Did you get into an accident that was not your fault? If so, not only are you entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages related to the accident, but you are also entitled to “pain and suffering” damages. Pain and suffering cover not only actual physical pain but also the emotional distress and trauma you have experienced due to the accident.
Georgia’s law operates under the “impact rule” when determining whether a plaintiff can recover for emotional distress. Unlike many other states, Georgia law allows emotional distress recovery only if there is a corresponding “impact” resulting in physical injury to the individual as well.
There are three elements to the impact rule.
- First, the plaintiff must have suffered an actual, physical “impact.”
- Second, that actual physical impact must have resulted in physical injury to the individual
- Third, the actual physical injury must have directly caused emotional distress.
According to the Georgia Supreme Court, the impact rule was put into place as a means of minimizing the number of “frivolous” lawsuits. Keep in mind that the impact rule does not govern all claims of negligence, only those claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The impact rule comes into play when, as an example, a parent watches their child die in a horrible accident. Since the parent was not also physically injured at the time, he or she may not claim emotional distress.
This means that in most types of personal injury accidents, the plaintiffs are allowed compensation for emotional distress.
As an example, in a car accident, there is almost always physical injury which can, in turn, lead to emotional distress. Emotional distress is any type of stress that prevents an individual from acting or living the way they want—or in the manner in which they did before the accident.
The most common types of emotional distress include (but are not limited to):
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Humiliation and embarrassment
- Sleep disorders
- Substance abuse
- Persistent grief
- Loss of quality of life or loss of enjoyment of life
With an accompanying physical injury, Georgia’s laws regarding pain and suffering awards are relatively broad, allowing a jury to determine emotional distress damages with no monetary cap.
How Do I Prove My Emotional Distress?
Assuming you have a physical injury as well as emotional distress, you may wonder how you prove your emotional distress. After all, emotional distress is relatively subjective, therefore, more difficult to prove. Your attorney may employ several methods to prove emotional distress and secure fair compensation for that emotional distress. Of course, all your medical bills are pertinent, since the physical injuries caused the pain and suffering. Your attorney may also use the following to prove your emotional distress:
- Your medical prognosis—a doctor’s statement concerning how your physical and emotional injuries can be expected to heal, and the time frame for that healing. In some cases, injuries may not ever fully heal, leaving lasting emotional distress. As an example, if you suffered facial lacerations in a car accident that subsequently led to scarring and disfigurement, and that scarring and disfigurement led to emotional distress, there might or might not be an actual date of full healing.
- Expert testimony concerning how your physical injuries caused emotional distress.
- Psychiatric records if you have sought counseling or medications to help your emotional distress
- Testimony from friends, family members, co-workers, or others close to you who can attest to how your emotional distress has altered your normal life.
Some changes to your lifestyle caused by a physical injury that could be expected to lead to emotional distress might include:
- An accident that left you with traumatic brain injuries
- Injuries to your spinal cord causing full or partial paralysis
- Limb amputation
- Severe burns
- A physical injury that left you unable to effectively communicate
- A physical injury that caused partial or total blindness or deafness
- A physical injury that resulted in infertility
How is Emotional Distress Compensated?
Once your attorney proves your emotional distress, it must be determined how much that emotional distress is worth. In some cases, a multiplier—usually between 1.5 and 5—is used. The total economic damages (lost wages, future lost wages, medical expenses, and future medical expenses) are multiplied to reach a total compensation for emotional distress. If the injuries are severe and may never fully resolve, the multiplier might be a 5, while if the injuries are less severe and can be expected to fully resolve in, say, a year, the multiplier might be a 2 or 3. Your Georgia personal injury attorney can answer your questions and explain how you may be entitled to compensation for your emotional distress.
Contact Our Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers
For years, the Kim Law Team has helped injured car accident victims recover all the compensation they need – and deserve after accidents. To better help you, our law firm offers FREE initial consultations and reviews, so you can get the answers you need – when you need them. Call 404-587-8946 or fill out our confidential contact form. Just call and JUST WIN.