What is Mental Anguish in Personal Injury Law?
Mental anguish is just as serious as physical injuries! When accident results in a physical injury to the victim, the first step to recovery is medical stabilization. Medically stabilizing the victim after a serious car, motorcycle, or other accident should be top priority. The medical side is the focus until the patient is well enough to transition home from the hospital. Once a victim is stable medically, it becomes easy to paint the picture of quality of life. However, this is a common mistake.
Answering the tough questions
This article will answer questions those suffering after serious accidents may have relating to the mental health side of Personal Injury Law.
- What are invisible injuries?
- Are there different types of mental anguish?
- Is there help for accident victims who suffer symptoms of mental anguish?
Within this writeup we’ll also explain the definition of mental anguish. This includes what it encompasses as far as symptoms and their presentation. Furthermore, we’ll explain why only a lawyer with Board Certification can fully understand the lifelong mental health issues stemming from physical injuries post accident.
What are invisible injuries?
The problem those determining an outcome of a case have with mental anguish is that if it’s not seen, it’s not present. A lawyer with experience will know how to deter this preconceived notion. A lawyer’s first step to delivering an adequate burden of proof on behalf of a victim suffering from mental anguish is to use Demonstrative Aids. We covered Demonstrative Aids at length in the article Demonstrative Aids: An Important Tool in Preparing Successful Cases.
One example of how a lawyer with enough experience may attempt to provide visible evidence of mental anguish symptoms a victim is experiencing, is in the case of TBI. This type of injury is “invisible” to the eye after physical cuts, scrapes, bruises and any surgical wounds have healed. Thus, a lawyer must utilize accident recreation. This Demonstrative Aid is a helpful tool that provides a picture of the severity of the accident, even if the victim appears visibly “fine”.
If the physical injury is permanent, the accident catastrophic, or in some cases both, recovery doesn’t end after physical injuries receive treatment. PTSD, flashbacks, fear, and isolation are all what’s known as mental anguish. These symptoms can persist indefinitely after an accident in which a victim experiences trauma.
What is accident recreation?
Accident recreation of any kind may include a timeline to show trauma minute-by-minute. Accident recreation is there to be as close as possible to the way a victim actually experiences trauma. In cases of mental anguish, the victim may, together with their lawyer, decide if they should step out of the courtroom for this phase of trial. Accident recreation may cause PTSD or flashbacks, which can be mentally harmful. This tool is meant to provide a more “visible” picture for those hearing the case. It provides further proof to verbal testimony from expert witnesses as to why the victim may be suffering from mental anguish and its accompanying symptoms.
There are different types of mental anguish?
Yes! Mental anguish is an umbrella term for multiple, mentally painful symptoms a victim can experience after surviving a catastrophic accident. PTSD, isolation, depression, fear, and flashbacks (living with constant reminders of the accident such as an amputation or being unable to ride in a car).
The following are several of those symptoms, explained:
PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common mental health issue after an accident that causes physical trauma to the body. Although it’s very often overlooked, or the victim doesn’t realize what they’re experiencing. While physical injuries can heal enough to allow the victim to return to their life, PTSD is a lifetime affliction that negates quality of life all over again. PTSD can cause stress and/or anxiety so extreme it causes the victim to panic and the need to remove themselves from a situation immediately. This can result in feelings of isolation. Psychologists who specialize in PTSD can provide the emotional “tools” a victim can use during periods of extreme anxiety, and if necessary, prescribe medications on a case by case basis.
Invisible symptoms cause real pain
Flashbacks: Flashbacks occur and constantly remind an accident victim of their trauma. This is worse if the victim is suffering any kind of disfigurement such as burns, scars, or amputations. Flashbacks can be triggered by events most of us wouldn’t consider to be emotionally disturbing at all. A car or motorcycle whizzing by on the road may remind a TBI patient of their own accident, causing them to become fearful and refusing to take car rides, furthering feelings of isolation.
Depression: After an accident, there may be a long physical road to recovery health-wise. This means the victim may have been out of work for an extended period of time (or permanently unable to work). They also may have become so physically injured they’re unable to participate in much of anything at all including hobbies and time with family and friends. They may have also suffered great financial devastation due to lost wages and mounting medical bills. All of these things, along with physical injuries that cause pain, can lead to a state of depression for a victim.
Medical malpractice and CRPS
One example of depression after an accident or medical malpractice is CRPS. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome after an accident is known as “the suicide disease” because patients are often unable to cope mentally with the physical pain suddenly placed upon them after living a full life prior to accident or medical error. Victims who become isolated due to extended hospital stays or the inability to go out and live life to the fullest may suffer bouts of depression when kept away from their friends and loved ones, further causing mental anguish.
Is there help for accident victims suffering mental anguish?
Absolutely! An experienced lawyer knows numbers on a check should never take priority over their client’s return to the best state of mental health possible after an accident. Top lawyers have clients best interest at heart. This means the client’s quality of life is their top priority when representing them. Compensation provides a client suffering from mental anguish with the ability to pay for proper treatment. This can include psychologists, therapists, and any medications necessary to treat depression and anxiety. To achieve this, a lawyer may call in expert witnesses, and backed by Demonstrative Aids, obtain the maximum amount of compensation for the client.