How To Claim Emotional Injury After a Car Accident

Female Still In Shock After Getting Hit By Car With Motorcycle

Car accidents can cause injuries that are physical, and emotional as well. These emotional injuries can be caused by witnessing the death or injury of a close family member or being the victim of a negligent act yourself, which causes pain and suffering. When this happens, you may need to know how to claim emotional injury after a car accident.

According to a 2016 study among people who have been injured in car crashes, 21-67% experience depressive mood, 47% experience anxiety and driving phobia, and 20-40% suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In Nevada, the law allows you to claim these experiences as an emotional injury, which is a non-economic loss. 

To do this, you must show that the defendant was negligent, leading to an accident or injury. You also must show that you as the plaintiff were injured, or that you witnessed the accident, and because of witnessing the accident, you suffered emotional distress.

How to Claim an Emotional Injury After a Car Accident in Nevada

In Nevada, the cause of action – which is a name for the grounds which entitle you to bring a lawsuit – for claiming emotional injuries after a car crash is negligent infliction of emotional distress. A Nevada motor accident vehicle attorney will help you establish each of the required elements. The elements required to claim negligent infliction of emotional distress in Nevada are:

  1. The defendant was negligent, leading to the car crash.

The defendant must have acted negligently, causing the car crash, and resulting in you as the plaintiff suffering emotional distress. Being negligent means that the defendant should have been able to foresee the possibility of the car crash because of his or her actions, and should have taken reasonable steps to avoid the crash, but did not take such steps. Examples can include speeding, not keeping a proper lookout, failing to stop at a light, driving while under the influence of intoxicating substances, or distracted driving.

  1. You as the plaintiff were injured or are a close family member of the injured person.

If you were the victim of a personal injury accident, you may have emotional injuries and have a right to claim for your own injuries.

If you were not the injured person but suffered emotionally from witnessing the car crash, you must be a close relative of the victim. In Nevada, this means that the injured person must be a member of your immediate family, a relative by blood or marriage, or a relationship that by its nature and quality reflects this closeness. This includes spouses, children, family members whom you live with, or in-laws with whom you are emotionally close, but not friends who are not actual relatives, housemates, fiancés, or non-immediate family members with infrequent contact.

  1. You witnessed the car crash.

If you are not the injured party in the car crash, then you have to show that you were near the scene of the crash and aware that the victim was injured. You must also show that you suffered emotional distress beyond what would be expected of a disinterested bystander.

  1. Due to witnessing or experiencing the accident, you suffered emotional distress.

The emotional distress must be an emotional injury that you can attribute directly to being part of, or viewing, the accident. This is a question that the jury or judge decides on based on your evidence.

Types of Emotional Distress

Emotional distress under Nevada law is separate from the grief that may follow the death of a victim. Emotional injuries are long-term and affect your well-being after the car crash. They impact your quality of life. There may be physical manifestations such as shrieking, crying, fear and anxiety, lack of sleep, or PTSD. You do not have to have physical manifestations to constitute emotional distress.

Emotional distress can result from a physical injury. For example, if you suffer from disfigurement, you may feel embarrassed and withdraw socially and feel perpetual self-consciousness or fear. However, emotional distress does not need to result from a physical injury, especially when you are a witness to the accident rather than a direct victim. A Las Vegas personal injury attorney can help you establish whether you have suffered emotional distress.

Emotional distress is a broad term that can cover a wide variety of symptoms. To qualify as emotional distress, you can experience any of the following: PTSD, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, embarrassment, fear, lack of focus, phobias, or lethargy. Generally, if you are experiencing symptoms that affect your daily functioning, you may be suffering from emotional distress.

To prove emotional distress, you should keep a journal to document your symptoms and show the emotional impact of the car crash. Doctors and therapists can provide testimony as expert witnesses, and friends and family can also provide testimony indicating how your personality and mood have changed after the car crash. You should also keep prescriptions for medications treating any symptoms of emotional distress.

Emotional Distress Versus Pain and Suffering

Emotional distress is the emotional consequences of an accident and is mental or emotional harm. Pain and suffering are more physical consequences of an accident. The difference lies in whether the pain and anguish are physical, or mental and emotional.

Mental anguish, or emotional harm, is mental suffering because of painful emotions. These emotions can be grief, severe anxiety or depression, shame, humiliation, indignation, despair, and so forth.

Physical pain is the feeling of great discomfort in some part of the body that has been damaged or injured. It can be described as throbbing, aching, burning, or agony in a specific part of the body.

Sometimes, the same symptoms can occur for physical and emotional injuries. An example of this is in the case of a concussion, where concussions cause PTSD and the symptoms can mirror each other. If you are suffering symptoms, you may consider claiming compensation for both.