Many people have the mistaken idea that if they were not physically harmed in an automobile accident, they were not hurt. This is not the case at all; mental and emotional injuries are still very much actionable, especially if they significantly interfere with your quality of life. It is possible, even important to your well-being, to bring suit for your mental or emotional injuries.
Types of Non-Physical Injuries
Like physical injuries, mental and emotional traumas run the gamut from mild to severe. Mild mental or emotional harm may not necessarily be actionable, or if it is, the damages available may be very little. Minor mental or emotional harm does not usually require any treatment, and does not last longer than a few days or weeks.
More severe mental trauma, however, can last years or even have life-long effects. Acute stress disorder, or mental shock, can last for weeks, causing dissociative episodes and panic attacks. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also affect accident victims, with all its attendant symptoms, including intrusive memories and flashbacks, depression, and sexual dysfunction. PTSD in particular can be debilitating, leaving an accident victim unable to work or function normally. These conditions are not any less difficult to experience and manage than physical injuries.
Pain and Suffering In South Carolina
Pain and suffering are recognized in South Carolina law as valid reasons to seek damages. They are classified as ‘noneconomic’ or ‘nonliquidated’ damages; which means that the jury will decide the amount that will be amount awarded to the plaintiff, since noneconomic damages are generally unquantifiable. Several factors may be brought up for the jury to consider, however, including the severity of the condition and how long the treatment period was or will be.
Unlike in many other states, there is no limit on noneconomic damages in South Carolina, unless in a medical malpractice case. However, pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages are generally subject to a more rigorous burden of proof – that is, the standard is the same as for any other damages (“clear and convincing evidence”) but very specific evidence is often required to meet that standard.
In terms of proving that your pain and suffering was what you claim it is (since there are usually few physical symptoms on which to judge), the easiest and most thorough way to do so is with medical testimony. If you developed PTSD after a car accident, for example, a psychiatrist or psychologist may be able to show that you meet the physiological criteria for the diagnosis. In some cases, the written record will be enough. Either way, your word is not generally sufficient for a jury to find in your favor.
Be advised that while damages are generally smaller than for physical injuries, they are still obtainable. Juries generally accept claims for pain and suffering as long as the claimed harm is commensurate with the severity of the accident – for example, if you are in a very minor collision with minimal damage, a claim for severe, long-lasting emotional harm will often be seen as illegitimate.
A Compassionate Attorney Can Help
When you are mentally and emotionally vulnerable, you need a competent and caring professional to help you shoulder the load. The dedicated North Charleston auto accident attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse know the ins and outs of accident cases, and will work with you to develop a strategy designed to increase the odds of you receiving the compensation you need. Contact our office today to discuss your options.