Establishing Emotional and Mental Health Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
When you’ve been injured or harmed because of the negligence of another person or corporation, you’re likely to experience a broad range of feelings -- both physical and emotional. It can be easy to identify certain physical injuries, such as a broken leg or a large scar or burn, as you’ll be able to take photographs and will likely have medical records that document and describe the sustained injuries. Many physical injuries that are less obvious can also be established through medical records and imaging, such as a CT scan or X-ray.
All of these types of documentation will be evidence you’ll use to establish your claim against the negligent party who harmed you. It will be presented to an insurance company in an attempt to negotiate a settlement to compensate you for your injuries, or it will be presented as part of a mediation or personal injury lawsuit trial. However, physical injuries will not be the only element in your personal injury claim. You will likely also have sustained emotional harms or your mental health will have suffered as a result of the situation. Injuries to one’s emotional and mental health can be much more difficult to establish with evidence. The pain and suffering you’ve incurred may not be apparent to anyone but you or those closest to you.
Here are some ways you can establish how your emotional and mental health has also suffered from an incident resulting in injuries.
Medical records will be an important tool to establish how you’ve been hurt emotionally in addition to physically. Talking to your doctor not only about the physical symptoms you’re experiencing from your injuries, but also about the tolls on your mood, personality, demeanor and emotions will help show how you’ve suffered there. Perhaps you’ve never struggled with feelings of anxiety or depression before you got in a car wreck, but every time you think about that day, these feelings overcome you. Perhaps you’re limited in your ability to engage in your favorite activities or perform at your job. Maybe you’ve experienced those symptoms before, but they are much worse since being injured. Mentioning these symptoms to your doctors will help not only establish these are very real problems interfering with your life but will also help you get treatment to alleviate the symptoms. Evidence of new prescriptions for medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, sleeping pills or changes in the dosages or types of previously prescribed medications also show how your mental health has been affected.
Seeking the assistance of a therapist, counselor or other mental health professional is another way to show how much you’ve been emotionally affected by your injuries. While it may seem intimidating at first to speak to a stranger about some of your most personal or troubling thoughts and feelings, this type of treatment can be very helpful in your recovery. It can teach you various coping mechanisms to deal with the distressful thoughts you may be experiencing. Mental health professionals can also communicate with your doctor to determine if you may need medication or to help you find a medication regimen that will best assist you with your symptoms. Even talking to a priest or pastor can help. As your case progresses, these individuals could be helpful witnesses to establish how an incident or your injuries have negatively impacted your mental well-being.
Individuals who are closest to you, and who knew you well both before and after your injuries, are also important witnesses to describe how your emotional state has changed as a result of your injuries. Family members can describe your mood and personality before the incident and how it is different since you’ve been injured. Maybe you were the kind of person who got up with the sun every day to exercise and cook breakfast for your family, and now you can barely get out of bed in the mornings. You may have been the neighbor who was always hosting barbeques and attending book club meetings or taking walks through the neighborhood to say hello to everyone, but now you can’t stand the thought of chatting with anyone unless you absolutely necessary. Your family and friends may have previously described you as fearless, but now you are too anxious to ride in the car on a highway or go to the store by yourself. All of these changes, described by those who knew you best, can go a long way to establish how your mental health has been impacted as a result of someone else’s negligence.
Discussing your mental and emotional health can be a difficult thing even in the best of circumstances, let alone when you’ve been injured and are struggling with physical pain and symptoms. But these are an important part of your personal injury claim. Seeking the help you need to cope with your emotional injuries will not only help you live a little better after what you have gone through, but it can also help to show the high value of your claim and help obtain compensation for those injuries, as well as physical ones.
Learn more about why emotional and mental health are an important part of a personal injury claim.