Part VII: Injuries and Damages

Psychological Injuries

Monetary compensation for psychological injuries such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and phobias needing professional help are recoverable in most cases with proper psychiatric or psychological care and the use of psychoactive medications in many cases.

In one automobile accident case, a father and his 16-yearold daughter were seriously injured in a horrendous head-on collision. However, a 15-year-old cousin who was sitting in the back seat with her seatbelt on escaped with just a few cuts and bruises. The newspaper that covered the crash dubbed her lack of serious injuries a “miracle.” Fast forward six months: the father and daughter are well on their way to full recoveries. However, things could hardly be worse for the “miracle girl” who avoided any physical injury with nary a scratch.

Soon after the accident, the girl began getting anxious when riding in a car. These feelings of general anxiety progressed to full-blown panic attacks that prevented the girl from riding in a car at all. Eventually, the girl’s anxiety and panic became so strong that she was afraid to leave the house without a safe companion, and she was becoming frightened of leaving the house even with a safe person. The girl had developed a psychiatric condition known as panic disorder with agoraphobia that rendered her housebound. While she needed mental health care to overcome her fears, the girl was too scared to leave home to travel to the office of a psychiatrist or psychologist. She also developed severe depression.

The point of this case is to demonstrate that even when a person escapes serious physical injury, he may develop severe psychological damages that significantly impair his functioning in and enjoyment of life. And it doesn’t have to be a serious accident to cause severe psychological injuries.

People who get in serious accidents can develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the same type of anxiety that combat soldiers often develop. The person may suffer nightmares about being in the accident, wake up in the middle of a summer’s night in a cold sweat, duck for cover at loud noises such as a car backfiring, etc.

Many people who have been involved in an accident develop major depressive disorder (MDD), even if they were not physically harmed or suffered only superficial physical injuries. The outgoing, high-achieving high school student who was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident but escaped with only a few cuts and bruises may turn sullen, lose interest in activities she used to enjoy, sleep too much or too little, experience fatigue or tiredness throughout the day, feel worthless or guilty, or have a diminished ability to think or concentrate. At its most serious, depression may result in having recurrent thoughts of death and suicidal ideations. In the worst case scenario, if the depressed individual does not get adequate mental health care in time, she may commit suicide, all stemming from an accident she was involved in but didn’t suffer any serious physical injuries.

Psychological damage resulting from another person’s careless conduct is real, debilitating, and sometimes deadly. If you find that a family member or loved one is acting differently since he has been involved in an accident of any type, encourage that person to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist for a mental health evaluation. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.), while a psychologist is either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Without a proper mental health checkup, your loved one may suffer excruciating psychic pain and lose all interest in others, things he used to enjoy, and even life itself. With proper psychotherapy and/or psychoactive medication, your loved one should be back to his old self again in several months.