​Can I Sue for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?

Car accidents often cause people to experience anxiety like never before. They may find it difficult to drive again or to ride in a car driven by someone else. Victims may even experience flashbacks similar to those associated with PTSD.

Physical injuries from a car accident can make it extremely difficult for you to go about your normal life and activities, but so too can emotional traumas.

Can you sue for anxiety, emotional distress, or other emotional challenges following a car accident? The short answer is yes.

Obtaining the compensation you deserve, however, may prove more difficult than you expect. From a legal standpoint, the ability to receive compensation for emotional distress depends on the ability of your attorney to demonstrate the negative impact the accident had on your life and construct a strong legal argument for liability that shows the other party’s negligence directly caused your symptoms.

Get Help Now


Available 24/7

Our specialists are here to listen and help for free, no strings attached.

for a free consultation

Request a consultation online

Negligence and Intentional Harm Can Cause Emotional Distress

When creating a strong legal claim, your attorney must determine whether the infliction of emotional distress was intentional or negligent.

For example, suppose the other driver intentionally crashed into your car out of road rage or to provoke a street race. In that case, you can argue that emotional distress was intentional. In these cases, society may judge the defendant’s behavior as extreme, shocking, outrageous, or intolerable.

A court will likely consider the other driver negligent if they violated a statutory duty and broke the law – such as texting while driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or driving through a red light.

What Does Emotional Distress After A Car Accident Look Like?

After a car accident, emotional distress can take many forms. You will need to identify the specific emotional stress resulting from your car accident before you can claim compensation for emotional distress.

If, for instance, you were diagnosed with depression before the car accident, and it did not improve after the accident, it is unlikely you can recover compensation for the cost of treating it.

Alternatively, if you have recently been diagnosed with depression following a car accident, you may be eligible for compensation for emotional or psychological distress.


Traumatic events can result in post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Getting into a car accident can be traumatic for anyone. Something is terrifying and mentally scarring about the sudden collision of the automobiles, the crunch of metal, and the pain of the crash itself.

People trapped in their vehicles may experience increased mental and emotional suffering, especially if the vehicle is in the middle of traffic or the accident exposes them to other health and safety hazards.

PTSD may manifest in a variety of ways. Car accident victims often go to great lengths to avoid being reminded of the car accident. This means, for some people, not going past the accident’s location, which might be on the most direct route to their work and other destinations. Others may be unable to get into a car at all.

In its most extreme form, PTSD can result in flashbacks about the accident, where a trigger sends the victim back to that time and forces them to go through it again. It can be difficult for someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to get behind the wheel of a car or even to ride along in one.

Symptoms such as pain or discomfort can also interfere with daily life, such as when just seeing a car or the location where the accident occurred.


After a car accident, some people experience new or increased anxiety, feeling tense, worried, or upset over seemingly ordinary, everyday issues. You might be concerned that you might suffer serious injuries if you get into a car when you are anxious. Even if you do your best to avoid places and situations that trigger those emotions, you will still find them steadily increasing after your car accident, especially if you don’t work through them with a therapist.

A car accident can lead to anxiety that appears, on the surface, to have little or nothing to do with the accident itself. For example, you may not understand why you feel uncomfortable going into a crowded area or why you jump at sudden loud noises. However, these triggers often have some connection to the accident itself.

Everyday events can trigger anxiety related to a car accident, disrupting everyday life in unexpected ways.


Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, can be debilitating, snuffing out all motivation to live. Often, victims of car accidents feel as though they will never recover, that their injuries have disrupted their lives and taken away most of what they enjoy. After serious car accidents, many suffer from a loss of enjoyment of life.

When someone has suffered an injury in a car accident, it is often very difficult for them to interact normally with other people at a time when they need others’ support the most. A victim may, for example, feel reluctant to reach out for support from loved ones, especially those who might not understand what they are going through.

A victim of depression may be unable to sleep, eat, or perform at work. With depression, many people feel drained of energy and unable to go about their daily routines.

