Can I Get Emotional Distress Compensation After a Car Accident?
Car accidents can be traumatic experiences, especially when you or someone you love is hurt. For some people, the injuries end up being more than just physical. Crash victims may suffer from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a wreck. These are all valid psychological injuries, but receiving compensation for emotional distress in British Columbia can be difficult.
Emotional distress is an invisible injury, so it’s often considered inherently less serious than a physical one. However, mental health problems can be as disabling as many bodily injuries.
At Warnett Hallen LLP, our Vancouver car accident lawyers understand how a crash can turn every aspect of your life upside down. Your emotional suffering is just as real as any physical injury you may have sustained. Let us help you get compensation for it.
Call or contact us online for a free consultation.
Can I Receive Compensation for Emotional Distress?
Some injuries — especially emotional ones — do not emerge immediately after a car accident. Long after the body has healed, the memory of the accident and its consequences can trigger powerful emotional responses that make it difficult to function well in daily life.
If you have experienced emotional distress or mental health issues as a result of a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
There are a number of ways emotional distress can manifest following the crash. Psychological injuries that were not immediately visible can develop into mood disorders, with symptoms like irritability, insomnia, or depression. They can also develop into PTSD and anxiety disorders, which can result in nightmares, fear of driving, flashbacks, and generalized anxiety.
In addition, the physical injuries sustained in the accident, the chronic pain that can come with them, and the arduous process of recovery can cause mental health problems for accident victims.
All of these psychological injuries qualify as emotional distress and can entitle you to compensation in a car accident claim. However, emotional distress settlement amounts in British Columbia have been greatly limited in recent years.
On April 1, 2019, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) implemented new regulations under which certain types of mental health issues resulting from an auto accident may be classified as a “minor injury.” Damages for minor injuries are capped at $5,500.
Keep in mind that this law does not cover accidents that occurred before the regulations went into effect. Injuries sustained from crashes that occurred before April 1, 2019 may be entitled to much higher awards for pain and suffering, with an upper limit that can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The British Columbia Limitations Act stipulates that injured people must file a claim within two years of the accident’s occurrence, therefore after April 1, 2021, all claims of emotional distress may be capped.
That said, exceptions can be made for the emotional and psychological damage that is shown to linger for more than four months. In these cases, ICBC may classify them as major injuries.
How Does ICBC Quantify Emotional Distress?
Initially, ICBC will categorize emotional distress caused by a car accident as a minor injury. However, an initial determination of emotional distress does not preclude later assessment of long-term mental health issues caused by the accident, which can be classified as a major injury.
According to ICBC guidelines, “Pain and suffering is the legal term for the payment you receive to compensate you for the inconvenience and emotional distress of being in a crash.” Despite this dismissive description, establishing emotional distress is often the first step in the process of making a claim based on long-term mental health issues.
What Is a Minor Injury?
According to ICBC, minor injuries include sprains, bruises, road rash, minor whiplash, mild concussions, cuts, general aches and pains, and short-term mental health conditions, along with emotional distress. Compensation for these types of injuries is subject to the $5,500 cap.
In cases where claimants disagree with ICBC’s designation of their condition — for example, if they believe their post-crash mental health issues qualify as a major injury and ICBC disagrees — they can dispute the finding. In these situations, it is vital to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer who is familiar with the ins and outs of British Columbia injury law.
How to Prove a Car Accident Caused Trauma
ICBC generally operates under the presumption that any mental health issues experienced after an accident are temporary, which is why emotional distress is classified as a minor injury. As a result, the burden is on claimants to prove that their mental health was significantly damaged as a result of the accident and that the damage is long-term.
When you’re trying to prove that your emotional injuries were caused by a crash, evidence to support this fact will be crucial. You need to be able to demonstrate to ICBC not only that your mental health issues are real, but that they were caused by the collision itself. It is not uncommon for ICBC to attempt to deny payment by claiming that mental health issues were caused by factors unrelated to the accident.
If you believe you are suffering from mental health issues due to car accident trauma, be sure to consult with a specialist as soon as possible and follow all recommendations. Hold on to any medical documentation of your condition, as this can provide vital evidence in your case. Keeping a journal of your physical and mental health is also a good idea, as much of the evidence of a psychological injury comes from the person experiencing it.
When trying to prove psychological trauma, witness testimony can also provide crucial evidence to support your claim. Your family, friends, and doctors can speak to your changes in mood and behavior following the accident, as well as how the accident has affected your life more broadly.
How an Experienced Lawyer at Warnett Hallen LLP Can Help
When it comes to trying to receive fair compensation for psychological trauma and the resulting mental health issues, ICBC can make the process frustrating and stressful. If you’re already struggling, this is the last thing you should have to deal with. Let Warnett Hallen LLP help.
Firm partners Paul Warnett and Manjot Hallen each have over a decade of experience litigating personal injury claims in British Columbia. They have both handled numerous car accident claims involving emotional distress and psychological trauma, and they will fight hard for you to obtain the maximum possible amount for your pain and suffering after a car accident.
Take comfort in knowing that once you hire Warnett Hallen LLP, your lawyer can handle all aspects of communications with ICBC, oversee settlement negotiations, and collect solid proof to show the extent of your emotional distress. We know that your pain is real and we want to secure full and fair compensation for you.
Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid only if we recover compensation for you. There are no upfront costs. We can also help you find funding for treatment related to the accident or negotiate with your care providers to defer healthcare costs while your claim is pursued.
Contact Warnett Hallen LLP Today
To discuss your case with a skilled Vancouver car accident lawyer, contact us by phone or fill out our online form for a free consultation.