Six million auto accidents occur each year in the United States each year (source). When we hear a loved one has been in an accident, first thing we ask if they have been hurt. As someone who has assisted many people who have sustained serious injuries, I am seeing more and more that the real damage is often the emotional and mental health impact.
These often occur weeks or even months following an accident. Depending on the severity of the accident, the anxiety and fear of getting behind the wheel again can even become debilitating. There is a term for this: Vehophobia.
It's important to recognize that this is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and it affects people to various degrees. According to a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study, 39.2% of vehicle accident survivors develop PTSD within the first 30 days. It is crucial to take this aspect of your post-accident experience into account when acquiring a Personal Injury case, just as much as you would your physical injuries.
Vehophobia or PTSD post-car accident encompass a flood of emotions such as shock, guilt, anger, helplessness, confusion, fear or sadness. If you are a loved one is going through this - please consult your primary doctor or a mental health professional about your experience to identify ways you can recover.
Here is why I tell my clients it's important to consider emotional distress damages:
1) If you are seeking medical treatment for your emotional distress, document your experience. Journaling can help you document your emotions and can help you with your case.
2) You may be entitled to damages for your emotional distress. The amount of damages you may recover will depending on the severity of your injury, you may find that emotional distress damages are subject to a statutory cap.
Emotional distress damages are valid and should not be taken lightly. I encourage my clients and help make them feel comfortable to share this aspect of their auto accident experience so we can appropriately include it in their case.