A Guide to Personal Injury and Psychological Distress


When a car accident happens, everyone’s immediate reaction is to check for physical injuries, such as a bleeding laceration or a broken bone. If a victim is able to walk and talk without obvious signs of physical distress, the response is generally to assume the person is all right and does not need medical attention.

However, an accident-related personal injury may be psychological rather than physical, which means it is initially invisible and difficult to diagnose. Even the victim may be unaware at first, until anxiety or depression begins to manifest, potentially leading to serious disorders like post-traumatic stress syndrome. That is why anyone involved in a car accident or who experiences physical injury as the result of another person’s negligence should contact personal injury lawyers with whom to discuss the accident. The lawyers may recommend the following course of action.Consult a doctor.

A thorough medical and psychological evaluation is needed to determine the existence and possible extent of any resulting injuries. This may include x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI, among others. ER physicians or a primary care doctor may then decide to refer accident victims to a psychologist for a more detailed evaluation.

Describe symptoms.

Every doctor will want to know the patient’s perception of injuries as indicated by symptoms. Psychological distress from an accident may lead to physical symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, racing thoughts, and other related conditions. Emotional responses can include anxiety, nervousness, fearfulness, irritation, and anger, among others. Mental anguish can take many forms, so it is important for the victim to be clear and detailed without exaggerating or minimizing the actual symptoms.

Potential compensation.

Personal injury lawyers can explain the law’s position on compensation for psychological injuries. The often-prevailing condition is whether an injury occurred more likely than not as a result of the accident. For example, if the victim reports frequent headaches following the accident, the negligent driver’s insurance attorney may argue that headaches are common and impossible to link to an accident unless documented by a doctor or diagnostic test. It will be up to the personal injury lawyer to help a victim obtain relevant documentation to support the claim for compensation.

Emotional distress damages.

Sometimes emotional disorders resulting from a personal injury can be hard to describe, document, and prove. A personal injury attorney will advise victims how to explain symptoms that may be subtle at first, including to the victim. Excessive weeping, sadness, loss of appetite, and sleeplessness may be indicators of an underlying emotional disorder. Victims should keep a personal record of moods and behaviors that change from what they were before the accident.

Consult a personal injury lawyer about any accident-related psychological concerns.


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