Seeking Compensation for Emotional Distress After an Auto Accident

As the aftermath of a car accident unfolds, the physical injuries often take center stage. But the emotional toll can be just as devastating, leading to long-lasting trauma and psychological distress. In New York, victims of auto accidents have the legal right to seek compensation for emotional distress, alongside their physical injuries.

Seeking compensation for emotional distress after a car accident in Buffalo can be complex, but our attorneys are here to help you. We are dedicated to winning the best settlement for our clients.

Emotional Distress and New York Car Accident Laws

New York is a “no-fault” state for car insurance, meaning your own insurance company pays for your injuries regardless of who caused the accident. However, there are exceptions to this rule that allow you to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. One such exception is when your injuries meet the state’s “serious injury” threshold, defined in Section 5102(d) of the Insurance Law.

If your injuries meet the serious injury threshold, you can sue the at-fault driver for both economic and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish.

What Constitutes a Serious Injury?

As mentioned earlier, New York’s no-fault insurance system dictates that you must first exhaust your own insurance benefits before seeking additional compensation from the at-fault driver. However, if your accident results in a “serious injury,” you can bypass this requirement and file a lawsuit against the negligent party.

Section 5102(d) of the New York Insurance Law defines a “serious injury” as one that:

  • Limited your daily activities for at least 90 out of the 180 days following the accident
  • Caused significant disfigurement or scarring
  • Permanently limited a body function or organ
  • Limited a body function or system by more than 50%
  • Resulted in the loss of a body part.

If your injuries fall under any of these categories, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your emotional distress.

car accidents can cause mental anguish and PTSD

Types of Emotional Distress Recognized by New York Law

New York law recognizes various types of emotional distress caused by car accidents, including:

  • Anxiety: This can manifest as constant worry, fear, and difficulty relaxing.
  • Depression: This can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This is a severe mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event like a car accident. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance.
  • Sleep disturbances: These can include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling refreshed.
  • Loss of consortium: This refers to the loss of companionship, love, and affection suffered by a spouse or immediate family member due to your injuries.

Proving Emotional Distress in Court

To successfully claim compensation for emotional distress, you need to prove the following.

  • The accident caused your emotional distress. This requires evidence linking the accident to your symptoms. Medical records, witness statements, and expert testimony from psychologists or psychiatrists can support this claim.
  • The emotional distress is severe. This requires demonstrating the impact of the distress on your daily life, such as relationships, work, and overall well-being.
  • The emotional distress is ongoing. This can be established through medical records and ongoing treatment for your mental health.

Establishing Causation and Severity

Successfully claiming compensation for emotional distress hinges on demonstrating two critical elements: causation and severity.

1. Causation

You must prove that the emotional distress you experience directly results from the car accident. Medical records documenting your injuries and ongoing treatment, along with expert testimony from mental health professionals, can establish the link between the accident and your emotional state.

Additionally, witness statements and personal journal entries detailing your emotional experiences can further strengthen your claim.

2. Severity

Simply experiencing emotional distress is not enough. You must demonstrate that the distress significantly impacts your daily life, causing impairments in your relationships, work, and overall well-being.

This can be evidenced through psychological evaluations, reports from therapists or counselors, and testimony from family members or friends who can speak to the changes in your behavior and emotional state.

Call Our Buffalo Car Accident Lawyers Today!

Seeking compensation for emotional distress after a car accident in Buffalo can be complex, but understanding the legal landscape and available resources can empower you to navigate the process. A qualified personal injury attorney from Buffalo Car Accident Lawyers can help you understand your legal rights, gather evidence, and build a strong case.

Contact us at 716-261-2614 to get help now.