Emotional Trauma & Personal Injury Claims – A Legal Guide
When we think of victims in personal injury cases, our minds often drift to the physical injuries they endure.
We can immediately comprehend broken limbs, cuts, and bruises – these are the visible, tangible physical injuries, possibly whole-person impairment. They’re painful, straining, and potentially life-changing. That’s why there’s so much focus on them throughout the personal injury process.
It’s in the name.
However, an unseen, equally crucial aspect tends to be overlooked – psychological injuries. We all hear the increasing talk of mental health during these modern times, yet they can easily be forgotten regarding the traumatic repercussions of a personal injury case.
Emotional trauma, in some form or another, tends to remain invisible, hidden beneath the surface, yet retains the power to profoundly impact lives long after physical wounds have healed.
We’re slowly recognising this dual nature of personal injury cases as a society. Slowly beginning to grasp that physical trauma is just one side of the story.
On the other hand, psychological trauma, which often goes unnoticed and untreated, can make it difficult for victims to recover fully and reintegrate into their everyday lives—the unseen scars of personal injury.
In today’s guide, we’re deep-diving into what you need to know when dealing with psychological injury, what the law says, and what steps to take if and when this affects you.
Let’s dive in.
The Hidden Trauma of Psychological Injuries
The invisible wounds of psychological trauma lie beneath the physical bruises and broken bones.
The kind of damage that’s difficult to diagnose and even more complex to treat compounds its destructive capacity. They’re often hidden, festering below the surface, impervious to the naked eye.
But they’re there.
Take the case of the 24-year-old, who, when driving home after taking a friend home from the airport, was subject to a man running out into the highway, taking his own life and causing the car to crash.
The car was a write-off. The driver had several minor injuries that healed within a few weeks. However, the emotional consequences of experiencing suicide first hand, the images and stress created by such an event held him back for several years.
We refer to these as “psychological injury,” and if you’ve ever been injured, you’ve likely experienced this yourself. Even a seemingly minor bump from a car behind you can cause stress that affects you for hours or even days.
A psychological injury could be anything within a broad spectrum of conditions and mental illness, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Increased stress
- Conditions like PTSD and Adjustment Disorder
All of these are ramifications of an incident gone wrong that usually continue to haunt the victim long after the incident itself has passed.
These conditions can dramatically alter a victim’s quality of life, impeding their ability to work, maintain social relationships, or even carry out simple daily routines.
While the scars on the body may heal, these unseen emotional scars can linger, creating constant turmoil that is challenging to escape.
In the personal injury world, we commonly focus on two of these injuries: PTSD and adjustment disorder.
Defining PTSD and Its Prevalence in Personal Injury Claims
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD, is a common psychological injury resulting from personal injury cases.
And what exactly is PTSD?
Think of it as an exaggerated, prolonged response to stress ignited by experiencing a traumatic event. It’s our brain’s way of saying, “I’m still stuck in that terrible moment.”
It’s like tipping a boiling coffee down yourself one day, but imagine if, days, weeks, or even months after the accident, you still felt that same intense pang of anxiety from that day.
Sure, we usually hear about PTSD manifesting during war or natural disasters, but that’s not exclusive.
Victims of personal injury cases—car accidents or workplace mishaps—can also suffer from this challenging psychological condition.
Symptoms can range from vivid, recurring nightmares and flashbacks of the incident to changes in emotions and a heightened state of alertness.
Furthermore, PTSD is not always immediate and can sometimes take months or even years to appear. It can seriously affect an individual’s day-to-day life regarding their job, relationships, and interactions with the world.
Unraveling Adjustment Disorder and Its Impact
Among the different types of psychological injuries, adjustment disorder is notably challenging.
This is primarily because Adjustment Disorder often flies under the radar, commonly mistaken for a ‘normal’ reaction to stress rather than being recognized as a genuine disorder.
Adjustment Disorder surges in response to identifiable stressors, such as the aftermath of personal injury.
In simple terms, it’s an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation. The disorder can manifest as depressive moods, anxiety, an inability to function daily, or even physical symptoms like headaches and stomach disorders.
Its impact on a person’s life can be far-reaching, making everyday activities seem insurmountable, and their life flipped upside-down in the blink of an eye. Permanent impairment is also always a risk.
Highlighting the importance of recognizing and addressing adjustment disorder in personal injury claims can elicit empathy and understanding and provide much-needed support for the victims enduring this incredibly tough journey.
How Your Work Can Destroy Your Mental Health
We’ve spoken a little about car accidents and other typical events that can lead to personal injuries, yet the workplace is one of the most common places for these situations to occur.
