En Español

A van rear ended by a car. The driver of the car is curious if damages can be recovered for emotional distress after an accident.Car accident injuries sometimes take months or even years to fully recover from. In many cases, physical injury isn’t the only damage caused by the crash. The psychological impact can be equally harmful and long-lasting, sometimes even more so.

Many car accident victims subsequently suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, mood swings, and other forms of mental and emotional trauma. If you’ve experienced any kind of mental anguish following an accident, you have the right to pursue compensation with a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the accident. Damages for both physical and emotional injuries may be included in your claim.

Types of Emotional Distress Damages

A serious car accident can leave victims with various kinds of injuries and impairments to their mental and emotional well-being. But unlike physical injuries, there are usually no outward visible signs of psychological harm, which can sometimes make emotional distress damages harder to prove.

Nonetheless, these injuries are very real and clearly defined and often justify significant damages as compensation. Emotional distress claims may include the following psychological injuries.

Anxiety Disorders

An anxiety disorder created by a car accident may leave the victim with a general sense of unease, tension, alertness, or even hyper-vigilance that stays with them for months or years. Symptoms of anxiety include insomnia, nightmares, chest pains, headaches, discomfort in social situations, and fear of traveling by car.

It’s quite common for car accident victims to suffer from anxiety to some degree. If you’re overly anxious following your accident, a mental health professional can help reduce your suffering and also help prove the detrimental effects of your anxiety in a lawsuit.

Panic Attacks

At its worst, extreme anxiety can result in severe panic attacks with sudden debilitating symptoms such as a rapid pulse, sweating, trembling, hyperventilating, clouded thinking, overwhelming terror, and even feeling like you’re dying. Panic attacks might be triggered by something easily identifiable, such as approaching a car or passing close to the area where the accident occurred.

But in many cases, panic attacks strike out of the blue without a clear trigger, which makes them enormously disruptive to someone’s ability to enjoy life. Such severe emotional distress after a car crash should certainly be included in an emotional distress claim.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Following a car accident, a psychiatrist may give the victim a medical diagnosis of PTSD. Most people know PTSD as a condition suffered by soldiers as a result of battlefield trauma. The immense and sudden shock of serious car accidents, often accompanied by significant physical injuries and physical pain, can also affect someone with PTSD.

This serious condition creates a great deal of emotional suffering and can dramatically alter the quality of the car accident victim’s life. PTSD manifests itself in various ways, including flashbacks and nightmares, obsessive avoidance of anything that reminds you of the car accident, persistent hyper-vigilance, and negative changes to your beliefs, moods, and behaviors. If someone’s negligence has caused you to suffer from PTSD, you certainly have a right to seek emotional distress damages against them.

Severe Mood Swings

A car accident victim might also experience uncontrollable mood swings. They might find themselves frequently oscillating between anger, guilt, fear, and other negative states.

A dysregulated mood can impede your ability to enjoy ordinary daily life and may also disrupt your work and relationships. Mood swings are another form of emotional injury that may certainly be included in your car accident emotional distress claim.


One of the most common psychological injuries following any kind of emergency care is depression. As such, depression is unfortunately common among car accident victims who suffer serious injuries and disabilities.

A sense of helplessness while incapacitated, compounded by the financial worries from lost wages and mounting medical bills, can all weigh down on an injured car accident victim. As can the added stress of facing a car accident lawsuit, especially without the legal support and guidance of a lawyer or law firm.

Common Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterized by an overwhelming and persistent sense of sadness. A depressed individual might feel pessimistic, hopeless, guilty, worthless, and even have thoughts of suicide. If you suffer from depression as a result of your accident, you may sue for emotional distress damages against the at-fault party. And in the aftermath of serious car accidents, successfully winning financial compensation often helps with the victim’s journey back to a healthier psychological state.

Loss of Enjoyment in Daily Activities

If an injured victim suffers a loss of enjoyment in favorite activities or everyday life following a traumatic event such as a car accident, they deserve compensation for their loss. A reduced ability to enjoy life may result from depression, anxiety, and other emotional challenges following a car accident. Lost income may also prevent someone from being able to afford certain pastimes.

Catastrophic physical injuries such as spine injuries or traumatic brain injury might prevent someone from partaking in physical or mental activities like cycling, walking, playing football, playing chess, or dancing. This reduces a victim’s daily emotional state and may therefore be included in emotional distress compensation. Car accident cases frequently include loss of enjoyment in life among the claimant’s non-economic damages.

Embarrassment or Humiliation

Another important form of emotional distress is embarrassment or humiliation. In the case of a car accident, the victim might experience humiliation because of their inability to perform at work or progress in their career. The emotional trauma of severe physical injuries often includes humiliation at the loss of bodily functions and the need to depend on others for basic daily needs.

