Is emotional distress considered personal injury?
After being injured in an accident that someone else caused, you will quickly become aware of how much this accident has impacted your life, and will continue to do so. Filing a claim with the insurance company is a good start, but while you are waiting for the claims adjuster to return with an offer, you watch your medical bills and missed wages continue to accumulate, all while you are living a much more restricted life as you recover from your injuries. Worse yet, if your injuries are permanent then you will need to adjust to a life with your disabilities that someone else is at fault for. If all of these things sound stressful, it’s because they are.
If you are not familiar with insurance claims and compensatory damages, then it may come as a welcome surprise to learn that you are able to seek compensation for all of the injuries that you are suffering, not just the physical injury that started all of these other feelings and emotions. Personal injury law makes certain that victims are able to seek compensation for their emotional distress, and with the support of an experienced an aggressive attorney you can be confident that these very real, very impactful changes in your life are accounted for. While no amount of money can undo the damage of an accident, having the space to focus on recovery while not stressing out about finances is a major benefit.
Recovering Damages For Emotional Distress
Once you submit a claim to an insurance company, their claims adjuster will investigate the situation and then return to you with an offer. This offer will include your medical bills, some of your lost wages, and possibly a few other things that you have discussed with them, such as money for a new phone that was broken in the accident, or some extra compensation to cover a few future copayments to your doctor’s office. What you can almost be certain of is that they will not offer to pay you for the emotional distress that their client has caused you.
When you have a personal injury attorney representing your claim, they will be able to take the time during the claims investigation to perform their own work to determine how much you rightfully deserve for your accident. These calculations will certainly include the damages that an insurance company will offer you, but they go well beyond these damages and seek to compensate you for ALL of the impacts that this accident has had on you. This is where damages for emotional distress come in, in the form of “non-economic” damages.
Non-Economic Damages, Explained
Non-economic damages are pretty abstract, especially when you compare them to the economic damages that come with receipts, invoices, and financial statements. How do you put a dollar amount on anxiety? Since any answer to this question is nebulous at best, it is with these damages that an insurance company will push back on so aggressively. However, their resistance does not mean that these are not valid and important aspects of an injury.
There are many different approaches that an attorney can take in order to apply a dollar value to an emotion, but one common way is with a “multiplier.” By considering all of the non-economic impacts that a victim has suffered and using a number along a scale to indicate the severity of these damages, you have completed the first step. Once an understandable and reasonable number on the scale has been defined, this number is then multiplied by the economic damages, resulting in monetary value for non-economic damages. For example, a multiplier of 1.5x and economic damages of $100,000 will result in $150,000 of non-economic damages being sought in the claim.