After all, there were over 497,000 workplace injuries and injured workers in Australia alone through 2022, showcasing that these places are not always the safe havens we wish them to be.
Accidents can happen, often leaving victims grappling with more than just physical injuries. They may endure profound psychological harm along with immediate, tangible wounds.
Usually, this arises when victims find themselves battling increasingly intense feelings of anxiety and depression.
This can include fears of returning to work, being at the scene of the accident, or fears of what others, including superiors, may think. This can all become both overwhelming and debilitating.
A once familiar environment morphs into a landscape fraught with triggers, facilitating the development of psychological injuries such as PTSD.
With such risks, both employees and employers suffer. Therefore, there needs to be increased conversation and support around these topics, allowing us all to share a responsibility to ensure a safe work environment for our employees.
Workers’ compensation will also be due in many cases to help ensure employees have ample opportunities to get their lives back on track while receiving the support they need.
If you have a workers compensation claim to make, it’s always worth reaching out to a legal professional to see what your situation is and what opportunities are available to you.
The Importance of Expert Medical Treatment for Recovery
So, with the landscape of physical and psychological injuries in mind, it’s time to start looking at the remedies and solutions. Unfortunately, effective treatment is like finding a key to a locked door.
Psychological injury can be complex, tricky to navigate, and require professional intervention for accurate diagnosis and treatment. In short, expert medical treatment isn’t an option—it’s a necessity.
Effective treatment goes beyond the generic one-size-fits-all approach, focusing instead on personalized care tailored to the victim’s specific needs.
One person may be dealing with a mental illness that requires a few months of medical expenses or rehabilitation expenses and will require a compensation claim to help cover the costs.
On the other hand, someone dealing with the psychological injury of having a permanent impairment may require both a workers’ compensation claim and a psychological injury claim, especially if the accident wasn’t their fault.
You must imagine how distressing such a situation could be.
After either the psychological injury claim or work injury damages claim has gone through (or during), solutions for the claimant could involve psychotherapy, medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness techniques, and more.
As those approaches suggest, recovery is not always swift.
It requires patience, consistency, and a tremendous amount of resilience.
If you’re living with emotional trauma, you must proactively seek help. If you’re an employer or someone involved in a personal injury claim, it’s time to open up and provide the support to improve things.
The Legal Aspect: How Personal Injury Lawyers Help Claim Compensation
Now, where does the law fit into this? In short, it plays a crucial role.
Personal injury lawyers with expertise in psychological injuries can be the driving force behind securing the rightful compensation. If you’ve found yourself involved in a personal injury case where emotional trauma is a problem, getting an experienced lawyer on your side is one of the safest approaches to getting your life back on track.
After all, the last thing you want to go through while dealing with a psychological injury after a traumatic event is a turbulent legal battle to get the compensation and support that will enable you to get your life back on track.
Experienced lawyers can help navigate the often convoluted and stormy legal waters riddled with complex procedures and court proceedings.
And when you secure a great outcome, the compensation you receive can help cover immediate and future medical expenses and account for lost wages due to an inability to work. They’ll help you calculate your lump sum payout using a psychological injury compensation calculator.
More importantly, it acknowledges the pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life the victim has endured. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer advocate on their behalf, ensuring justice is served, can give victims a sense of empowerment and closure, which is invaluable to recovery.
Common Law Damages for Pain and Suffering
Diving a little more into the compensation side of things, make sure you’re clear that the compensation for a psychological injury incurred within personal injury cases isn’t just about covering medical bills and financial losses.
It’s also about recognising the immense pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by these injuries. This is where common law claims damages come into play.
Common law damages are intended to provide monetary relief for a victim’s non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering experienced due to a psychological injury that directly stems from the incident.
They’re designed to compensate for intangible harm, which, though difficult to quantify in exact numbers, is of significant value. The precise amount awarded depends on the severity and duration of the psychological injury and its overall impact on the victim’s life.
Again, if you’re going through this process yourself, it’s crucial to get an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the ins and outs of your particular case and how it stands within the confines of the law.
Then, and only then, you can present your case in the best possible way, allowing you to heal physically and emotionally and set out to get your life back on track after your accident as quickly as possible.
Navigating the complex terrain of psychological injury claims means addressing physical pain and the often-overlooked psychological trauma.
Recognising the deep emotional scars that linger even after physical wounds have healed is key to comprehending the full impact of these injuries.
We must advocate for victims, ensuring their voices are heard and their unseen wounds attended to.
Don’t neglect your mental health if you’ve suffered a personal injury. Seek medical, psychological and legal support.
Remember, it’s not just about healing physically but reclaiming your life from the grips of trauma.
We’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out.