Everyone knows the physical toll that a car crash can take: broken bones, cuts and bruises, head or spine injuries. That’s why insurance coverage is mandated for drivers in every state in the U.S., including California.
But insurance often falls short of helping victims deal with the emotional trauma that results from car accidents. It can often be just as debilitating, yet insurance companies don’t make sure that victims are provided with the mental health resources they need in the aftermath of a traumatic accident.
It’s easy to understand why. Insurance companies are designed to limit payouts as much as possible in order to enrich corporate executives and shareholders. They can be stingy enough when it comes to well-documented injuries or property damage. When dealing with something that’s less obvious, such as emotional trauma, you can bet that insurers will do everything in their power to avoid paying up.
How the Insurance Industry Defines Pain and Suffering.
For victims of distressing events, there is often little distinction between suffering caused by physical injuries and suffering caused by mental anguish. Both can be equally debilitating. But to the insurance industry, there is a clear delineation between the two.
Many commercial general liability policies do not cover mental suffering. This stems from the standard definition of “bodily injury” contained in such policies. Bodily injury is defined as “bodily injury, sickness, or disease sustained by a person, including death resulting from any of these at any time.” This refers to physical harm to a person, and insurance policies will typically cover expenses associated with physical harm, including ambulance service, doctors’ fees, hospital bills, physical rehabilitation, and legal costs. It may even include the loss of income and/or earning capacity of the victim.
Mental Trauma Is Real, and It Costs.
Because the definition of bodily harm does not include mental anguish, it can be an upward battle to convince the courts that trauma victims deserve money for their mental health recovery, as well. The medical field has found that a serious car crash can affect far more than your wallet or your body. According to a study on MD Edge, a motor vehicle collision can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may be permanently disabling.
The study found that accident victims will frequently have a number of symptoms associated with PTSD. These include intrusive memories and nightmares, an intentional avoidance of discussing the accident, and a desire to avoid driving or riding in a vehicle. Being reminded of the accident can lead to anxiety, an abnormally rapid heartbeat, or panic for victims. They may suffer from irritability, detachment, estrangement from loved ones, a loss of concentration, and insomnia. Symptoms can endure for 30 days or more, meaning the victim might meet the criteria for chronic PTSD.
Accident victims are just as deserving of compensation for mental injury from the at-fault driver and insurance company. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean the insurance company will give you fair value for this compensation, even if you have the support of a medical professional.
When You’re More at Risk from “MVA” PTSD.
If you’ve recently been in a motor vehicle accident accident, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions in the aftermath. Researchers have identified a number of risk factors that add to accident victims’ likelihood of developing PTSD:
- Psychological difficulties prior to the traumatic event
- Mental illness in your family history
- Losing someone in the accident
- Dissociation during the accident
- A strong emotional response to the accident, such as fear, guilt, or helplessness
Medical professionals have compiled a large body of evidence that suggests PTSD is a very real phenomenon for victims of car accidents. It’s time for the insurance industry to acknowledge this evidence. That’s why it’s important for you to consult with a tough-on-insurers, compassionate-on-victims attorney. We at Jurewitz Law Group have handled hundreds of car accidents claims just like yours, and we say victims must be properly compensated for mental suffering, just like any other injury.
Mental Health Awareness Month.
This topic is particularly timely, as May has been designated Mental Health Awareness Month. Our society is taking a closer look at mental health and making more of an effort to provide adequate support for victims who are suffering symptoms, and we applaud that.
This recognition should also apply to individuals who have been involved in severe automobile accidents, but unfortunately, the insurance industry has been resistant. By relying on the traditional definition of bodily injury, insurers are able to avoid compensating victims for the monetary and emotional harm that results from a crash. That’s not okay with us, and we’ll take an insurance company to court if necessary to get our clients the money they deserve to heal fully, body and mind.
For a free consultation with one of our San Diego car accident attorneys, please call (888) 233-5020 today.
Ross Jurewitz is the founder and managing lawyer of the Jurewitz Law Group, a San Diego personal injury attorney law firm. These San Diego injury accident lawyers specialize in helping people seriously injured in a variety of accidents throughout San Diego County and California.
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