Personal injuries resulting from car accidents often involve emotional distress. Different states treat emotional distress in personal injury lawsuits differently, and emotional distress factors into personal injury cases in different ways. A capable car accident lawyer can explain what the applicable law is and how emotional distress factors into your personal injury case.
Each personal injury case is different, and emotional distress can be a factor in every personal injury case. The purpose of personal injury damages is to make the accident victims whole. Part of that is reasonably compensating accident victims for the emotional distress that they have suffered. At the end of each personal injury trial, the judge gives the jury a series of instructions about the applicable law. As an example, here is a link to a standard jury charge that explains to jurors how emotional distress factors into car accident cases in New Jersey.
One factor that lawyers generally consider when evaluating personal injury cases is how the accident victims’ injuries have affected their lives. The same physical injuries will often be viewed differently depending on how the accident victims have been affected by those injuries. A nerve injury that prevents a lifelong runner from participating in marathons will have greater value than the same nerve injury would have for a sedentary person, because the loss of the ability to run has a greater emotional impact on a lifelong runner than the loss of the ability to run has on a person who does not run and is only minimally active.
Another way that emotional distress factors into injury cases is how jurors perceive accident victims. If members of a jury believe that an accident victim has displayed emotional distress that seems disproportionate to the severity of the accident or resulting injuries, then the accident victim runs a significant risk that the jurors will believe that the accident victim is exaggerating and will hold that perception against them.
It is important to distinguish between generic emotional distress and psychological injuries. The American Psychological Association determined several years ago that car accidents were the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder for men and the second leading cause for women. Here is a link to the article. A psychological or psychiatric diagnosis, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, can be a compensable element of damages in a car accident case that enhances the value beyond generic emotional distress.
One significant difference between emotional distress and a psychological or psychiatric injury is that an accident victim can prove emotional distress just by presenting his or her own testimony, but must present testimony by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other qualified expert witnesses to prove an injury that includes a psychological or psychiatric diagnosis. A capable PIP car accident lawyer can explain what evidence an accident victim should present to maximize the value of his or her personal injury claim.
Many states also recognize the right to recover damages for emotional distress that results from witnessing or observing a loved one’s car accident and resulting injuries or that results from facing an immediate and serious risk of physical harm. Although rules differ from state to state, claims for emotional distress that is not accompanied by physical injury generally must be based on diagnosed psychological or psychiatric issues.
Emotional distress can be a factor in every personal injury case. An experienced car accident lawyer can explain how emotional distress will affect your injury case, and take the necessary steps to maximize the value of your case.