Despite the title, this article is not about the insurance industry’s perspective that a large portion of the population fabricates or exaggerates their symptoms (I’ll save that for another day), but is about accident victims who legitimately suffer from psychological injuries as a result of their accidents.
What is a psychological injury? A psychological injury is a psychological condition, such as, but not limited to: depression, anxiety, panic disorder, various kinds of phobias, addiction, somatoform disorders, adjustment disorder, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that is caused or aggravated by an accident.
Doctors and lawyers will usually consider the possibility of psychological injury where you are in a serious accident and they anticipate emotional or mental problems will arise due to the severity of the injuries, threat of death, or severity of injury or death of others involved in the accident. However, where these factors are not present, psychological injuries often get overlooked because they are not visible or recognized in the same way that physical injuries are. Further, while there has been some progress over the years, being labelled with a psychological condition continues to attract a negative stereotype in our society. As a result, many clients are reluctant to tell their doctors about their emotional and mental health concerns even when asked.
Psychological injuries are a fairly common occurrence in motor vehicle accidents and other personal injury claims. In some cases the client has had a pre-existing history of psychological illness and the accident has caused a relapse or made the condition worse. Alternatively, there may be no history of psychological illness and the accident is the sole cause or a significant contributing factor to the condition. Where there is a pre-existing history of psychological illness, clients are often reluctant to bring up their current emotional or mental health concerns out of fear of having to discuss past problems. However, individuals with a pre-existing psychological illness are more likely to experience future problems then individuals with no history of psychological illness.
If you are suffering emotionally or mentally as a result of an accident, it is important that you discuss your symptoms with your family doctor. While you might be suffering from a psychological illness, you might also be experiencing normal symptoms related to your physical injuries or you might be experiencing side effects from medication. Your doctor will help you determine the cause of your symptoms and whether a further assessment or treatment is necessary. Unfortunately, many personal injury clients do not discuss their concerns with their doctor. Failure to treat psychological conditions in a timely manner can have a significant impact on both your physical and mental recovery from an accident.
You are entitled to be compensated for both physical and psychological injuries caused by the negligent party. As a result, you should also always address any emotional or mental problems you are having with your lawyer. Failure to raise emotional and mental health concerns in a timely manner may preclude you from successfully claiming damages for your psychological injury. If you are experiencing symptoms of a psychological injury your lawyer should be able to help you seek the medical assistance you need to address your symptoms and can advise you on whether your symptoms or condition will impact the value of your claim.
*Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.