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Can an Accident Witness Sue for Psychological Trauma?

Bodily injuries resulting from an accident are rightfully given a lot of attention in the accident’s aftermath. Spinal injuries, broken limbs, and disfigurement are undeniably serious and highly visible. But the psychological consequences of an accident can be quite serious, too, and they may not be obvious to anyone outside of the small circle of the accident victim’s close friends and family. In any lawsuit following an accident involving serious personal injury, psychological harm needs to be factored into the compensation sought by the plaintiff.

The practical challenges of psychological injury

Someone who has suffered a mental health setback can require specialized care, potentially including medication, potentially for a long time. This kind of treatment can be very expensive but may be required to sustain the person’s long-term physical health. Getting compensated for these costs is important. There are several reasons why a psychological injury may pose challenges for an injured plaintiff in a personal injury case. The first is diagnosis. Psychological injuries can be difficult to identify, let alone treat. In the immediate aftermath of an accident the victim’s physical injuries likely will give rise to significant costs and hardship. The victim may not even be aware of the psychological damage that he or she has suffered until sometime later. Another potential problem for plaintiffs is proof. A plaintiff must be able to prove damages with reasonable certainty in order to recover compensation for them. Psychological injuries can give rise to a “battle of the experts” in the courtroom, as the defense tries to discredit or undermine the plaintiff’s claims related to these “unobservable” injuries.

Psychological harm and insurance

In accidents covered by insurance, like car crashes, a key question is whether the at-fault person’s insurance policy will cover treatment for mental health consequences of the accident. Many general liability policies are drafted to cover “bodily injury,” which they very specifically define to exclude psychological injury such as mental anguish, suffering, or specific conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Although an insurance company has a legal obligation to provide coverage for injuries that fall within the scope of its policies, it will closely scrutinize claims and deny anything that falls outside the policy. This limitation has important consequences for people who hope to recover full compensation for their injuries from the at-fault party’s insurance policy. The injured plaintiff may need to pursue compensation from other sources, such as the personal assets of the at-fault individual. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. We can help you examine your legal options to recover compensation for psychological injuries. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Mental Health and Workers’ Comp in Nevada

Mental Health and Workers’ Comp in Nevada
Mental health challenges can affect someone’s ability to work and even make day-to-day living difficult. Treatment tends to take time, involves a lot of visits with therapists and other specialists, and ultimately can cost a great deal of money. Some mental health problems can arise in connection with work. When that happens, workers’ compensation insurance may offer financial relief.

Establishing the relationship between mental illness and work

For a disease to qualify for workers’ compensation insurance in Nevada it must arise out of or in the course of employment. This requirement poses a challenge for people suffering from many kinds of mental health issues. An insurer faced with a claim for expenses relating to mental health has a strong incentive to find that the illness had a cause that was unrelated to work. In some ways a mental health problem can be analogous to physical injury. Someone who falls at work because of a knee that was injured in a skiing accident may face a difficult fight with an insurer. The same can be true for someone whose mental health condition arose from non-work causes, like a genetic predisposition or substance abuse. In the early stages of a claim an insurer will require the worker to undergo evaluation by a specialist chosen by the insurer. Quite often an insurer chooses specialists who it knows are more likely to diagnose a less serious condition or determine that the condition had a cause that wasn’t related to work. Workers need to take steps to exercise their right to select a doctor who will be more attuned to the patient’s needs.

Specific events can strengthen a case

It can be easier to show that a mental health condition is job-related if its cause can be traced to a specific event. Some kinds of mental health problems can be related to exposure to toxic substances like mercury or pesticides. The science establishing the connection between toxins and mental health is relatively new, which may lead to complex coverage disputes. Other problems arise because of a specific stressful event, such as witnessing a traumatic workplace accident or experiencing an especially violent incident. NRS 616C.180 specifically provides that workers’ compensation benefits will apply to treatment for “mental injury caused by extreme stress in times of danger.” Establishing causation for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder can be relatively straightforward, but is not free of potential roadblocks.

An experienced attorney can defend your rights

Getting workers’ compensation benefits for job-related mental health difficulties can be hard without an experienced advocate. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area in the areas of workers’ compensation and personal injury. If you have questions about how to pursue a workers’ compensation claim for job-related mental health issues, please reach out to us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.