San Diego Attorneys for Emotional Distress from Car Accidents
Being involved in a car accident can damage more than just your car and your body. Your mind is affected too. It is normal to feel fear, anger, panic, or sadness after an accident, even if “nothing happened” and your injuries were minor. If you were seriously hurt, you could suffer from serious emotional trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you have been involved in any kind of car accident that wasn’t your fault, whether it seemed serious or not, you have a right to reasonable compensation for all your injuries, physical and emotional. Call the San Diego car accident lawyers of Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers at (619) 233-5020 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and your options right away. Don’t suffer longer than necessary.
What Is Emotional Distress?
In California, “emotional distress” is variously described as fear, grief, anxiety, shock, nervousness, or other intense emotional pain. To qualify for financial recovery, the emotional distress must be “substantial and long-lasting, such that no reasonable person should be expected to bear it.” (Hughes v. Pair). What does that really mean?
Emotional distress of this nature isn’t feeling upset for a few days, or even needing to miss work because you are so shocked by the accident that it took a little while to pull yourself together. Emotional distress must be life-altering, the type that would warrant legal action.
When filing a lawsuit for emotional distress, your attorney will explain the difference between negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They are similar in their impact on you, but what you must prove is quite different.
In both cases, the defendant’s behavior caused harm to you, that is, emotional distress. In negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED), the defendant’s conduct was careless or they failed to do something they should have done. There was no deliberate intention to cause harm, but harm still resulted. For instance, someone who has not had their car serviced in a while and whose brakes fail may cause an accident. There is no intent to cause harm, but there will still be injuries due to their carelessness.
In intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), the defendant’s behavior was outrageous, reckless, or intentional. The defendant knew that what they were doing was likely to cause harm, and either meant for it to hurt someone or did not care if it did. Drunk driving can sometimes lead to an IIED lawsuit if it can be shown that the driver was aware there was a potential for an accident.
There are some cases in which you cannot claim infliction of emotional distress: If you yourself were convicted of a DUI in connection with the accident, or if you yourself did not have adequate insurance for the vehicle you were driving. If either of these is a factor, you should strongly consider obtaining legal advice before discussing any facts of the accident or your insurance with the other party.
Will I Need a Lawyer?
Because of this difficulty in determining what is and is not negligent conduct, you should consult an attorney before attempting to bring a lawsuit for emotional distress. There are other factors that you should consider as well.
California has a statute of limitations of two years from the date of the injury for filing personal injury lawsuits. However, for injuries discovered after the injury, that limit is one year. If you are experiencing emotional upset, and it takes you time to trace it back to your accident, this can cut down on your time to sue the other driver or the insurance company.
The standards for “serious emotional distress” are very high and go beyond being upset or feeling scared or sad for a few days. This is a type of emotional pain that affects your life. Because of that, the insurers and their attorneys will probably challenge your claim. You should have a lawyer with you to help you with any interviews and examinations that arise.
To prove any claims of outrageous behavior or chronic reckless habits on the part of the at-fault party, you will need to obtain the other driver’s records. This process is called discovery. Acquiring medical, police, and other records is possible during a legal investigation but requires filing paperwork you may not be familiar with. Having a knowledgeable attorney at your side can speed the process.
Will Insurance Cover Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress is generally covered in California under the catchall category of “pain and suffering.” Unless you are specifically suing for one of the two types of emotional distress above, you can claim your ordinary suffering as part of your compensatory damages.
For instance, if you were in an accident and missed a few days of work to recover, but were otherwise not seriously harmed, you might not have a specific claim for intentional or negligent emotional distress, but you would be able to claim the lost wages due to the injury.
California allows for pain and suffering claims and does not have a cap on pain and suffering awards, but unlike some states, does not have a specified method of calculating damages. If you make a claim for emotional distress, you will need the help of an experienced attorney to quantify your losses so that the insurers know what compensation you are seeking.
How We Can Help
It is tempting to think that the insurance companies are going to help you, but in reality, their job is to pay you as little as possible. If they can get you to agree to a smaller settlement than you deserve, they will. Never speak to the insurance company or agree to sign anything they send you without at least having an attorney review it first.
At Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers, we have represented accident victims and their loved ones since 2007. We offer the benefits of a large firm and the care and compassion of a small practice under one roof. Our attorneys will review your case carefully to make sure everything that needs to be done gets done.
If you were in an accident caused by someone else and are suffering emotional distress, you should contact Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers at (619) 233-5020 right away. There is a limited amount of time to file your lawsuit, and the clock is running. The initial consultation is free. Call now.