Establishing Emotional and Other Non-Physical Damages in a Lawsuit
Most personal injury lawsuits involve some type of physical harm you or a loved one has suffered because of someone else’s negligent conduct. Physical harms can be fairly easy to establish in your case. You will most likely have medical records, X-rays, CT scans or MRIs, and other documents that discuss your injuries and the kind of treatment you required for those injuries. You can also use photographs of injuries such as scars or burns or use video footage of your inabilities to do things, such as being unable to walk without a cane or being unable to lift your arms over your head. This type of evidence of physical injuries is used in valuing your case and attempting to reach a settlement or is presented to the jury at trial so they can determine the amount of damages to compensate you for your injuries.
Most injury lawsuits involve emotional and mental harms as well. Those can be much more difficult to establish and to include in valuation of your case. People who do not know you, like insurance adjusters and jurors, will not be aware of the ways your injury has affected your everyday life or the toll your situation has taken on your emotional health and relationships. It can be more difficult to build evidence to establish these damages, but there are several ways in which this can be accomplished.
One of the best ways to establish emotional or mental harms because of another’s negligence or wrongful conduct is to present records from a medical or mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, which discuss the ways in which your injuries and the situation that caused your injuries has affected you. If you tell your doctor about the anxiety, stress and fear you now experience whenever you have to ride in a car since a collision will be documented in your medical records and can be presented the same way medical records are used to establish physical harms. Evidence that you are now being prescribed a medication, such as an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication, or sleep aid when you did not need to take those kinds of medication before your incident can be used to show how this has affected your mental and emotional wellbeing. Changes or increases in those types of medications can also help establish the suffering you have experienced following a car wreck or workplace incident. It can be intimidating to think about talking about your emotional or mental health with a professional, but not only will doing so help you get the assistance you need to maintain emotional wellbeing, it can help you to recover in your personal injury case those damages in addition to your physical damages.
Another way to establish emotional and mental health damages in a lawsuit is to offer testimony from people who know you well, and who can describe how you have changed since before your injuries. Family members and friends can talk about how you used to seem like the “Energizer Bunny,” and always had the energy to mow the lawn or do laundry and play with the kids, even after a full day at work, but now you always must lie down and rest as soon as you get home. Coworkers or employers can talk about how you never used to miss a day of work, but now you must take time off because you are not feeling well, or how you get frustrated while performing tasks you used to excel at doing. Your spouse may talk about how you get short with them or others, when before you used to enjoy talking and listening to loved ones for hours. They may talk about how you used to love to drive the family around and take road trips, but you now avoid driving or riding in a car, and become anxious, fearful, and jumpy during even short car trips. All these changes, described by those who knew you best, can go a long way to establish how your mental health has been impacted because 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 have been injured and are struggling with physical pain and symptoms as well, 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 to 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.