Being involved in a car accident is very stressful, even if you did not have significant physical injuries. Many people will suffer some form of emotional distress after the event. Mental or emotional injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are common psychological ramifications of being in a crash. Whether you are struggling to sleep, having nightmares or other emotional problems, you should know that such side effects are not at all uncommon after the trauma of an accident.
If you’ve been injured in an accident and the insurance adjuster for the at-fault party is refusing to pay your damages because he or she questions your mental anguish claims, read on for more information about how insurance companies treat mental distress after car accidents.
How Mental Anguish, Pain and Suffering are handled in Personal Injury Claims
Most people would agree that any accident, whether a fender bender or a serious motor vehicle collision resulting in significant injury, is likely to cause some level of stress. Accident victims often suffer from some or all of the following:
- Anxiety, especially behind the wheel of a car
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
You may have heard the term “pain and suffering” as related to personal injury lawsuits. This is certainly a very real component of damages that everyone who is hurt should be asking for, but it won’t be offered up, especially if representing yourself. Insurance companies, lawyers, juries and judges will consider the fact that accident victims endure a certain amount of pain, suffering, and mental anguish. For this reason, injury victims seek – and are often awarded- compensation beyond the cost of medical bills.
There is no formula for calculating the emotional component, or the hassle, of enduring a painful physical injury which was someone else’s fault. The total circumstances surrounding the injury will be generally taken into account. A good personal injury lawyer will understand how to present a strong case based on everything that the victim had to go through.
Similar to pain and suffering, in Illinois a jury can also be asked to consider “loss of a normal life”. In other words, if someone normally would go swimming every day and could no longer do so for a time period after the accident, this disruption to everyday life needs to be considered too.
What if I am having anxiety or nightmares after an accident, but was not otherwise injured?
Most of the time, pain and suffering piggybacks onto a physical injury. For example, if you were in an accident and both of your legs were shattered, pain and suffering from having both of your legs shattered is assumed. Everyone can imagine how painful it is to have shattered bones, even without having experienced it. Then there is having to take time from your day to seek medical care. If someone needed surgery, there is fear and anxiety surrounding that. Then there is recovery time. In other words, most everyone can agree that someone with shattered bones should be well compensated for their hassles, stress, anxiety, pain, etc. But an award for “pain and suffering” after an accident, with little to no physical injury, is going to be much harder to claim.
Accident victims are more likely to be successful in a stand – alone mental anguish claim if they went to see a mental health professional for help. This sends a strong message that the anguish was not only real, but significant enough to require professional help.
When your Mental Anguish after an Accident is Severe
Mental distress after an accident or personal injury can range from mild to very serious. If you believe that your emotional distress is interfering with your day to day functioning, or is harming your sleep, seek help. Professionals are trained to help people overcome the trauma that often accompanies a serious accident. Aside from helping you feel better, you may actually be able to decrease your chances of another accident. Consider this list of reasons to get help for your trauma:
- Your emotional distress makes you more likely to have an accident again
- Driving when stressed increases the chance of another crash
- You are more likely to crash if emotional distress causes anger or depression while driving
- You are more likely to drive too fast or aggressively if the prior trauma is not kept manageable
- If emotional distress makes you tired, it increases the chance of falling asleep at the wheel
Next Steps to Consider following a Car Accident
If you were injured in a serious accident that was not your fault, consider also getting legal assistance to help navigate your claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Ideally, you should speak to a lawyer before discussing your injuries- physical or mental- with the insurance company. We might not be able to take your case if you did not have significant physical injuries, but would be happy nonetheless to talk to you so that you can explore your options. Give us a call at 630 250-8813 to set up a phone call.