Can You Claim for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident in Virginia?

We are often asked by people who have been hurt in a car wreck if they can claim compensation for emotional distress after a Virginia car accident. The answer is yes.

People get injured in car accidents every day. They have medical bills. They have injuries that may be serious or life-threatening.

People often ask if they can recover for emotional distress after a Virginia car accident. In the Commonwealth, you can recover for emotional distress. What that means is you’ve been injured, you’ve been hurt, so the emotional distress comes into play because the law allows you to recover for your inconvenience for the suffering you went through, for the emotional injuries.

Your life post-accident may be very different from before a car collision occurred. Oftentimes, the emotional distress is worse than any medical bills and is even more serious than the injury because you are so changed by what happened to you in a car crash in Virginia Beach, Newport News or elsewhere.

However, there are limitations on recovery for emotional distress in Virginia. Lawsuits in which emotional distress alone has been claimed have not always succeeded. Virginia will only allow a plaintiff to recover for emotional distress when:

  • The emotional distress is accompanied by a physical injury
  • Or it is the result of intentional or reckless conduct.

The second factor means if a defendant is negligent as opposed to reckless, you may not be able to recover for your emotional distress in the absence of a physical injury.

While some states automatically allow you to recover for distress caused by negligence if there is no injury, Virginia does not.

In the 1974 case of Womack v. Eldridge, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled a party could claim for emotional distress without a physical injury if the at-fault party’s conduct was intentional or reckless, intolerable, outrageous, and a causal connection is established. The emotional distress should be severe.

There are many kinds of emotional distress after a Virginia car accident. An injured driver or passenger may suffer from depression. As many as 10 percent of people who are involved in a serious car crash suffer from PTSD. You may suffer from sleep-related disorders and your family life is likely to suffer.

You can then recover for the damages related to depression or PTSD as part of the overall harm caused by the car wreck. However, if you merely suffered from depression after the accident, no matter how severe the symptoms, you may not be able to sue if you were not physically injured unless the accident was intentional or there was recklessness.

An experienced Virginia car accident injury lawyer can help you if you suffered emotional distress after a car, truck, bus or motorcycle wreck in the Commonwealth. Please call us at (757) 333-3333 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Nothing contained in this blog is intended to constitute legal advice. Read more about VA motor vehicle wrecks on our website.

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