It’s easy to prove that you have a broken arm. X-Rays can confirm it, and a cast or splint will telegraph your injury to everyone you encounter. They will sympathize with you when they see your cast. Your insurance company will not dispute the fact that your arm is broken and that it needs treatment. After all– the x-rays clearly show a broken bone; who could argue with that?
Unfortunately, emotional trauma and psychological damage are not visible or obvious. If you are suffering from emotional injuries from a car accident, it may take a talented attorney to either obtain a fair settlement for you or to argue your case with compelling evidence in front of a jury.
Emotional and psychological trauma can occur when people are exposed to extremely stressful events that completely take away their sense of safety and control.
If you are suffering from an emotional injury from a car crash in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, or anywhere else in Michigan, the Lee Steinberg Law Firm can help you seek appropriate and full financial compensation. You can seek compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress against the driver who was responsible for the accident.
In many cases, the physical injuries one suffers can cause emotional issues, such as depression. The Mayo Clinic describes the relationship between pain and depression as a vicious circle: pain can cause depression and depression can worsen the symptoms of pain. Depression can also lead to heart disease, obesity, mental decline, substance abuse, and suicide. After a car accident, depression can stem from injury pain, but also from the stress of being involved in such a traumatic event. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can also cause major depressive disorder (MDD).
Post-traumatic stress disorder is exactly what it sounds like; a mental health disorder that is triggered by a horrific or terrifying event. Years ago, when soldiers returned home in a damaged psychological state after witnessing wartime atrocities, they were said to be suffering from combat fatigue or shell shock, but since 1980, the official term for the disorder has been PTSD.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PTSD is a frequent complication after a vehicle accident. There are approximately 6 million motor vehicle accidents each year in the United States; of these, 6-25% of children and adolescents and 39.2% of adult survivors go on to develop PTSD. In 2020, there were 245,432 motor vehicle accidents in Michigan. Figuring in the average occupancy rate of 1.5 people in each vehicle and using the figure of 39.2%, at least 14,000 Michigan residents developed PTSD in 2020 as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
Not all survivors of car accidents or traumatic events go on to develop PTSD, and the symptoms can vary depending upon the person, but generally, there are 4 categories:
- Intrusive memories
- Frequently occurring thoughts and memories of the accident
- Flashbacks to the accident or event
- Dreams and nightmares connected to the traumatic event
- Emotional distress or physical reactions when something (a trigger) reminds you of the accident
- Attempting to avoid thinking or talking about the accident
- Avoiding or being afraid to drive (sometimes referred to as vehophobia) if the PTSD stemmed from a vehicle accident or avoiding the location of the traumatic event
- Avoiding people or places that make you think about the accident
- Negative changes in mood or thinking
- Extreme depression
- Mood swings
- Numbness or apathy
- Memory problems
- Relationship problems
- Changes in physical or emotional reactions
- Becoming easily startled
- A feeling of always being “braced” or on guard
- Irrational, angry outbursts
- Self-destructive behavior (like substance abuse)
Symptoms generally become evident 3 months or so after the event or accident, although they may not begin until years afterward. PTSD is blamed when the symptoms last for more than a month and when they interfere with relationships or work.
To be formally diagnosed with PTSD, a patient has to experience all of these symptoms in a month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Children often exhibit different symptoms than adults. They may start:
- Wetting the bed
- Clinging to a parent
- Having nightmares
- Acting out the traumatic accident or event
Teens can also have slightly different symptoms of PTSD. They may:
- Have angry outbursts where they lash out at loved ones or authority figures
- Take up self-destructive behaviors
- Feel guilt for not being able to stop the accident
- Become defiant
How can an attorney help?
After an accident or traumatic event that wasn’t your fault, the effects on your mental well-being can last for years or even decades. You may need mental health treatment to cope with the effects, and the cost of this therapy could be covered by an accident or personal injury claim. The emotional and psychological injury lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm are experts in explaining to the insurance company, the judge, and the jury exactly how depression and PTSD can impact someone, their lifestyle, and their family.
You will need to recover compensation to cover all necessary mental health treatments. Some expenses to consider are:
- Psychiatric care
- Possible hospitalizations in mental health facilities
- Loss of wages if your emotional injuries prevent you from working
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
What should you do?
- Seek professional help as soon as you notice symptoms of depression or PTSD. Even if you don’t have a counselor or therapist, you should speak to your medical doctor. The doctor can document everything and send you for diagnostic tests. You may be tempted to discount your emotions as not being physical, but emotional injuries are real and serious. The sooner you begin treatment, the better.
- A doctor won’t automatically assume that your depression or mood swings or apathy are purely psychological. You may have an underlying brain injury causing these symptoms. Most likely, you will need to take some diagnostic tests. After anything else has been ruled out, your doctor can refer you to the appropriate professional to treat your psychological injuries.
- Document anything you can. Your attorney may have to prove a link between your symptoms and what happened to you to your health insurance company or a no-fault insurance company. The more proof you have, the better.
- Speak to an experienced emotional and psychological injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will work to establish the link between your symptoms and your accident or fall. The timeline will be important, as well as any concrete evidence, such as what you told your doctor, the medications prescribed for you, and any stays in mental health facilities. The attorneys at Lee Steinberg Law Firm have dealt with many sufferers of emotional distress. They know how to build a case and how to deal with doubtful insurance agencies.
- Tell your insurance company about your psychological injuries. Don’t try to be brave — and don’t be embarrassed. You will need to include these symptoms in your application for no-fault benefits. Don’t leave anything out.
- If you are denied no-fault benefits for your psychological injuries by your insurance company, you can sue for all of your unpaid medical expenses, as well as for your loss of income. You can also bring a third-party claim against the at-fault driver for pain and suffering, but there are stringent requirements for this:
- The other driver must have been at least 50% at fault
- You must have suffered a “threshold injury.” There are 3 of these:
- Permanent serious disfigurement
- Serious impairment of body function. (Your incapacitating psychological injuries would fall into this third category.)
Michigan’s statute of limitations
Typically, the statute of limitations for a Michigan car accident is three (3) years for a pain and suffering claim. This means you have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file a lawsuit in court within three years, you forever forfeit your right to sue the at-fault parties and obtain compensation.
However, the statute of limitations for a Michigan no-fault claim is one (1) year. First, a quick explanation about what the Application for Benefits is under the MACP. Under MCL 500.3172(3), a person entitled to PIP benefits must complete an application on a claim form provided by the Michigan automobile insurance placement facility. The claim form includes a series of questions about the claimant’s personal information, accident information, injuries, health insurance, employment, and vehicle ownership. The claim form, or Application for Benefits, can be downloaded here or completed online at MACP. Please read more details about this in our article, “How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit Following a Michigan Car Accident?”
Admittedly, none of this is easy, and you should be allowed to focus on treatment rather than on struggling with insurance companies. The attorneys at Lee Steinberg Law Firm can navigate the intricacies of Michigan’s laws while fighting for fair compensation for you.
Please call Lee Free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form.
And remember, you pay nothing until we settle your case.