After an accident that results in physical pain, doctors, family members, and the victim themselves may believe the answer to their problem lies in medicine. However, the mental health of the victim should never be overlooked simply because it cannot be seen. During litigation, an expert witness such as a psychologist or mental health therapist may be called to testify, should the case go to trial.
This is due in part to what a jury can’t see often being ignored or forgotten during the process of awarding the proper damages to the victim and their family. From a legal standpoint, this is one way to ensure that a victim’s mental health is not left behind in the physical pain that may be presented during the trial.
However, when the trial is over and the damages are awarded to the victim, the mental anguish they continue to suffer does not simply cease when the ink dries on the check. It’s quite the opposite that occurs. While physical pain and suffering may be treatable and have a clearly defined road to recovery (physical therapy, joint replacement, lifelong targeted treatments), mental anguish is a less understood and therefore a less often treated consequence of a serious accident caused by another.
In this article we’ll clearly explain to our readers what defines mental anguish and why an experienced attorney with the right qualifications (board certified, as we consistently stress on the Blog!) will never overlook the lifelong mental and emotional pain and suffering caused after a victim suffers catastrophic injuries in an accident for which they were not at-fault.
The invisibility problem
The problem most jurors and those involved in deciding the outcome of a case have with mental anguish (as well as depression and other emotional consequences of a catastrophic injury) is that if it can’t be seen, it cannot be proven. An experienced lawyer will know the first step to tackling this preconceived notion and proving it false is to utilize Demonstrative Aids. We covered Demonstrative Aids in depth in the article Demonstrative Aids: An Important Tool in Preparing Successful Cases.
One example as to how a lawyer may attempt to provide readily visible evidence of mental anguish in the case of a traumatic brain injury, is to utilize accident recreation to show the severity of what happened during and shortly after the accident. This accident recreation may include a timeline to show the trauma minute-by-minute that the victim experienced, as much through their eyes as is possible. This accident recreation is meant to provide a clearer, more “visible” picture for those litigating the case. Accident recreation and its accompanying timeline can provide proof to any verbal testimony provided as to why the victim may be suffering from PTSD, flashbacks to the accident, depression, and isolation from friends and family.
All of the aforementioned can be lifelong, even after the physical injuries have healed and the victim has visibly recovered.
The tip of the mental iceberg
To provide a quick metaphor: people who suffer from depression or any form of mental or emotional distress often relate this form of pain to “sinking” or “drowning”, thus we must look at how mental anguish after a catastrophic accident is only the tip of the iceberg. Mental anguish, or living with constant reminders of the accident, have various forms in which they manifest in an accident victim.
PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common but far too often overlooked after an accident that causes physical trauma to the body. While injuries in a physical sense may heal, PTSD is a lifetime affliction. Stress so extreme it may cause the victim to panic, feel anxiety, and become unable to function because the fear of the accident recurring weighs so heavily upon them on a daily basis must be treated by the proper mental health professionals. Psychologists who specialize in PTSD patients can provide the emotional “tools” a victim can use during periods of extreme anxiety.
Flashbacks: Much like PTSD, flashbacks occur and can constantly remind an accident victim of the trauma they experienced. Flashbacks can be triggered by the things most of us wouldn’t even consider to be emotionally upsetting. A motorcycle whizzing by on the road may remind a traumatic brain injury victim of their own motorcycle-related collision, causing them to become anxious, further isolating them from friends and family out of fear they may suffer another accident.
Depression: After an accident the long physical road to recovery health-wise, the victim may have been out of work for an extended period of time, unable to participate in the life they once enjoyed, or suffered great financial losses due to unpaid medical expenses. All of these things, coupled with what may be permanent physical injury, can lead to severe depression. CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) after an accident is known as “the suicide disease” because patients are often unable to cope mentally with the physical pain inflicted upon them. Victims who have become isolated due to extended hospital stays or the inability to go out and live life to the fullest may feel isolated from their friends and loved ones, causing them to further feel the weight of depression on their shoulders.
There is hope
An experienced lawyer knows the numbers on the check are secondary to their client’s return to better physical and mental health. In an effort to provide their client with the lifelong expenses of psychologists, therapists, and any medications prescribed to treat depression and anxiety, an attorney will call in expert witnesses backed with Demonstrative Aids to assist them in obtaining the maximum compensation for their client. This compensation is not looked at as a “win” for it’s high (sometimes multimillion dollar) amount; it’s looked at as a win for both attorney and client because it will provide for the ongoing care an accident victim needs for the rest of their life. Removing this financial burden from the client also serves to eliminate some of the anxiety, depression, and mental anguish they may be feeling after they’ve suffered due to the reckless behavior of someone else.