In California’s ever-busy roads, auto accidents are a common yet distressing occurrence. While the initial focus often lies on physical injuries, the psychological effects, such as vehophobia (fear of driving) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), can be equally, if not more, devastating.


This article aims to shed light on the importance of acknowledging and valuing emotional distress damages in the aftermath of car accidents, and how those who experience it can receive compensation.

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Trauma and Mental Anguish After a Car Accident

damages for emotional distress

The psychological impact of car accidents is profound and far-reaching. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 39.2% of vehicle accident survivors develop PTSD. This statistic is a stark reminder that the emotional fallout of an accident can be as debilitating as physical injuries. Survivors may experience a range of emotions, from shock and guilt to anger and fear, which can severely disrupt their daily functioning.


Trauma of this kind is often overlooked and undervalued in a personal injury case. Insurance companies may minimize the psychological trauma of an accident by questioning a patient’s mental health or their reaction to the event. This is especially true if there are no visible signs of injuries, such as cuts and bruises. 


But physical injuries are not the only form of harm that can come from a car accident. People who experience serious emotional distress due to a crash must be given access to quality support and resources so that they can recover emotionally and lead healthy, productive lives again. 


It is important to recognize that emotional distress damages deserve just as much consideration as any other type of injury when it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit and seeking justice for victims.

How to Prove Emotional Distress Damages
as Personal Injury

how to prove emotional distress damages as personal injury

In personal injury law, emotional distress is a recognized component of damages. However, unlike physical injuries, where damages are often tangible and quantifiable, non-economic damages pose unique challenges in their assessment and valuation.


The law provides for the recovery of emotional distress damages California, acknowledging the significant impact these non-physical injuries can have on a person’s life.


This includes recovery for distress arising from a personal injury or wrongful death, and can take various forms such as physical pain, mental anguish, depression, anxiety, humiliation or embarrassment. The court will consider the extent of any emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff and also whether it has been made worse by the defendant’s conduct. 


In order to file a lawsuit and recover damages for emotional distress in California, an individual must demonstrate that their suffering was both genuine and substantial.

Types of Emotional Distress

types of emotional distress

The California courts recognize two distinct types of emotional distress damages in personal injury cases: negligent infliction and intentional infliction.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

The first type is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED), which occurs when an individual fails to exercise the degree of care a reasonable person would give in similar circumstances and causes another person to suffer severe mental or emotional consequences. In this case, the plaintiff must show that they were in close proximity to the traumatic event and suffered serious physical injuries or symptoms as a direct result. 


A good example of this type of emotional harm is when a motor vehicle accident victim witnesses the death or serious injury of their loved one due to the negligence of another driver.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The second type is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED), which occurs when an individual deliberately engages in outrageous conduct knowing it will cause severe distress to another person. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct was outrageous and extreme, that it intentionally or recklessly caused emotional distress, and that they suffered severe mental suffering as a direct result. 


An example for this one is when a person’s partner engages in physical abuse, extreme humiliation, verbal abuse, or stalking that causes emotional distress to the other party.

How to Prove Pain and Suffering
in an Emotional Distress Claim

Establishing the existence and extent of emotional trauma requires thorough documentation. This can include medical records from mental health professionals, which provide a clinical assessment of the psychological impact. 


Keeping a detailed journal of experiences post-accident can also help support your claim. Such personal records offer insight into the daily struggles and emotional turmoil experienced, serving as powerful evidence of emotional distress in a legal claim.


The plaintiff must demonstrate a link between the defendant’s actions and the mental distress suffered. This can be done through witness testimony or other forms of evidence that show how the defendant directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. 


The factors that affect a pain and suffering claim include: the degree of physical and psychological injuries, how long it took to recover from those injuries, and the plaintiff’s prior mental health.


It is important to be aware that insurance companies often make low offers for pain and suffering damages. With the help of a personal injury lawyer, plaintiffs can increase their chances of receiving fair compensation for all losses related to an accident or injury.

Calculating the Value of Damages for Emotional Distress

calculating the value of emotional distress

The valuation of mental anguish damages is inherently complex. Unlike calculating medical expenses or lost wages, there is no straightforward formula for determining the worth of emotional suffering. Factors like the severity of the distress, the impact on the individual’s life, and the duration of the emotional suffering all play a role in determining the value of these damages.


However, it is possible to increase the amount of compensation that a personal injury plaintiff receives. Using an experienced injury lawyer is the best way for plaintiffs to ensure that damages for emotional distress in a personal injury case are accurately valued.


A knowledgeable attorney will provide insight into how California courts have evaluated and awarded emotional distress damages in past cases. The lawyer will also be well-versed in local laws and court precedents, and will know how to effectively argue that the emotional distress damages sustained by their client deserve higher compensation.


In addition, a good injury lawyer will often work with experts such as psychologists or psychiatrists who can give expert testimony about the extent of the plaintiff’s emotional suffering.

Strategies for Coping with Emotional Distress and Physical Injuries Post-Accident

Professional Support

Seeking professional mental health support is crucial for those experiencing significant emotional distress following a car accident. Therapists and counselors can offer strategies for managing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Building a Support System

Having a strong support system of family and friends can provide emotional stability and comfort. Sharing experiences and feelings with trusted individuals can be therapeutic and aid in the healing process.

Self-Care Practices

Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies can help in managing stress and improving overall mental well-being. It’s important to prioritize one’s health and find activities that bring joy and relaxation.

You CAN Sue for Emotional Distress: Steps to Follow

Legal experts recommend following the steps below if someone is considering taking legal action and seeking damages for emotional distress:

  1. Document all evidence in detail, such as medical records and any other relevant information.
  2. Speak with a knowledgeable attorney about the best plan of action to pursue compensation.
  3. Seek out witnesses who can provide testimony or corroborate facts related to the case.
  4. Remain patient throughout the process; a lawsuit may take several months or more before being resolved.

Remember that everyone deals with trauma differently and that seeking professional help is essential.

Filing an Emotional Distress Lawsuit in California.
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The impact of a car accident extends beyond physical injuries, often leaving lasting emotional scars. Recognizing and valuing these emotional distress damages is crucial for the holistic recovery of accident victims. Understanding your rights and seeking the appropriate support, whether legal or psychological, can significantly aid in navigating the complex aftermath of an auto accident.


For those grappling with the mental aftermath of a car accident, remember that your feelings are valid, and help is available. Understanding the importance of acknowledging and addressing these emotional wounds is the first step towards healing and recovery.


Call the experienced attorneys at RTM Law today for compassionate support and effective representation. We are available 24/7.


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