Psychological Injuries: Claims for Emotional Distress
Psychological injuries can be an important part of a personal injury case. Post-traumatic stress disorder (also called post-traumatic stress syndrome) is a provable phenomenon that adds value to some cases. This disorder may involve headaches, nausea, dizziness, inability to concentrate, depression, irrational fears, etc. But this is also an area that is fraught with danger for you, the claimant.
The claim for a psychological injury opens your psychological history up for inspection. This can create issues that impede a favorable settlement. The insurance company’s lawyer may be entitled to subpoena your psychologist’s records. If these records disclose, for example, that the psychologist believes you are a liar, the insurance company has found a potent weapon for court. The company may become unwilling to offer a fair settlement now that it has this information.
Judges, juries, and insurance companies often view psychological injury claims with suspicion. Many people feel that these kinds of claims are usually either faked or exaggerated. Others feel that you should simply deal with hurt feelings and financial compensation should not be awarded. Finally, the jury might view you as greedy for pursuing a psychological injury claim.
It is not advisable for a client to pursue such a claim unless the psychological injury is serious and believable. When the claim is real and provable, and when damaging information that can come out during discovery is minimal, psychological injury claims can and should be pursued.
The law, in some states, seeks to weed out many of these claims by requiring that a physical manifestation accompany the psychological injury. For example, psychological injuries often occur in car accident cases. You may develop a fear of riding in cars after a serious accident. If there is a physical injury, the psychological injury can be pursued. But if there is no physical injury, in many states other physical manifestations must be present for you to be able to pursue a claim. Thus, at the very least, headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc., must exist to collect for this kind of claim.