Mental Health Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Everyone knows it is possible to get compensation for physical injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. But most serious injury cases also involve harm to the victim’s mental health too, and these can be easily overlooked.
If your injury attorney does not notice, care about, or pursue damages for mental health conditions, who will? Yet personal injury clients and attorneys sometimes fixate so much on the physical injuries and treatment for those physical injuries that the mental impact of those injuries doesn’t get any meaningful notice.
Psychological Harm of Physical Injuries
Injuries can disrupt the ability to apply learned coping skills. I have represented clients who suffered with depression and anxiety before the accident or injury that brought them to me occurred. Often, they have historically coped with depression and anxiety through physical activity, change of scenery (getting outside and into the sunshine), surrounding themselves with supportive and positive people, etc. All of those coping strategies can be rendered impossible or unavailable to someone recovering from a serious injury.
Fewer options for coping skills can be bad enough, but those who struggle with depression and anxiety generally find it more difficult to adapt to the new limitations common to a major physical injury. Needing help in the shower or to and from the bathroom can itself be frustrating and depressing. Then there is the pain, which for many can be present all the time, every day and night, without significant relief, and for a long time.
Inability to work can create or compound anxiety and depression by removing the injury victim from contact with others, productive activity and a sense of accomplishment. Inability to work adds the stress of reduced or lost wages and income at a time when medical bills and injury-related care costs are mounting.
One of the most common injury cases that personal injury lawyers help people with are rear-end car collisions. Imagine experiencing a serious rear-end car wreck and then waiting at a traffic light again afterward. Now you’re constantly checking the rear-view, right? Now you know in a whole new way that other drivers don’t always stop when they should. You seek reassurance all the time by watching cars behind you slow down. For some injury victims, and depending upon their circumstance, that response is amplified and they suffer from what is essentially a form of PTSD.
Real Harm – Real Damages
The impact of a personal injury on the injured person’s mental heath could arise from any unknown combination of circumstances. These complications are real and they are harmful. The mental health implications are a loss to the person who was injured, and generally make their lives worse in some way, or in many ways. Recovery often takes time and treatment, just like the physical injuries do.
Unlike most physical injuries that personal injury lawyers seek compensation for, mental injuries can be really easy to miss. As personal injury attorneys we can help with this by consistently showing an interest in all the ways an injury impacts our clients’ lives. We can catch some of this by getting to know our clients as people and by building trust with them, and when we do learn of mental harms related to a physical injury, we can pursue damages for those with the same conviction we have for physical injuries.