Woman discussing trauma with personal injury attorney

Emotional Distress: When Are Psychological Injuries Considered Personal Injuries?

Psychological injuries such as emotional distress can be a major part of the damages recovered in a personal injury lawsuit. 

When you are injured in a car accident, in a slip and fall accident, as the result of medical malpractice, or due to other negligence, you can usually be compensated for emotional harm. This is in addition to more easily determined economic losses that are related to your injury.

Defining Psychological Injury

For the purposes of a personal injury lawsuit, psychological injury is a psychological or psychiatric condition that developed as a direct result of an accident that caused trauma. Generally, these kinds of traumatic events take place when an individual is not prepared, causing them to feel a loss of control.

Psychological injuries can occur as a result of any accident or injury and can often lead to a need for counseling or other mental health treatments.

Signs of Emotional Distress

After an accident or other traumatic event, victims often feel angry, frightened, or helpless. Many of these issues will resolve with time. For some people who have incurred a psychological injury due to their trauma, the symptoms can worsen with time and lead to complications. 

These complications can include:

  • Intrusive thoughts or visualizations of the event
  • Sleep disturbances or difficulty staying awake
  • Concentration difficulties or memory loss
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds the victim of the trauma
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Becoming easily startled
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Complaints of undefined pain in the body
  • Hyper-vigilance or assuming a disaster is imminent
  • Overwhelming anxiety
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavior
  • Emotional or physical detachment
  • Feelings of suicide

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor or a mental health provider immediately. If these symptoms have appeared after an accident or injury, you should also contact a personal injury attorney.

Emotional Distress Damages

Emotional distress damages are intended to compensate you for any psychological impact your injury had on your daily life. These damages are subjective and can change from person to person. There is no hard and fast definition of what constitutes emotional harm because what may be distressing to you may not be distressing to someone else.

If you think you may be suffering from psychological injuries as the result of an accident or injury, you need to document how you are feeling and thinking. One way to do this is to communicate with your doctor about any psychological symptoms you may have experienced since your accident.

Another good idea is to keep a daily journal about how you’re feeling about your accident and injuries. You should also note how your life has been impacted, whether those impacts are big or small. The more evidence of your emotional distress you can gather, the stronger your claim will be.

Emotional Distress and Compensation Limits

Depending on the cause of your psychological injury, there may be limits on the amount of damages you can be awarded. For example, in West Virginia, there is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages such as emotional distress. However, this does not apply to non-economic damages arising from a car accident or workplace injury.

Expected Compensation From Emotional Distress

There is no real “average” amount that you should expect from this a psychological injury. This is because your claim and the specific details of your case are unique. 

The value of your personal injury case is determined by examining the following:

  • Financial expenses you have incurred or will incur because of your injury
  • The severity of your injury
  • The total economic and non-economic damages

Your personal injury attorney from Hewitt & Salvatore will help you determine the appropriate compensation for the emotional distress you carry because of your accident. Get in touch with our office today.