How To Sue For Emotional Distress After A Car Accident

Two drivers man arguing after a car traffic accident collision, Traffic Accident and insurance concept.

When car accidents occur, the people involved experience physical and emotional distress. Physical injuries may sometimes be considered minor. However, they affect the emotional and mental state of those involved in these accidents.  

Most people involved in non-fatal auto accidents might experience trauma. Due to this, car crashes have become a significant source of emotional distress. People respond to car accident trauma differently. Some people recover from the emotional trauma, while others experience emotional distress and anxiety for extended periods.  

Emotional Distress In Law

In law, emotional distress is any mental anguish or suffering caused by an incident that’s either intentional or negligent. Courts recognize this type of distress as a form of damage that can be compensated through civil suits. If you’ve suffered emotional distress or trauma due to a car accident, you can sue the other party even if you didn’t suffer physical injuries.

Main Signs Of Emotional Distress

After an accident, it’s natural to experience feelings of stress and anger for some time. However, emotional distress goes beyond those mild feelings. People who develop emotional distress find it challenging to go about their day-to-day activities. Most of the time, they’re unable to control their reactions to stressful situations.

Emotional distress may manifest in different forms. For instance, patients may have post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. The main signs of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Exhaustion
  • Vertigo
  • Trembling
  • Irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea

Some may experience recurring memories of the crash and fear riding in cars or driving. These signs can last for months or longer.

How to Sue For Emotional Distress 

If you’ve been in a non-fatal car accident and continue to experience emotional distress following the crash, it’s possible to get compensation for your suffering. Follow the following steps to sue for emotional distress: 

  • Talk To A Personal Injury Lawyer 

To sue for emotional distress, you’ll need to talk to a personal injury lawyer. Your ability to get compensated for emotional distress relies on your lawyer’s ability to demonstrate that the car accident has affected your day-to-day life. 

To do this, start looking for lawyers in your area. They can construct a solid legal argument that establishes liability. If you live in New Jersey, contact an experienced NJ auto accident attorney to help you. A good attorney should be able to provide proof that your emotional distress is a direct result of the other party’s negligence leading to the crash and not any other cause.  

  • Gather Evidence Of Emotional Distress  

To file an emotional distress case in court, you’ll need to gather substantial evidence to support your claim. Successful claims involve demonstrating the effects of emotional suffering. This proof may include medical records, testimonies from mental health professionals, witness testimonies, journal records showing daily symptoms, and relevant medical research that can lend credibility to your claim. 

If you’ve developed psychological effects due to the accident, consider getting a doctor’s diagnosis for mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. You may use work or school records to prove absence from work and school or need for family care to prove severe distress and interference with day-to-day activities. In most instances, emotional distress affects your sleep patterns and heart rate.  

Consider getting an electronic health tracker to monitor your sleeping habits and heart rate. The more you document your emotional distress, the easier it would be for your lawyer to secure compensation.

  • File A Legal Suit 

Once you’ve gathered the evidence to support the legal suit, have your attorney review them and prepare a legal claim. Your lawyer will help you to sue the defendant for emotional distress in a court of law.

  • Get Ready For Pre-Trial  

After filing the legal suit, the defendant will be served. The discovery process that involves information exchange between the plaintiff and the defendant will occur. Both parties will have the option to go to trial or work out an out-of-court settlement.

The out-of-court process involves discussing a compensation offer made by the defendant. If you receive such an offer, your lawyer will advise you on whether to accept the deal or not. If you disagree on an out-of-court settlement, a trial will ensue in court.  

  •  Trial And Compensation 

The court where the suit was filed will set a date for hearing your case. The court shall review the evidence presented and listen to arguments from both the plaintiff and the defendants. They will determine whether you should be compensated for emotional distress damage. During the trial, your attorney must construct a solid legal claim that helps the court determine whether the emotional stress was a result of negligence or intention on the defendant’s part.  

Emotional distress is considered negligent when there is proof the defendant broke the law or violated a statutory duty. This includes sleeping or texting while driving or failing to stop at a red light. On the other hand, emotional distress is considered intentional when evidence shows the defendant crashed the plaintiff’s car due to an act of road rage or an attempt to goad the plaintiff into a race. In this case, your attorney must convince the court that the defendant’s behavior was either outrageous, extreme, intolerable, or shocking.  

Having listened to both sides, the court will make a fair decision based on the arguments and evidence presented. If the court finds merit in the suit, it will issue a favorable decision directing the defendant to compensate you for damages.  

Final Thoughts

Car accidents might be a huge contributor to emotional trauma across the world. The emotional trauma and stress resulting from car accidents are much more difficult to heal than the physical injuries sustained.

Most people are quick to sue for physical injuries after a car crash. What people don’t know is victims can also sue for emotional stress and get compensation for damages. If you’ve been in an auto accident that caused you emotional distress, find an experienced accident lawyer and follow the five steps discussed above to file a legal suit against the defendant.

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Alicia Baker

Alicia is a Canadian writer whose enthusiasm for cultural and automotive are combined in her writing. Her background includes links to insurance, finance, and automotive safety.

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Alicia Baker
Alicia is a Canadian writer whose enthusiasm for cultural and automotive are combined in her writing. Her background includes links to insurance, finance, and automotive safety.