Physical injuries tend to the be the primary focus after a car accident, but it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of emotional trauma.
Long after you physically recover from car accident injuries, psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, fear, and PTSD may continue to cause emotional distress. These conditions are often go untreated, especially when they don’t present an immediate concern directly after an accident.
Emotional trauma is challenging to prove and even more difficult to place a dollar value on, but it’s absolutely possible with the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. Arizona laws are favorable to accident victims experiencing emotional distress and mental anguish, so you have a good chance of success when your claim is built on a strong case.
Identifying Emotional Trauma After a Car Accident
The challenge with identifying PTSD, anxiety, depression, and emotional shock after a car accident is that these psychological conditions rarely present themselves visually.
You can see physical injuries like cuts, bruises, and broken limbs, but you can’t physically see insomnia, fear, or suicidal thoughts. Emotional trauma exists below the surface, it often takes the back seat to glaring physical injuries.
Whether you suspect emotional trauma or not, it’s always best to visit a doctor or therapist after an accident for a professional assessment. Some of the symptoms of emotional trauma that they’ll look for include:
- Chronic anger or rage
- Chronic exhaustion or fatigue
- Fear of driving
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Insomnia, sleep loss, and sleep disturbances
- Irritability, moodiness
- Obsessive/compulsive behaviors
- Social withdrawal
- Weight fluctuations
In diagnosing emotional trauma, the doctor or therapist will need to assess the impact of the car accident along with contributing factors before and after the accident. The severity of your emotional trauma will depend on a number of factors, including:
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- If a loved one was killed or seriously injured in this car accident, or a previous car accident
- The extent of your physical injuries in the car accident, especially if they were life-threatening
- The rate of your recovery after the car accident
- The strength of your social support network and coping mechanisms
Emotional Trauma in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In Arizona, car accident victims are allowed to recover damages for emotional trauma when they exhibit emotional distress or mental anguish. Arizona doesn’t place a cap on damages for emotional trauma, whether your personal injury case stems from a car accident, medical malpractice case, or business-related injuries (i.e. slip and fall cases).
Compensation for emotional trauma falls under the broad category of non-economic damages — that is, compensation that doesn’t refer to specific injury-based costs like medical bills and lost income. Non-economic compensation is often referred to as “pain and suffering” damages.
Proving Emotional Distress in Arizona
Whether your personal injury lawsuit actually goes to court or settles outside of court, you’ll need to present a strong case to merit additional damages for emotional distress. Some of the key factors that a judge, jury, mediator, or insurance adjuster will look for include:
- A formal medical diagnosis for the emotional trauma
- The frequency and severity of the symptoms
- The severity of the underlying physical injuries
- The cost and effectiveness of treating the emotional trauma
Most successful emotional distress cases involve physical injuries, with severe injuries almost always resulting in higher damages. That’s not to say that you can’t win emotional distress damages in a case without personal injuries, but it’s admittedly rare.
One of the best things you can do to improve your case for emotional distress damages is to document your emotional trauma as much as possible.
Seek professional evaluation from a doctor or psychologist, and get their medical diagnosis in writing. Track your medical bills for doctor visits, therapy sessions, and any prescribed medications, as these show a clear economic cost for your emotional distress. In some cases, it may help to keep a journal that clearly tracks your mental anguish (e.g. tracking how much sleep you get, how often you have nightmares, how you feel when you drive, triggers that set you off, etc.).
In the end, damages for pain and suffering are often accounted for with a multiplier that’s applied to your economic damages. Many personal injury cases in Arizona include a multiplier of 1.5 to 5, but it can be significantly higher in severe cases. There are some personal injury damages calculators online, but the best way to estimate your potential damages is to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Do settlement agreements include damages for emotional trauma in Arizona?
There’s a common misconception out there that you have to go to court to receive damages for pain and suffering. While it’s true that taking your case to court may result in higher damages, you can absolutely receive pain and suffering damages in a private settlement.
The vast majority of personal injury cases result in a settlement agreement, and most of those settlements occur after the discovery phase before the case goes to trial. Once all of the evidence is collected and testimonies are recorded in depositions during discovery, it’s pretty easy for the insurance agency to gauge their chances of success in court.
As long as there aren’t any lingering disputes over fault or liability, going to trial should be avoidable.
The insurance agency will still want to pay as little as possible (their goal is to stay in business, after all), but an experienced attorney should be able to argue for a fair settlement on your behalf. If you’re experiencing emotional trauma, emotional distress, or mental anguish, compensation for your suffering should be included in the final settlement amount.
Keep in mind, however, that signing a settlement agreement requires signing a release form that prohibits you from suing the insurance agency for future damages pertaining to the accident. If your emotional distress worsens and requires costly treatment or therapy, you won’t be able to sue for additional compensation. So, make sure your settlement agreement takes the probability of future complications into account.
To receive help with settling a personal injury claim in Arizona, fill out the form below or give us call at (480) 526-4602 to start your FREE case evaluation.
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