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Can I Get Compensation for Emotional Distress in Texas After a Car Accident?

Written by Tom Crosley
Jun 09, 2021 Car Accidents, Personal Injury
  1. 1. What Is Emotional Distress?
  2. 2. Bystander Claims in Texas
  3. 3. What Is My Emotional Distress Claim Worth?
  4. 4. Crosley Law: San Antonio’s Trusted Personal Injury Lawyers

Can I Get Compensation for Emotional Distress in Texas After a Car Accident?

Emotional distress might be one of the most misunderstood elements of a car accident claim. You’ve probably heard a lot about “pain and suffering,” and “emotional distress,” but there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about this element of a personal injury claim. We want to clear up any misunderstandings you might have.

Crosley Law has a long history of representing people in catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims, and we’ve successfully recovered hundreds of millions in settlements and jury awards for our clients. In this blog, we explore the complexities of emotional distress and explain what you need to know if you’re suffering because of someone else’s actions.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Both crash victims and injury lawyers talk about “emotional distress,” but the term can mean many different things. When you think about emotional distress, you probably think about the mental anguish, fear, and psychological trauma that you endured during a car crash.

However, when personal injury lawyers talk about “emotional distress,” it means something very specific—and often it’s different than what many people think of when they hear these words.

Pain and Suffering vs. Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is a type of pain and suffering that focuses on the emotional trauma of a car wreck or another accident. It can cover a wide range of feelings that you experience during and after a traumatic incident, including fear, anxiety, and grief. In very severe cases, you might experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In a lawsuit, a personal injury attorney defines “pain and suffering” as a type of damages: a type of loss caused by someone else’s mistake for which victims can recover financial compensation. For example, if a drunk driver crashes into your vehicle and injures you, you can demand compensation for your mental anguish and physical pain.

“Emotional distress,” however, focuses on a cause of action, a legal theory that you can use to build a lawsuit after you’ve been hurt. In other words, under certain circumstances, you can file a personal injury suit because someone caused your emotional distress.

RELATED: Can a Car Accident Cause PTSD?

Understand the Two Types of Emotional Distress Cases

There are two types of emotional distress claims: negligent and intentional. If you need to file a claim for emotional damages, it’s critical that you understand the differences between them.

Texas law limits lawsuits claiming negligent (unintentional) infliction of emotional distress. In most cases, you can only demand compensation if you also have a bodily injury—for instance, you were hurt in a crash, broke your leg, and developed PTSD as a result.

However, you can sue someone for intentional infliction of emotional distress without having to justify your claim with a physical injury. This type of emotional distress could be a result of an intentionally cruel prank, manipulative or unethical behavior, abusing positions of power, or some other extreme situation.

To prove that someone intentionally caused you emotional distress, you must be able to show:

  • That the other person’s actions were intentional or reckless.
  • Their conduct was extreme and outrageous.
  • You suffered severe emotional distress as a result.

If you’re unsure whether you have a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, schedule a free consultation with Crosley Law. We’ll review your situation and help you understand your options and what to do next.

Bystander Claims in Texas

As we discussed, you must suffer a physical injury to get compensation for most negligent emotional distress claims. However, there is a significant exception to this rule: bystander claims.

Under Texas law, you can file a bystander claim if:

  • A close relative was killed in a fatal car wreck or another incident.
  • You were near the scene of the accident or incident and watched it happen.
  • You suffered shock and emotional distress as a result.

The state of Texas assumes that parents, spouses, siblings, children, and grandparents are close relatives. (Other relatives, like aunts or uncles, may also be able to file a bystander claim, but it may be more difficult and require additional proof of relationship.) You did not have to live with your deceased family member to file a bystander claim, but you must be able to prove your close relationship.

If you’re worried about proving your relationship or want to learn more about filing a Texas bystander claim, please reach out to our firm. We can help you understand what you need for documentation and work with you to establish that proof.

You can file bystander claims in addition to your family and loved one’s wrongful death claims.

RELATED: How Do Wrongful Death Claims Work in San Antonio?

What Is My Emotional Distress Claim Worth?

Emotional distress damages can vary, depending on your unique circumstances. When you work with our law firm, we will carefully calculate all your economic and non-economic damages, consulting with experts when necessary.

The value of your emotional distress damages will depend on a series of factors:

  • The circumstances surrounding the car accident
  • The amount of medical and mental health treatment you’ll need, now and in the future
  • How your injuries and emotional distress have limited your life (for example, whether you’re able to work)
  • Whether the insurance company has any defenses
  • How much insurance coverage applies to your personal injury claims

Emotional distress damages can vary, depending on your unique circumstances. When you work with our law firm, we will carefully calculate all your economic and non-economic damages, consulting with experts when necessary.

To document your emotional trauma, you’ll need a lot of evidence. That might include copies of your medical bills, medical records, statements from your mental health providers and counselors, and information about your lost income or wage-earning capacity. Our team can help you track down and preserve these documents.

Don’t Fall for the Insurance Company’s Pre-Existing Condition Arguments

Sometimes, insurance companies will argue that you’re not entitled to compensation for your emotional suffering because you had pre-existing mental health issues. This argument ignores Texas’ eggshell skull rule. If you can prove that the car crash worsened your existing mental health conditions, you might have a claim.

However, it can be difficult to document a worsening in pre-existing mental health issues without a lawyer’s help. If you have a history of depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer early on in your claim.

Crosley Law’s Track Record of Success With Emotional Distress Damages

Our San Antonio personal injury lawyers have built a remarkable track record of success. We believe that our unique approach, which combines cutting-edge case investigations, sophisticated litigation strategies, and client-focused service, is essential to our success.

For example, we represented a mother who lost her daughter in a horrific truck wreck. The insurance company argued that because the young woman was unresponsive at the crash scene, she was not owed compensation for her pain and suffering. We combatted this tactic by highlighting recent case law. We also offered expert testimony suggesting that her pain and fear was overwhelming in the moments before the crash.

Thanks to our hard work, our client got the answers and compensation she deserved.

RELATED: A Grieving Mother Clears Her Daughter’s Name: Amanda and Jane’s Story

Crosley Law: San Antonio’s Trusted Personal Injury Lawyers

When someone’s negligence causes profound emotional harm and mental anguish, we believe that you deserve compensation. Crosley Law’s personal injury lawyers help crash victims and their families rebuild, carefully calculating their damages and finding every insurance policy that applies to their cases.

If you have questions about emotional distress after a motor vehicle crash, contact our law firm today. We offer free consultations. You can reach our injury lawyers by calling us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or by filling out our brief contact form. We’ll evaluate your personal injury case and educate you about your legal options.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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