How Is Emotional Distress After an Accident Compensated?

August 10, 2023 | By Impact Legal Car Accident Attorneys
How Is Emotional Distress After an Accident Compensated?

When you think about the possible injuries that could be sustained in a motor vehicle accident, you are probably more likely to think about the physical injuries, such as broken bones, brain injuries, abrasions, whiplash, etc. In many cases, the damage doesn't stop there. Auto accidents can be especially traumatic for people. Add in the fear and uncertainty that physical injuries can bring, car accident expenses, the inability to take part in previously enjoyed activities, and, in some cases, the inability to work, accidents can take a heavy toll on your entire life. As such, recovery often includes not only the expected physical injuries, but emotional ones (pain and suffering, post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of enjoyment of life, etc), too.

In this article, we'll discuss common emotional injuries after a car accident, how they are compensated, and other key details about emotional distress in accident cases. If you've suffered from emotional distress after a traumatic accident, you know all too well the impact they can have on your life. There may be legal options available to you. Call or text our accident lawyers at Impact Legal today to set up a free initial consultation. You can reach us at 602-345-1818 or by filling out our convenient online form.  

Emotional Distress & Trauma After an Accident

Psychological recovery is a large part of the overall healing process after an accident. Damages for emotional distress and other forms of psychological trauma allow plaintiffs to be compensated for the impact that these types of injuries have on their lives. Some forms of emotional distress post car accident include loss of sleep, depression, anxiety, fear, etc. The emotional toll accidents can take on one's life looks different for everyone, so there is no go-to specific definition. If you have suffered emotionally or psychologically following an accident, record the symptoms you are experiencing. We'll discuss the importance of doing this below. Legally, emotional distress and trauma are compensated as non-economic or general damages, which may fall into the following categories:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Severe physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium 
  • More

Calculating Non-Economic Damages

For some damages, it's simple to calculate them into a numeric value. Economic damages like medical bills, lost wages, car repair bills, prescription costs, etc can be added up to obtain a monetary value. However, non-economic damages, like emotional distress or pain and suffering, are not as simple to put into monetary terms. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will help you come to a value that helps you get on the road to recovery by reviewing the facts of your case. 

To quantify emotional distress and other types of non-economic damages, a multiplier will be used. In most personal injury claims, this multiplier will fall between 1 and 1.5. Once economic damages are calculated (lost wages, medical bills, etc), this total will be multiplied by the determined multiplier. Certain factors of the case may increase the multiplier – in some cases, it can go as high as 5. Some factors that tend to increase the assigned multiplier are the severity of injuries sustained, the unquestionable and obvious fault of the defendant, the chronic nature of sustained injuries, etc.  

Keeping a Record of Your Injuries

It's advisable to keep track of your injuries after an accident. Keep a notebook listing your injuries, associated symptoms, the steps you have taken to handle them (seeing a doctor, etc), and the changes your injuries have caused in your life (missing work, etc). 

Additionally, if you've been injured in a car accident, it's highly likely (and highly recommended) that you've seen a doctor for physical injuries. Be sure to tell your physician about the psychological injuries you've experienced since the accident. Having these psychological symptoms documented by a medical professional will go a long way in proving your case and getting you the compensation you deserve. 

Other forms of evidence that may help prove psychological distress include:

  • Documented opinion of a mental health professional addressing your mental state before and after the accident
  • Medical records highlighting your psychological symptoms
  • Medication history, especially for medications intended to treat psychological symptoms
  • Witness testimony from family and friends who have seen the emotional and mental impact the accident has had on you

Emotional Damage Caps in Arizona & New Mexico

While many states have caps on the amount of compensation that can be awarded for non-economic damages in personal injury cases, Arizona nor New Mexico do. 

Arizona Emotional Distress Compensation Limits

Arizona does not limit the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover for non-economic damages. Article II, Section 31 of the AZ Constitution states “No law shall be enacted in this state limiting the amount of damages to be recovered for causing the death or injury of any person.” While there have been several attempts over the years to amend the state constitution's prohibition of damage caps, none have currently been successful. 

New Mexico Emotional Distress Compensation Limits

New Mexico doesn't place limits on compensation for non-economic damages. However, in New Mexico exceptions to this rule exist. The New Mexico Tort Claims Act limits non-economic damage compensation to $750,000 in cases against government entities or employees. As a general rule, these cases must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Similarly, medical malpractice cases in New Mexico have a compensation limit of $600,000. There may also be exceptions to the medical malpractice damage cap, depending on the facts of your case. It's always best to consult with a personal injury lawyer in New Mexico to understand what your legal options may be. 

Get a Lawyer on Your Side

With the uncertainty and lack of a specific, go-to equation surrounding legal compensation for psychological injuries like emotional distress and mental anguish, it's advisable to discuss your case with an accident lawyer who will help you understand your legal options and calculate your damages. To set up an initial consultation where we will review the facts of your case, call or text us at 602-345-1818 ,or fill out our online form.