It is often said that the mental injuries sustained in an accident can be worse than the physical ones. But mental injury damages are often overlooked when it comes to damages in a personal injury cases. Unlike blood, bone, X-rays, or surgical notes, which can be seen and understood by juries, mental anguish and injury is often a much more difficult element of a personal injury case to prove.
Recognizing Mental Anguish Damages
Obtaining damages for mental anguish or distress after an accident is an art form in itself, and a difficult task for any injury lawyer. Because mental injury is often longer lasting and more severe than physical injury, it is vital that such evidence is presented to a jury. The law generally allows you to recover for mental anguish that is the result of injuries sustained in an accident. Examples of such damages are almost limitless, but can include:
- The frustration and perceived loss of self-worth of not being able to enjoy your family, or engage in activities with them that you once enjoyed
- The fear of surgery, or concern over how you will provide for your family when injured.
- The sadness over feeling helpless, or not being able to work to full capacity.
- The shame and helplessness of being a victim of a crime
- The anguish and “mental wear and tear” of living in constant pain
- The upset over having reached a professional goal, like a raise or promotion, only to see it placed at risk over extended absence from work due to injury
Mental Anguish often boils down to the fundamental question of the ways you once enjoyed your life, and the feelings you now have over not being able to enjoy it to the extent that you once did.
Obviously, the greater the physical injury, the greater the mental anguish that is likely to be associated with it. Someone who needs shoulder surgery and can no longer play baseball with his children may experience depression and loss, but even more so if that person is in a wheelchair for the remainder of his or her life.
In severe cases, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop. PTSD, which can seriously impact someone’s quality of life, may last for years after a traumatic event.
Mental Anguish is Hidden or Subtle
Mental anguish can also take on a much more subtle and hidden form. Many injury victims may quietly withdraw, keep to themselves, or have anxiety. Family members may not even be able to pinpoint how a victim has changed, other than to note that they are different.
Lifestyle changes, like loss of or an inability to sleep, loss of appetite, or overall lethargy can indicate mental anguish. Victims may be more hostile than they would otherwise be, snapping at friends and family. In serious cases, addictions to alcohol or drugs may form, as a coping mechanism for the underlying mental anguish.
In many cases, prescription medications used for physical injury, can have side effects that affect mental state. Medicines which may be needed to recover from an injury or live with a new disability, may make someone irritable, tired, anxious, or upset.
It is important to note that mental anguish is different than mental injury or trauma. When someone hits their head and suffers a concussion, a number of mental changes can occur in a victim. That is often more obvious than the mental anguish that stems from physical injury. Nor does the mental anguish that stems from an injury mean that you have a clinical mental disorder.
Sometimes, the mental anguish may be temporary, or fade over time, particularly as you heal or cope with newfound disabilities.
Showing Damages to a Jury
You don’t necessarily need to have extensive treatment with a mental health provider in order to recover for mental anguish. However, if conditions are serious, seeking medical attention is not only good medical advice, but can help a jury understand what you are going through. Even if you do not treat with a mental health provider, you should tell your treating physicians, be they general practitioners, orthopedists, or any other doctor, about how your injuries are affecting you mentally and emotionally.
The first hurdle in demonstrating mental anguish may actually be you. Many people find that they are not adequately compensated for mental anguish because they do not want to tell the full story of how their injuries have affected them. Whether out of pride or embarrassment or shame, many people minimize the effects that mental anguish is having on them.
Many victims will talk extensively about the pain and suffering from their physical injuries, but are prone to say “I get by,” or “I can deal with it,” or other words that underplay the severity of mental anguish.
Replaying the full impact of your mental injuries to your attorneys, your doctors, and ultimately a jury, are vital to documenting and receiving consideration of mental anguish.
Your family members will play a large role in relaying to a jury your mental injuries, and how you have changed since the accident. They are especially important if you are hesitant to discuss mental changes, and they are very important if you haven’t received extensive mental health treatment for your anguish. In many cases, they may be the sole source of information that a jury has to understand how your life has changed.
Do not take for granted the impact that physical injury has on your mental state. Do not forget to tell your doctors and attorneys about mental anguish, or changes in behavior that may be subtle. These are important elements to a personal injury claim that the law allows you to recover for.
Make sure your attorneys understand how to recognize and prove all elements of your damages in your personal injury case, so that you obtain full compensation for the hardship you may be experiencing. Call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation.