IMPORTANT: If your accident occurred on or after April 1, 2019 the following may or may not apply.
Psychological injuries occur frequently as a result of motor vehicle accidents, and in some cases, the symptoms can be very severe and debilitating. However, proving that a motor vehicle accident caused or contributed to a plaintiff’s mental health disorder can sometimes be a challenge.
Types of Psychological Injuries
Psychological injuries resulting from trauma typically manifest themselves in a couple of ways. First, the injury may develop into a mood disorder (depression, sleep disruption, irritability, emotionally labile) or anxiety disorder (post-traumatic stress, driving phobia, nightmares, flashbacks). These symptoms may be brought on by pain, restricted activities, financial stress from being off work, strained family dynamics, the fright of the accident, or other post-accident life changes. Second, the plaintiff’s physical injuries may develop into a chronic pain disorder, whereby the pain symptoms continue on even though the physical injury (the damaged tissue) has long since healed. In such cases, the pain experience is very real to the plaintiff, but there is little or no organic explanation for it.
Proving Psychological Injuries
There are a number of reasons why it can be difficult to prove to ICBC that a plaintiff has a real psychological disorder that results from a motor vehicle accident. With chronic pain cases, the plaintiff’s unremitting pain symptoms often seem out of proportion with the nature of the physical injury, thus leading to skepticism about the plaintiff’s motives or sincerity. With mood disorders, there may be a number of factors, in addition to the accident injury, that cause a plaintiff to become depressed, that have nothing to do with the accident. Sometimes, the accident injury is the “tipping point” which causes the plaintiff, already in a vulnerable state, to spiral down. In other cases, the plaintiff already has an active mental health condition but the accident injuries cause those symptoms to worsen. Not surprisingly, ICBC will look for other explanations for the plaintiff’s psychological disorder, such as probing past medical records, to deny responsibility.
Seeing a Doctor
It is very important to immediately notify your medical practitioner about any psychological symptoms you experience following a motor vehicle accident, and continue to keep your doctor informed. This serves two purposes: first, it will help to establish a link between the accident and onset of your symptoms; second, and more importantly, it will lead to appropriate and necessary treatment to restore your mental health.
Finding a Lawyer for Your Psychological Injuries
Psychological injury claims can be complex and highly sensitive in nature. Typically, expert medical evidence is required to turn the case in the plaintiff’s favour. If you suffer from such an injury, it is important that you retain a personal injury lawyer to fight on your behalf and marshal the evidence needed to be successful. We have handled psychological injury cases on behalf of many clients, with very favourable results. We are here to help.
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