If an automobile accident leaves scars or disfigurement, the victim may additionally suffer injuries such as shame and humiliation. A physical impairment such as nerve damage or a missing limb might also cause a similar degree of emotional distress. Humiliation can be a very serious emotional injury for which the victim may certainly seek to recover compensation.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

In certain personal injury claims, including car accident cases, you may be able to sue for emotional distress even if you didn’t suffer physical injuries. Emotional distress in a car accident claim is usually considered secondary to physical injuries: the trauma of the physical injury is seen to be the primary cause of the psychological injury. But after a sudden car accident, even uninjured drivers or passengers might have suffered emotional distress in some form.

How a Victim Can Suffer Without Physical Injuries

Damage for emotional distress without physical injuries is called negligent infliction of emotional distress. These damages may apply to occupants of the car who only narrowly escaped harm and witnessed awful injuries to loved ones.

Such an experience can be highly traumatic and lead to anxiety and other forms of emotional anguish. So if you can prove emotional distress after a car accident, despite escaping physical injury, you may still have grounds to seek compensation.

How Emotional Distress Damages Are Calculated

When you seek compensation for emotional distress, the exact monetary figure is usually calculated using some kind of multiplier method. This is the same system used for other non-economic car accident damages as well, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, and loss of consortium.

The multiplier method establishes a figure based on the total economic damages you’re pursuing. Economic damages are losses you’ve suffered that have an objective monetary value, such as medical costs, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and the costs of repairing or replacing damaged personal property. Emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other non-economic damages are more subjective in nature: you don’t have a bill for your medical expenses to show, which is why the multiplier method is required.

To work out how much compensation to request for emotional distress losses, your attorney will multiply the total economic damages by a figure that’s usually between 1.5 and 5. The size of the multiplier will depend on the extent of your emotional distress and suffering.

How To Prove Your Emotional Distress Damages

When your attorney proposes a settlement figure that includes emotional distress damages, they’ll need to be able to prove the value of that figure. Even though emotional distress after a car crash isn’t physical in nature, your medical records may still serve as important evidence in proving anxiety, depression, mood swings, humiliation, or any other emotional issue.

This is because, during each visit to your medical practitioner, they’ll ask about your psychological and emotional state. Whatever you tell them will be recorded in their notes, which can later be used in court as evidence. These official doctor’s records can also be used to help prove pain and suffering.

Keep Your Doctor Updated on Your Psychological State

For this reason, be sure to keep your doctor fully informed at all times of any changes in your mental and emotional state throughout the entire recovery process. And if you notice a change between appointments, get in touch with your doctor to let them know.

It’s also a good idea to keep a personal journal and take daily notes on your mental condition. Any experienced car accident attorney or law firm will suggest you do this. And be diligent with your journal, as your compensation for emotional distress may depend upon it.

The Value of Witnesses in Validating Emotional Trauma

Another effective way to establish emotional distress after a car accident is with the use of witness testimonies. Some witnesses may be people who know you well. In order to successfully sue for emotional distress, your attorney may call your family members, friends, or coworkers to the stand to testify as to how your injuries have negatively impacted your emotional well-being.

Expert witness testimony can also be valuable. Car accident claims frequently call upon various expert witnesses to prove the liability of the at-fault party. But expert witness testimony can also help prove the value of the plaintiff’s emotional distress damages.

A therapist or clinical psychologist could confirm the adverse psychological conditions you’re suffering. They might also explain to the judge and jury how traumatic events lead to such emotional distress and how anxiety, PTSD, or depression can disrupt a car accident victim’s normal life.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

Successfully navigating the legal waters of car accident claims usually requires an experienced car accident lawyer or law firm. An attorney can investigate your car accident, establish the value of your emotional distress losses, and negotiate with the insurance company to recover compensation that fully covers all of your damages.

Having a skillful lawyer fighting your corner can also reduce the stress of the entire claims process by dealing with the insurance company on your behalf. By handling the case for you, a lawyer leaves you free to focus on recovering your physical and mental health. And the earlier you retain an experienced attorney or law firm, the faster your car accident case is likely to progress and the sooner you’ll achieve a resolution to your case.

Contact Brian C. Gutierrez today at 979-271-5338 for a free consultation. As a board-certified trial lawyer, Brian C. Gutierrez can calculate the value of your claim, gather evidence and expert witnesses to prove your damages, and fight hard to gain you a fair financial settlement.

If you have been injured in a car accident in College Station, Bryan, Madisonville, Huntsville, Buffalo, Caldwell, Navasota, Buffalo, Rockdale, Hempstead, or Brenham, it is important to speak with a lawyer who can help you understand your rights and guide you through the claims process. At the Law Office of Brian C. Gutierrez, Attorney Brian Gutierrez is committed to providing personalized legal services for victims of car accidents. When you work with our firm, you are working directly with Attorney Gutierrez. Our clients are like familycontact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the services we offer.

Get a free case evaluation

“No words describe how amazing it is to work with Brian.” J.T.

Contact us media
Accessibility: If you are vision-impaired or have some other impairment covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or a similar law, and you wish to discuss potential accommodations related to using this website, please contact our Accessibility Manager at (979) 243-9912.
Contact Us