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Can I Get Compensation for My Emotional Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident Case?

emotional pain and suffering

Car accidents can cause severe bodily injury resulting in hospitalization, numerous medical bills, rehabilitation, physical therapy, loss of income due to the inability to work, and loss of future earnings. However, a less discussed topic concerns the emotional pain and suffering that results from a car accident. “Pain and suffering” refers to the motional trauma and distress an individual suffers as a result of their car accident and the resulting physical injuries. In other words, both the trauma of being in a car accident and the physical injury sustained can lead to emotional distress that can sometimes be so great that it interferes with an individual’s quality of life.

After a car accident, many injured individuals ask whether they can get compensation for their emotional pain and suffering. The short answer is that it depends. In order to state a viable claim for emotional pain and suffering, the claimant must generally prove that the emotional pain and suffering is severe, constant, and that the defendant’s conduct caused the emotional pain and distress. Examples of such emotional pain and suffering include the following:

  • Guilt
  • Insomnia
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety
  • Shock
  • Mental anguish
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Other impairments to an individual’s quality of life

A claim for damages for the above emotions is usually sought with the individual’s claim for their physical injuries from the car accident. However, this is not always the case. There are cases where an individual begins their lawsuit for their personal physical injuries and then their emotional injuries develop at a later time. A personal injury attorney can advise you how to best proceed with your case when a claim for non-economic damages comes into play.

The amount of non-economic damages that courts are willing to award injured victims differs from case to case and is largely dependent upon the extent of the individual’s injuries. For instance, most courts will only award damages for emotional pain and suffering where the injuries sustained are severe, debilitating, and, sometimes, where these emotional injuries cause a physical injury on their own. Further, your claim for emotional pain and suffering must be supported by documentation such as medical records, proof of doctor-prescribed medication to manage the stress and anxiety, testimony from doctors and other witnesses, and evidence of your inability to work due to the emotional pain and trauma.

In summary, proving a claim for damages for your emotional pain and suffering can be challenging. Not only are these emotions difficult to prove but courts are also not as willing to award them. The reasons for this vary but are likely due to the lack of evidence that supports an individual’s emotional trauma. For instance, while a doctor can attest to the individual’s emotional pain, intensity of the pain, cause of the pain, and extent of the pain, the testimony and evidence here is very different than those that are used to prove physical injuries such as a dislocated disc, spinal cord malfunction, or broken bone.

Despite this, it is also true that having a skilled personal injury attorney on your side fighting for your non-economic as well as economic damages can be beneficial for your case. An attorney is experienced at handling personal injury cases and will fight to get you the highest compensation award possible including your claim for emotional pain and suffering.

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