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Can You Sue Over Anxiety or Depression After An Accident?

April 25, 2022

Accidents do not only leave physical scars; emotional distress after an accident or other harmful or neglectful incidents can also leave their mark and take a toll on the accident victim. Good news is that, if you have been injured by someone else’s wrongdoing, you can sue to recover compensation for both, the physical injuries you sustained and for the psychological harm you suffered.

When Can You Make An Emotional Distress Claim?

You can make an emotional distress claim against the person responsible for your injuries in many types of situations. Car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, physical assaults, defective products, and medical malpractice, are common examples of claims that have an emotional distress component.

Do Anxiety & Depression Qualify As Emotional Distress In A Lawsuit?

Simply being upset about an incident does not allow for a claim for damages. The emotional distress must reach a certain level. To establish mental injury, claimants must show that the disturbance is serious and prolonged and rises above the ordinary annoyances, anxieties and fears that come with living in civil society (Saadati v. Moorhead, Supreme Court of Canada).

Emotional distress can take many forms, including anxiety, depression, nervous shock, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias (e.g., fear of driving after a serious car accident, or fear of dogs after an attack), and sleep disorders such as insomnia or nightmares. Psychological harm can be caused by the way the accident occurred—for example, a very traumatic vehicle accident, or major health complications caused by surgery gone wrong. It can also arise from the physical injuries themselves, and the impact those injuries have on your life (e.g. impairment to your ability to work, care for your family, or engage in social activities or hobbies; living with chronic pain).

Providing Evidence of Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is more difficult to prove than a physical injury that is plain to see. For that reason, it is extremely important that you talk to your doctor about any emotional symptoms or psychological issues you are experiencing. Medical documentation from your doctor and other professionals such as a psychologist or counsellor is essential to proving your claim. You should also consider keeping a journal or making notes of your own to record how you are feeling, the symptoms you are experiencing, and how your life is impacted by mental or emotional issues on a day-to-day basis. The more documentation you have, the stronger your emotional distress claim will be.

How Is Compensation For Emotional Distress Calculated?

Compensation for emotional distress (also known as “damages”) will depend on the specific facts in your case and the strength of your evidence. The nature and severity of all injuries including emotional distress are taken into consideration in calculating financial recovery. Generally speaking, damage awards are larger for more debilitating psychological injuries and long-lasting emotional distress. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review the strength of your claim and provide you with an estimate of the range of compensation you can expect to receive.

What Can You Expect?

You can expect that the wrongdoer, their insurance company, and their lawyer will push back against a claim for emotional distress. They will insist on proof that the emotional distress was caused by the accident or wrongful incident. They will also demand proof of how the mental and emotional difficulties are impacting your life, how long the issues are expected to last, and whether you are following medical advice (seeking counselling or other treatment, taking medication, etc.). If you had a pre-existing psychological condition, your injury claim will be even more complex.

Legal advice from a lawyer who knows how to handle claims for emotional distress is highly recommended. If you have been injured, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team of experienced personal injury lawyers. Call us today at 604-243-5825 or fill out our online form to request your free legal consultation.

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