trauma, unlike physical injuries, can prove very difficult to diagnose. You may not realize that you have symptoms of anxiety or PTSD immediately after a car accident. Not only do you have other things to focus on, you may notice that symptoms continue to grow over time, especially if you fail to address them quickly.
Once you do notice symptoms of anxiety, how can you include them as part of a car accident claim?
1. Get a medical diagnosis.
Like a medical diagnosis for a physical injury or disability, a medical diagnosis for anxiety, PTSD, or depression can go a long way toward establishing your right to compensation. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD, in much the same way as physical injuries, fit a specific list of symptoms. If you have those symptoms, a skilled psychologist or psychiatrist can issue a diagnosis for those disorders.
In addition to establishing that you have symptoms of emotional distress after a car accident, including diagnoses of conditions like depression or anxiety, you may need to show that your symptoms stemmed from the car accident. A therapist can help show how your diagnosis affects other areas of your life, as well. Furthermore, a therapist’s testimony can show that your diagnosis actually stems from the car accident, not from another source.
If you suffered from generalized anxiety before the accident, you may have a harder time proving that you deserve compensation for emotional distress. On the other hand, your therapist can also help establish that the car accident has negatively impacted your anxiety, causing it to increase and leaving you in more distress than before. In that case, you may still have the right to pursue compensation.
2. Calculate your costs.
To establish that you need compensation for anxiety or emotional distress after a car accident, you will need to show the damages you suffered because of that loss. Calculate the costs related to your emotional distress, including the cost of therapy visits or medications designed to treat that specific ailment. Talk to your lawyer about specific modifications you may have had to make or whether you can include wages lost because your anxiety prevented you from working. For example, if you suffered PTSD that prevented you from trying to drive.
3. Talk to an attorney about your emotional distress after a car accident and the compensation you may deserve.
Offer your attorney an honest look at what you have suffered as a result of your car accident. Some people may try to lie to their attorneys or offer an inaccurate view of how much emotional distress they have suffered and how it affects them, often to increase the compensation they can recover for those injuries. However, failing to provide an accurate look at how your emotional distress has impacted you, including the truth of your diagnosis and the suffering you have faced, can make it more difficult for your lawyer to put together an effective claim and support you as you move forward with it.
An attorney can help you learn more about the evidence you may need to pull together, including how you can prove emotional distress related to a car accident and the compensation you may deserve.
4. Provide access to your past medical records.
To establish that emotional distress occurred due to your car accident, you may need to provide access to your past medical records. Suppose, for example, that you saw a therapist for a past trauma history. Did you have a previous anxiety diagnosis? Did you receive treatment that helped you move past that anxiety? Your past medical records can help make it easier for you to establish your right to a claim for emotional distress, especially if you have suffered an increase in anxiety as a result of the trauma from the accident.
How Much Compensation Can You Recover for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?
Calculating compensation for emotional distress after a car accident can prove tricky, regardless of whether you suffered other injuries or not. Working with an attorney can help you break down the costs you can recover for emotional distress or anxiety and give you a better idea of how to manage your car accident claim.
If You Suffered Other Injuries
If you suffered other injuries in your car accident, start by calculating the overall cost of your medical bills, and include the services you received for emotional distress, including psychological counseling, as part of your claim. For example, suppose that you suffered a traumatic brain injury in your accident. You may have considerable physical medical bills as well as the cost of occupational therapy as you learn how to cope with the limitations caused by your injuries.
Your lawyer can include the cost of therapy for emotional distress, as well as the cost of any medications you have to take for that emotional distress, as part of your claim, making it easier for you to establish exactly how much you deserve in compensation for your emotional distress. In addition, your lawyer can include how that emotional distress, including increased anxiety or PTSD, has impacted your daily life, including making it difficult for you to participate in many of your regular activities. Emotional distress may also complicate the healing process, making it more difficult for you to put in as much effort as necessary to make a complete recovery.
If You Did Not Suffer Injuries
If you did not suffer physical injuries that required medical treatment in your car accident but still suffered substantial emotional distress, you may need to file a car accident claim based on those emotional challenges. Sometimes, it can prove more difficult to establish the compensation you may deserve for emotional distress since it can take more time and effort to prove that you sustained that anxiety, depression, or PTSD in your accident.
However, by working with an attorney, you can break down the challenges you may have faced due to your car accident, including the financial and non-financial losses associated with emotional distress.
The Cost of Your Medical and Treatment Expenses
Treating emotional distress can bring with it substantial medical costs. You may have regular therapy sessions and the cost of medication to help treat those ailments and make it easier for you to move forward normally with your life after the accident. Your medical and treatment expenses may also include hospitalization, especially if you required an inpatient stay to help you move past the anxiety or distress associated with the accident.
Sometimes, emotional distress following a car accident may make it difficult for you to go back to work. You may need to have your therapist certify that you missed work because of your anxiety or other emotional challenges emerging from your car accident.
Pain and Suffering
Many car accident claims include compensation for a category known as pain and suffering: the non-financial elements of your claim. Pain and suffering include the various ways your car accident may have impacted your life, including preventing you from enjoying activities you would normally have participated in. Fear of getting in a car could severely limit your ability to get around and enjoy other activities. An attorney can help you determine how much compensation you may deserve for those elements.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney If You Suffered Emotional Distress After Your Accident
If you suffered immense emotional distress in your car accident, an experienced attorney can help you pursue the compensation you may deserve. The Fernandez Firm is a Tampa-based personal injury law firm with over 20 years of experience with personal injury claims.
Contact one of our Tampa car accident lawyers today to learn more about your rights following a car accident, including whether you may have the right to claim compensation for anxiety or emotional distress.