An accident that results in serious physical injuries often does considerably more harm than what may be outwardly visible. People who have been in an accident can suffer a broad range of psychological effects from the accident. Some effects stem directly from the accident itself, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others can be a consequence of living with the limitations that come with a serious injury, or from side effects of treatment. Depression, emotional imbalances, and struggles with interpersonal relationships are just a few examples of the kind of psychological harm an accident can cause.
Accident victims may have the option of pursuing damages for their psychological suffering as part of their lawsuit to recover compensation for other costs associated with their injuries. In a personal injury lawsuit, damages typically fall within one of two categories. Economic damages cover concrete costs that have been or are reasonably expected to be incurred by the injured plaintiff as a consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Economic damages include things like medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Noneconomic damages capture the more abstract categories of harm for which a straightforward “invoice” isn’t readily available. Compensation for pain and suffering is an example of noneconomic damages.
A psychological injury may have components of each type of damages. To the extent that the plaintiff’s psychological harm can be established as a medical problem, its associated costs may be regarded as a form of economic damages. If the psychological harm is less a matter of medical diagnosis and more a question of subjective opinion, it may be more likely to fall within the scope of noneconomic damages, as a form of “suffering.”
The distinction between economic and noneconomic damages is important in part because Nevada caps the amount a plaintiff can recover for certain types of damages. For example, in Nevada a plaintiff cannot recover more than $350,000 for pain and suffering damages. If a damages cap applies to a specific category of damages it’s important for the plaintiff’s attorney to ensure that damages are not miscategorized to the client’s detriment.
Proving psychological harm can be a challenge in any personal injury case. Psychological problems are often difficult to diagnose. Among other things, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the psychological harm was caused by the defendant’s negligence and not another cause. For example, a plaintiff who had an existing alcohol problem before the accident may have a hard time arguing that the accident triggered a more serious alcohol dependency. To prove psychological harm, the testimony of a psychiatrist can assist the court’s analysis. Testimony from friends and family about how the accident affected the plaintiff can also be valuable.
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury and accident cases. We take care to ensure that each client is given the attention they deserve. In pursuing our clients’ interests we take into account every aspect of their wellbeing, including the kinds of psychological effects that the accident may have had. For a free attorney consultation about your case, please call us today at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.