Most people know that if they have been injured in a Virginia car crash or any other situation caused by another party’s negligence, the injured person generally has the right to seek compensation for their losses from the at-fault party. In such cases, most people think primarily about their physical injuries. However, some of the most lasting, debilitating injuries are of a psychological or emotional nature.
Mental trauma—commonly known as emotional distress in the legal world—can have serious implications that may prolong a victim’s path back to normal. It may be difficult to work, maintain relationships, and process emotions normally. The toll on the victim and their family can be enormous. The good news is that, in certain circumstances, damages for emotional distress can be recovered through a personal injury claim. With this in mind, it is important to work closely with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer who is experienced in these types of cases.
What Is Emotional Distress?
“Emotional distress” can be very difficult to define precisely, as each victim experiences the condition differently. Most medical professionals understand the condition as a psychological response to an extreme act of physical or emotional violence.
Symptoms of emotional distress include:
- Cognitive difficulties: Those suffering from emotional distress is afflicted might experience frequent flashbacks of the traumatic events, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares. This could affect their ability to concentrate and perform certain tasks.
- Behavioral issues: Certain places, images, and sounds can trigger flashbacks. Those affected may feel the need to organize their lives in a way to avoid these triggers.
- Stress and anxiety: Trauma can make it difficult to process and manage emotions. A person may struggle with panic attacks, along with bouts of fear, depression, and anxiety.
- Physical ailments: Trauma can make healthy lifestyle practices impossible—difficulty sleeping, irregular eating habits, aches and pains, and heart palpitations are commonplace.
Emotional Distress vs. Pain and Suffering
Damages for “pain and suffering” have long been part of personal injury cases. Depending on the situation, a person who has been injured as by another’s negligence generally has the right to seek compensation for the pain that they were forced to endure. Often, this pain is presumed to be physical pain.
In the realm of personal injury law, emotional distress is categorized under the umbrella of pain and suffering, but it not quite the same. Pain and suffering compensation is generally linked to a specific injury or series of injuries. Emotional distress, on the other hand, refers to the mental and emotional damage caused by the situation itself—not necessarily linked to a particular injury.
While emotional distress can be a rather vague concept, it is possible to substantiate emotional distress claims with specific diagnoses made by mental health professionals. Some of the most common diagnosable conditions associated with emotional distress include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Claiming Damages for Emotional Distress
If you experience emotional distress because of negligent acts, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party and recover compensation. However, it should be noted that it is more difficult to collect damages for emotional distress than physical injuries. Psychological injuries are often much more difficult to prove.
Expert witness testimony from a therapist, psychologist, or other medical professional may be necessary to recover damages for emotional distress. If the plaintiff is successful, they could be granted compensation for the losses incurred because of the trauma, including medical care, lost wages, and a decreased quality of life.
Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were involved in a serious accident in Virginia and developed emotional distress as a result, you may have a legal claim. An experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can evaluate your case, determine if you have a claim, and craft a personalized legal strategy around your interests.
Our attorneys have spent their careers fighting on behalf of accident victims. We understand the circumstances facing our clients, and we will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Call (833) 997-1774 for a free consultation today.
For over twenty years, Mr. Sharp's law practice has focused on serious personal injury claims, including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury claims. He also handles nursing home neglect cases and medical malpractice claims. Mr. Sharp has counseled numerous clients about the complexities concerning litigation of both pediatric and adult brain injury.
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