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Is Emotional Distress the Same as Pain and Suffering?

If you are involved in a car accident – even one that is minor – you could wind up suffering from emotional distress. Emotional distress most often occurs when the victim of an accident witnesses someone else suffer a traumatic injury or death or they themselves suffer a traumatic injury. If a doctor has diagnosed emotional distress as part of the injuries you suffered in the car accident, you might be able to recover compensation as part of the pain and suffering damages listed in any personal injury lawsuit you file against the negligent driver who caused the crash.

Defining Emotional Distress

For the most part, emotional distress falls under the umbrella of pain and suffering that you wind up suffering from a car accident. Emotional distress, as part of the damages from pain and suffering, occurs when the negligent actions of another person cause you to suffer some form of mental harm. Mental harm can include insomnia, anxiety, depression, anguish, torment, and humiliation. Emotional distress does not include headaches.

Proving Emotional Distress

When you decide to file an emotional distress claim following a New York car accident, establishing the following factors will play an important part in proving the claim:

  • Showing the court that your distress is not fleeting
  • Proving that the distress was caused by the actions of the defendant
  • Establishing that the distress has some form of significant medical impact on your life

There are five factors you and your attorney need to consider when building a claim for emotional distress, and they include the following:

  1. The duration of your pain
  2. The intensity of the distress you are suffering
  3. Any related harm to your body
  4. A note from your doctor about your psychological symptoms
  5. The underlying cause of the pain

In New York, you will also be required to show that you suffered physical injuries in the car accident that are directly related to your emotional distress. Emotional distress is quite often categorized as pain and suffering, but it can also be labeled as the following when filing a claim:

  • Emotional distress inflicted negligently: The negligent actions of another person directly led to your emotional distress.
  • Loss of consortium: This occurs when the victim of a car accident loses out on the benefits of being married or being a parent because of someone else’s actions.
  • “Zone of Danger”: A form of claim that can be made for the trauma of witnessing death or serious harm to an immediate family member.

Supporting an Emotional Distress Claim

A great deal of evidential and documented support is needed in order to be successful with an emotional distress claim. The first step in building a claim is collecting all of the evidence that supports emotional distress. This can include medical records, reports from your treating physician(s) accident scene photos, videos and reports and any other document that can help support the merit of your claim. 

Calculating the Value of Your Emotional Distress

Emotional distress, much like the overall category of pain and suffering, is not easy to calculate because it is not a physical or visible injury like a broken bone that can be clearly seen on an x-ray box or a monetary loss that can be calculated, such as loss of income due to a disability. There are quite a few factors that play a role in calculating the value of your emotional distress claim. Some of these factors include:

  • If your testimony is credible.
  • If you were a sympathetic witness.
  • If your diagnosis, injuries and prognosis are clear to the jury.
  • If the testimony you provided was consistent.
  • If your doctor supports the claims of emotional distress.
  • If you have a criminal record.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the substance of your emotional distress claim. That is, the nature and extent of what you’ve experienced, how it has impacted your life and how it can be reasonably anticipated that it will impact your life in the future.

Contact a New York Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident it’s important that you contact an experienced Long Island personal injury attorney at Friedman & Simon, L.L.P., today to discuss your case. Emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other psychological injuries deserve to be compensated just like your physical injuries after a car accident. Don’t miss out on the chance to file a claim. Speak to one of our experienced, dedicated, caring attorneys today: 516 932 0400.

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