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Emotional Distress after an Accident

Car wrecks and other accidents cause more than physical pain. They also exact an emotional price. Many people suffer intense emotional distress following an accident that completely changes their lives and makes it difficult to return to normal.
Fortunately, Nevada law allows injured victims to receive compensation for emotional distress, which is a type of non-economic loss that warrants monetary damages. The key in this type of case is to fully prove the extent of your emotional distress and to connect it to the accident. We recommend working with a Las Vegas personal injury attorney to significantly improve the odds of receiving compensation.

Types of Emotional Distress

We often see clients struggling emotionally following devastating physical injuries. Fractures, burns, brain injuries, and spinal cord damage can completely upend a person’s emotional well-being and quality of life.

Different types of emotional distress include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear

Often, the severity of the emotional distress is related to the severity of the injury—but not always. For example, someone might have suffered a burn injury on their face. Although it heals fairly easily, it nevertheless disfigures the face. Consequently, a victim could withdraw socially and suffer intense embarrassment whenever in public. This type of distress warrants significant compensation when someone else is liable for the injury.

Emotional Distress versus Pain and Suffering

Many people are confused about how emotional distress differs from pain and suffering. The confusion is understandable because there is quite a bit of overlap. In some jurisdictions, emotional distress is considered a form of “suffering,” so there is no conceptual legal difference.

A good way to think about pain and suffering is that it refers primarily to physical pain—i.e., the aches and agony that a person experiences when they suffer a fracture, burn, or nerve damage. As the name implies, emotional distress relates to the emotional effects of an accident. Both physical pain and emotional distress are “nonpecuniary damages” that are available under NRS 41A.011.

Proving Emotional Distress

Burns and scars are visible injuries. For this reason, a jury will readily accept that you have suffered a physical injury by simply looking at you on the witness stand or at your medical records. However, jurors might be skeptical that you really have suffered meaningful emotional distress simply because it does not show up on an x-ray.

We work closely with clients to properly document their emotional distress. There are several different ways to do this:

  • Document your therapy. A therapist can testify as to the emotional distress that you are suffering. For example, you might go into therapy to deal with a traumatic car accident. Doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists can often testify as expert witnesses, and juries often find their testimony credible.
  • Keep any prescriptions for depression, anxiety, insomnia, or other mood disorders. This medication helps establish the severity of your emotional distress.
  • Have friends or family testify. These people know you the best, and they can identify how your personality and mood have changed following a wreck. For example, your spouse could testify that you were always an optimistic person, but your spinal cord injury has plunged you into a deep depression.
  • Write down how you are feeling. Nobody else knows what you are going through, so document your mood daily. Many of our clients are already doing this type of journaling to document their physical pain; we recommend they also write down their emotional distress.

Sometimes, other physical evidence to help prove emotional distress. PTSD and other disorders can lead to weight loss or illness, which are signs you are struggling to process the accident. Meet with a Las Vegas personal injury attorney as soon as possible for assistance fully documenting your emotional pain.

Emotional Distress without Physical Injury

Most claims for emotional distress stem from physical injuries our clients have suffered, like a fracture or traumatic brain injury. The emotional distress is a natural consequence of this type of injury. As part of a claim, we can include a request for emotional distress compensation along with other types of damages, such as medical bills and lost wages.

In some situations, however, a person might have a claim for emotional distress even if they did not suffer any physical contact. This is rarer, but Nevada law does provide two legal causes of action:

  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress. This type of claim might exist when a person purposefully or recklessly causes harm through outrageous and extreme conduct designed to cause distress. An example could be a prank where a person pretends someone’s child has died.
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress. With this claim, a person has not purposefully caused emotional distress but has done so carelessly. An example is running over your child in a parking lot, which you witness.

With these causes of action, there is no requirement that our client suffer a physical injury. But they still suffered emotional distress due to the defendant’s conduct.

Putting a Price Tag on Emotional Distress

The purpose of making an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit after an accident is to make a victim whole. This basically means putting the victim in the position she would have been in had there been no accident.

A clear example involves medical bills. Without the accident, the victim would not have needed pricey medical care, so she should not have to pay for it. Instead, the person who injured the victim negligently or recklessly should shoulder the cost of the medical care.

Medical care is easy to calculate—we look at the medical bills issued by the doctor or other provider. Emotional distress is different, however. No two people will agree about how much money it will take to “make up for” depression or anxiety after an accident. $1,000? $10,000? $100,000?

Nevertheless, there are some general principles we can use. Generally, the more severe the emotional distress, the more compensation that is warranted. Someone who has been driven to the brink of suicide because of a crippling permanent injury can usually receive more than someone whose emotional distress was temporary.

We can also gauge how much other people who have suffered similar injuries have received in emotional distress damages. This is one of the advantages of working with an experienced accident attorney in Las Vegas.

How to Receive Compensation for Emotional Distress

It is vital to move quickly following an accident to preserve your legal rights. One challenge can be that many victims are struggling emotionally and cannot think straight. We often can thank supportive friends or family members for steering clients to our office so that we can discuss their legal rights, including rights to compensation for emotional distress.

In addition to documenting the distress, we will help make a claim with the defendant’s insurer and can negotiate a settlement. If no settlement is possible, we can file a lawsuit and include emotional distress damages as part of the claim.
When a case goes to trial, a jury will need to decide whether the defendant is responsible for the emotional distress and how much it is worth. When negotiating with an insurer, the claims adjuster has primary responsibility for assigning a dollar value to emotional distress.

Let Us Help You

Our clients deserve significant compensation when a devastating accident upends their lives. At Naqvi Injury Law, our team has fought for favorable settlements in a variety of different accidents, including slip and falls, premises liability claims, and motor vehicle wrecks.

For more information, contact us today. Our consultations are free and confidential.