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Car accidents are traumatic events that can cause physical injuries, expensive medical bills, missed work, and property damage. Yet, many accident victims don’t realize that some injuries aren’t always visible. In Texas, people involved in serious car accidents also may be entitled to compensation for the emotional and psychological suffering they experience. For victims struggling with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues due to a crash, contact a car accident lawyer in Cameron, TX or Buffalo, TX now for help.

Types of Psychological Trauma After a Car Accident

A car accident can trigger various psychological conditions. Victims may experience a debilitating fear of driving or even being in a car again. Some re-live the crash repeatedly through flashbacks and nightmares. Accident victims can also develop a wide range of symptoms related to these psychological conditions. Some of the most common issues victims experience include:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal from social activities

Seeking Treatment

Seeking treatment as soon as possible after a car accident is always important, and doing so can, of course, help with faster physical recovery. What many don’t realize is that it may at also help in preventing and managing mental health difficulties. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, even if they are mild, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist if necessary.

Qualifying for Compensation

In general, to recover compensation for psychological trauma, a person must have experienced some sort of physical injury in the accident that led to their mental health problems. This physical injury does not have to be serious: while significant physical injuries can certainly cause severe emotional distress, some people are also more vulnerable than others to developing emotional problems after a traumatic event like an accident.

The key is to establish a direct connection between the car accident and the psychological trauma experienced. To build a strong case, documentation from mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, is going to be important. Their evaluations and treatment notes can provide evidence of the trauma and its impact on a victim’s life.

It can also be helpful to have testimonies from family members or coworkers who have observed changes in the victim’s behavior, and, if available, any documented mental health history prior to the accident. A detailed narrative describing the victim’s life before and after the accident also helps illustrate the extent of the psychological impact. Documentation of therapy sessions, medication prescribed, and any other mental health interventions provide additional support for the claim.

“Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress”

Negligent infliction of emotional distress is the technical term used when you’re claiming compensation for psychological trauma. To establish a claim, a person generally needs to prove first that the defendant acted negligently. This means showing the at-fault driver failed to act as a reasonable person would, potentially by speeding, texting, or disregarding traffic laws.

Then you must show that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident. Proving this generally requires proving the defendant’s actions are what caused the crash. You then must prove that you have suffered a physical injury. In most cases, proving a physical injury is a requirement for a NIED claim in Texas.

Finally, you will need to show that you did suffer serious emotional distress. This requires a diagnosis and treatment for a recognized mental health condition.

Bystander Rule

Texas also has a bystander rule that can allow close family members who witnessed an accident to recover compensation for emotional distress. This rule is designed to help family members who are likely to suffer serious emotional distress after witnessing a loved one suffer a serious injury or death. To recover compensation under the bystander rule, the family member would need to show:

  • They were located near the scene of the accident
  • They suffered severe emotional distress due to directly witnessing the accident
  • The emotional distress was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligent actions

Calculating Compensation for Psychological Trauma

Quantifying damages for psychological trauma is more difficult than calculating compensation for physical injuries. Factors that have to be considered include the severity of the mental distress, the cost of mental health treatment, the impact on the victim’s quality of life, and the duration of the psychological symptoms.

In addition, you may also be calculating lost wages due to missed work and the potential for future lost earnings if the trauma affects the victim’s ability to maintain steady employment. The calculation also takes into account the pain and suffering endured by the victim, which requires a comprehensive understanding of how the trauma has altered their daily life. Often, expert testimony is needed to help establish all of this. Your car accident lawyer in Cameron, TX or Buffalo, TX will be able to access whatever experts you need to establish your claim and properly calculate your needs.

The Legal Process

Successfully bringing a psychological trauma claim means doing everything right from the beginning. This includes acting within the statute of limitations. In Texas, the general statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident. Failing to file within this period can result in the loss of the right to claim compensation.

When presenting a psychological trauma claim, it’s also important to anticipate and prepare for defenses that might be used by the opposing party. Often, insurance companies and defense attorneys will attempt to downplay the severity of psychological injuries or argue that they are unrelated to the accident. Being prepared with robust evidence and expert testimony will be key to countering these arguments.

Settlement Negotiations

Most personal injury claims, including those for psychological trauma, are settled out of court. Effective negotiation skills are essential in ensuring that the settlement adequately compensates you for the mental and emotional damages suffered, and that means you’ll need a highly skilled lawyer who can level the playing field as you enter discussions with powerful lawyers employed by insurance companies with deep pockets. Your lawyer will also need to do a detailed analysis of your current and future needs, considering the ongoing impact of the psychological trauma.

During negotiations, it’s important that your lawyer be able to communicate the full extent of your trauma and its repercussions. This may involve presenting evidence of how the trauma has affected your personal and professional life, as well as your future prospects. An experienced attorney will understand how to convey this information compellingly to maximize the settlement offer while protecting you as much as possible from having to in any way re-live the event.

Litigating Claims

In instances where settlement negotiations do not result in a fair offer, proceeding to trial may be necessary. Litigating any claim requires very thorough preparation to present the case effectively to a judge or jury, and your lawyer will do all the heavy lifting here. The goal in litigation is not only to prove the existence and extent of the psychological trauma, but also to demonstrate the other party’s liability for the victim’s suffering.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Cameron, TX or Buffalo, TX

If you or a loved one have suffered emotional trauma after an accident caused by another’s negligence, don’t think that you just have to grin and bear it. The law allows you to seek compensation. Contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer today ​for a free ​consultation.

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