When you are injured in a car accident, you have the right to sue the at-fault driver for damages. However, you must prove that the other driver caused the accident and you sustained damages as a result.

Damages in a car accident claim may include financial damages, such as medical care costs and loss of income. Car accident damages also include non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. The question of pain and suffering damages could become incredibly complicated if you did not sustain physical injuries because of the car accident.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

Pain and suffering damages cover a wide variety of non-economic damages.

Generally, pain and suffering damages include:

  • Physical pain experienced because of your accident injuries
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress caused by the accident and your injuries
  • Permanent physical impairments and disabilities
  • Psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life

Most of the damages are related to the physical injuries sustained in the accident. However, it is possible to sustain emotional distress and mental health disorders because of a car accident.

Emotional Trauma and Distress Caused by a Car Accident

Being involved in a catastrophic event or witnessing a traumatic event can cause a person to develop one or more emotional or mental health disorders. For example, a person involved in a car crash could develop PTSD, or post-accident vehophobia. PTSD may result in flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety, eating disorders, sleep problems, and depression.

An individual with PTSD may be unable to work because of the symptoms. Or, PTSD may significantly impact the person’s ability to perform activities of daily living or care for family members. The person may incur financial losses and expenses, such as loss of income, medical bills, and paying someone to assist with household chores or care for children. 

Does the fact that the person did not sustain a physical injury prevent the person from seeking compensation for these losses and damages?

Filing a Claim for Emotional Distress

It can be difficult to recover compensation for a car accident if you did not sustain physical injuries, but it is not impossible. You can sue the other driver for damages related to your emotional damages. 

However, you have the burden of proving that you sustained emotional damages and that the car accident was the direct cause of your emotional distress and mental health disorders. The insurance company will fight your claim and may allege you are making up your symptoms to get money.

Proving Negligence for a Car Accident Lawsuit

To recover compensation for a car accident, you must prove the elements of negligence

The legal elements of a negligence claim are:

  • A party owed you a duty of care
  • The party breached the duty of care
  • The breach was a direct and proximate cause of your injury
  • You sustained damages because of the breach

If you cannot prove that you were injured or sustained damages, you cannot recover compensation for a car accident claim, even if the other driver caused the crash. The driver would be responsible for the damage to your vehicle, but you would not receive any money other than compensation through a property damage claim. 

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

There are steps you can take after a car crash to help protect your legal rights:

  • Call 911 to report the accident and request assistance
  • Do not admit fault – If you are even partially at fault for causing an accident in Alabama, you cannot recover any money for damages.
  • Do not say that you are not injured – Instead, say you will see your family doctor to get checked for injuries. 
  • As soon as possible, see a doctor for a complete examination. Report all symptoms, even minor symptoms.
  • Some accident injuries may not present symptoms for a few hours or days after the accident. Contact your doctor to report symptoms as soon as you notice them.
  • If you experience signs of emotional distress, contact your doctor and seek treatment immediately.
  • Document your damages by keeping a journal. Write down everything related to your emotional distress and mental trauma.

It is not in your best interest to discuss the case with an insurance adjuster, make a statement, or sign any documents without talking with a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can evaluate your case and explain your legal options for seeking compensation after a car accident.