When you’re bringing a car accident lawsuit, you often find that insurance companies and other defendants are quick to dismiss your emotional distress from the accident. A skilled car accident attorney in Caldwell, TX and Buffalo, TX has been down this road before and knows how to present the evidence in the best way to protect your rights.
Emotional Distress Claims in Car Accident Lawsuits
Car accidents can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, not just physically but also emotionally. In Texas, victims of car accidents are entitled to seek compensation for emotional distress caused by the incident, but this part of the lawsuit is often complex to calculate and requires a thorough understanding of the laws involved as well as skill in presenting the evidence in negotiations and at court.
The Legal Basis for Emotional Distress Claims in a Car Accident Lawsuit
To successfully claim for emotional distress, the plaintiff (the person bringing the car accident lawsuit) must prove that the defendant’s negligent actions directly caused their emotional trauma. This involves establishing a clear link between the accident and the emotional suffering experienced. This process involves proving several key elements.
Duty of Care and Breach
First, it’s imperative to establish the duty of care the defendant owed to the plaintiff. In the context of a car accident, this generally means the defendant was expected to follow all traffic laws and drive safely for the conditions. The next step is to demonstrate how the defendant breached this duty of care. Evidence will be required to show that the driver who caused the accident was not following the law or was driving in a reckless manner.
Another critical element in the case is causation. Here, your lawyers must convincingly link the breach of duty directly to your emotional distress. In other words, it must be possible to see a direct line from the negligent behavior of the other driver to the accident, and there must also be a direct line between this accident and your emotional distress. You must show that the emotional suffering is a direct result of the car accident and not attributable to other unrelated factors.
Evidence of Harm
Finally, it is essential to provide concrete evidence of the actual emotional distress you’ve suffered. This is often the most challenging aspect of a case, as emotional distress is less tangible and easy to quantify than physical injuries. To support this claim, you’ll need things like psychological treatment records, which provide a professional assessment of the mental health issues stemming from the accident. Testimonies from mental health professionals can also be instrumental in illustrating the nature and extent of the emotional trauma.
Understanding Emotional Distress Damages
Emotional distress damages in Texas fall into two main categories:
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
This is very uncommon in car accident cases and requires evidence that the defendant acted with the intent to cause you emotional harm. However, in some cases, this does apply.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)
More usual in car accident cases, NIED claims focus on the negligence that led to emotional distress. In other words, the defendant did not intend to harm you, but their lack of care harmed you anyway.
Challenges in Emotional Distress Claims
Direct Causal Link
You must convincingly demonstrate that your emotional suffering is a direct result of the car accident, and not due to pre-existing conditions or other life events. If, for example, you were going through a divorce at the time of the accident, the defendant will argue hard that the true source of your distress is your divorce, not the accident.
It takes a skilled lawyer to show that at least some degree of your emotional suffering is tied directly to the accident. This requires a comprehensive presentation of evidence, including both professional assessments and personal testimonies, as well as the ability to build a convincing and compelling case.
Subjectivity and Privacy
You have to demonstrate that your emotional distress is significant, and this often involves delving into your personal mental health history. Plaintiffs may need to disclose prior mental health records to counter claims that the emotional distress was pre-existing. This disclosure can be a delicate process, and you need a skilled lawyer who knows how to balance the need for transparency with the need to protect your privacy.
Another challenge is the general societal perception and stigma around mental health issues, which can sometimes lead to skepticism about the legitimacy of an emotional distress claim. Mental health experts can play a critical role here in showing how the car accident specifically triggered or exacerbated your emotional distress. A good lawyer will have mental health experts to call on for these cases.
Legal Strategies and Plaintiff Advocacy
You need a lawyer who not only has a thorough understanding of the law but also a sensitivity to your emotional state. Attorneys must adeptly gather and present evidence, of course, but they must do this while also providing the necessary support to people who are recounting very traumatic experiences.
Attorneys must also be prepared to counter defense tactics that aim to undermine the emotional distress claim, again, with the knowledge that these defenses can be harmful to you as they question the legitimacy of your experiences. A good lawyer must be able to counter these defenses while protecting you at the same time. In short, attorneys need to navigate the legal proceedings in a way that respects your dignity and privacy, while still presenting a strong case. This balance is essential, and it’s only possible with a very skilled and experienced lawyer.
Documenting the Impact of Emotional Distress
Medical and Therapy Records
These are fundamental and include detailed records from therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists who have treated you post-accident. These records provide insights into the diagnosis, treatment plans, progress notes, and the professional’s observations about your mental and emotional state. They serve to medically substantiate the claim of emotional distress, offering evidence of the treatment sought and received for conditions like anxiety, depression, or PTSD as a result of the car accident.
These testimonies explain complex psychological concepts in layman’s terms, making it easier for the court to understand the connection between the accident and the emotional distress.
Personal Diaries or Journals
Diaries, journals, or even notes that you may have kept can provide a window into your mental state following the accident. These personal records can chronicle the day-to-day emotional struggles, thoughts, and feelings you’ve had, offering a real-time account of the impact of the accident.
Testimonies from Family, Friends, or Co-workers
Observations from people who interact closely with you can be compelling. These testimonies can highlight changes your loved ones have seen in your behavior, mood swings, social withdrawal, or any other alterations in day-to-day life post-accident.
Records of Lost Work or Diminished Capacity
Documentation of lost work days, reduced productivity, or inability to perform your normal duties in the way you could before the accident can be powerful indicators of the impact of emotional distress.
If you’ve been in an accident, don’t let anyone diminish the emotional suffering you’ve been through. It’s not always easy to proved emotional distress, but with the help of a good car accident lawyer, it is possible. Contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer, today for a free consultation.