The Mental Anguish of Disfigurement After Accident
After a life-altering accident many victims fall prey to the depression and mental anguish that accompanies their injuries. When an injured victim undergoes physical changes due to an accident for which they were not at-fault, the mental pain they must endure throughout their recovery, and often for the rest of their lives, cannot have a dollar amount placed upon it. However, they are entitled to compensation regardless, and should receive the maximum amount allowed by law.
Personal Injury attorneys see clients who have suffered severe disfigurement every day in their area of practice. This tragic reality bolsters the truly dedicated attorneys to obtain high dollar verdicts on behalf of their clients. When a victim becomes disfigured either due to an accident such as a motorcycle crash, a fire in which they sustain burns, or due to medical malpractice such as a plastic surgeon who held themselves out to be more qualified than they actually were, all of these qualify victims to pursue litigation against those who caused them lifelong harm.
The fact is, disfigurement can destroy a victim’s entire life. The mental anguish alone from the physical changes they must come to terms with as their “new normal” is impossible to fathom, but added physical pain can make living a full life impossible. Continuing to work, study, or pursue hobbies and care for a family may be lost to them in the wake of physical impairments that often accompany disfiguring injuries.
Mental anguish, defined
Before we discuss the different forms of disfigurement that accompany serious accidents with bodily injuries, we must establish the definition of mental anguish.
All Law defines mental anguish as:
[…]Mental anguish is an element of non-economic damages usually sought in personal injury cases, medical malpractice and sometimes defamation cases. Generally, “mental anguish” translates to certain types of suffering that may include distress, anxiety, fright, depression, grief, or trauma.
What, then, constitutes mental anguish? Let’s look at the following list of what a Personal Injury attorney would argue during litigation has caused his or her client mental anguish:
- Distress: Awakening from a coma or surgical procedure to find a limb has been amputated or burns have caused severe disfigurement to the face are two examples of distressing events that cause extreme mental anguish.
- Anxiety: Anxiousness that causes panic attacks when a disfigured victim thinks of what their life will be like living with their permanent injuries can cause extreme, chronic stress. Anxiety over how others may perceive their physical changes can also cause mental anguish to an accident victim.
- Fright: Fear that the event may occur again may leave the victim with extreme mental and emotional anguish; worry that they will not be able to go back to the life they were living prior to the accident is another cause of extreme fear for victims who sustain disfiguring injuries.
- Depression: Following an accident that leaves a victim with disfiguring injuries, depression is often a major factor in the slow recovery process. Victims who sustain disfiguring injuries suffer from longterm depression and may have feelings of hopeless for the future. The mental anguish placed upon an accident victim who was not depressed prior to their accident is life prohibiting.
- Grief: Accident victims who sustain disfiguring injuries grieve the loss of their former life the same way those who have lost a loved one may grieve them. Victims may feel they have lost themselves or a part of who they were no longer exists. Extreme grief over not being able to live the full life they enjoyed prior to their accident is a major cause of mental anguish.
Life altering injuries lead to lives altered
Now that we’ve covered what, exactly, mental anguish is defined as, we must look at the types of injuries considered catastrophic (life altering). First of all, let’s define the term “catastrophic injury”, because it is unlike any other Personal Injury principle and must be well understood by both attorneys and clients alike:
Wikipedia defines Catastrophic Injury as follows:
[…]A catastrophic injury is a severe injury to the spine, spinal cord, or brain, and may also include skull or spinal fractures. This is a subset of the definition for the legal term catastrophic injury, which is based on the definition used by the American Medical Association.
Therefore, we can establish that the following accidents could cause catastrophic injuries:
- Motor vehicle accidents that cause Traumatic Brain Injury; these head injuries can range from concussions to the most severe skull fractures, brain hemorrhaging, stroke, and permanent vegetative state. All of these can also be responsible for severe head and facial disfigurements.
- Falls from several stories up or more can cause severe spinal cord injuries, fractures, and ultimately paralyze the victim. Spending life in a wheelchair should the victim sustain a paralytic injury can be considered, depending on the victim’s level of mental anguish, disfiguring to them. Surgical scars to repair the victim’s fractured spine and other broken bones can also be severely disfiguring, therefore causing extreme stress and PTSD to the victim.
Other severe injuries that may result in disfigurement to the victim (though not an exhaustive list) are as follows:
- Second and third degree burns sustained in an accident involving fire
- Road rash and severe burns sustained during motorcycle accidents
- Gunshot wounds due to negligent security resulting in facial disfigurement and other extreme bodily injury
No dollar amount on human life
Remember, there is no dollar amount we can place on the life of a human being. A board certified civil trial attorney does not see a dollar sign, but a victim who has had their life forever changed due to an accident. The mental anguish placed upon the client due to their injuries is something a Personal Injury attorney takes very seriously. The ethical, moral, and empathetical practice of law comes to the forefront when confronted with the reality of the pain a client has suffered and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.
An attorney who does not have their client’s best interest at heart and does not passionately and aggressively pursue their right to the maximum amount of compensation they deserve, all the way to trial if necessary, should not be the attorney chosen to represent victims of disfigurement and their families.