An experienced professional should diagnose conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and others and determine whether they stem from a car accident. An accurate diagnosis of those conditions by a medical professional is often crucial to establishing your right to compensation for pain and suffering following your car accident.

A Guide to Claiming Compensation for Emotional Trauma After a Car Accident

After a car accident, can you claim compensation for emotional trauma? You can recover compensation for emotional distress after a car accident, however, based on the steps you take immediately after the accident and in the weeks and months following.

Always Contact a Lawyer First

It wasn’t your fault that you were in a car accident, but now you find that you’re always anxious. In addition to significantly impacting your ability to work, you now worry about seemingly normal things that did not cause you anxiety before the accident. A psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker can link your anxiety to your car accident.

Whether or not you suffered an injury in the accident, you need an attorney to guide you through the legal process.

There are several key elements of compensation in most car accident claims. Furthermore, you can claim compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish, in addition to medical expenses.

An experienced car accident attorney knows how to seek compensation for these injuries. Because of this, speak honestly with your attorney about all the harm you endured following the accident, both physical and emotional. Your attorney should understand the nature of the emotional distress you experienced, any diagnoses you have received, and the challenges you are now facing.

Even without suffering physical injuries, you might seek compensation for emotional distress. You may have a harder time recovering compensation for emotional harm if you do not have serious physical injuries, but it is worth it to have a legal professional evaluate your case.

The success of your emotional distress claim may depend heavily on an attorney’s ability to show:

  1. It was the car accident that caused you that emotional distress (rather than some other circumstance); and
  2. PTSD, anxiety, or depression significantly affects your life or finances due to your emotional distress.

Consulting a Medical Professional

After a car accident, you will likely rely on medical professionals to identify your injuries and provide the appropriate treatment. You can use these medical records as evidence to show when those injuries occurred and what they are, thus increasing your chances of recovering compensation.

Your lawyer should handle mental and emotional injuries the same way. Still, instead of consulting a physical physician, you should consult a psychiatrist who specializes in mental and emotional harm and conditions and can prescribe a treatment plan. Working with a psychiatrist also helps establish evidence regarding the emotional distress you experienced due to your car accident.

A car accident can affect many aspects of a victim’s life, and a psychiatrist can establish the source and effect of the symptoms you are experiencing. A psychologist or psychiatrist can help establish causation between the accident and a mental or emotional condition for which the victim is seeking compensation.

Do Not Speak With the Insurance Company Yourself

After a car accident, you may find dealing with the insurance company difficult. You may feel even more helpless and overwhelmed when they repeatedly deny compensation for a valid claim.

When seeking compensation for mental and emotional harms, hire an attorney instead of dealing with the insurance company alone. An experienced car accident attorney can help you and the insurance company understand the compensation you truly need and deserve for your physical and emotional injuries.

You need to hire an attorney if you suffer emotional distress from a crash. Insurance adjusters will look for any excuse not to compensate you. Have you claimed crippling depression that has prevented you from working? An insurance adjuster may use social media mentions of weekend plans with friends and loved ones to challenge whether you deserve compensation for emotional distress.

Furthermore, you may have more difficulty seeking compensation if your distress is related to a condition you had before the accident. You might have experienced anxiety before the accident, but it was nowhere near as severe and frequent as the agitation you experienced afterward. Even so, your insurance company will likely use any pre-existing condition to deny or minimize your claim.

Let your lawyer handle all interactions with the insurance company. Lawyers have the knowledge and experience to prove your suffering and secure the compensation you deserve after a car accident.

How Much Compensation Can You Claim for Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?

If you suffer emotional distress, you can receive compensation depending on the insurance policy of the liable party and how well your attorney can argue the cause and impact of your distress. After a car accident, emotional distress victims usually claim a few common costs.

Treatment Costs for Psychiatric Ailments

As with treating the body, treating the mind can be expensive; it is often necessary to see a mental health professional on an ongoing basis, even more frequently than you might see a medical doctor. You may have to start taking expensive prescription medication temporarily or permanently to manage your symptoms. You can claim all of these medical costs.

Loss of Wages Due to Emotional Distress

PTSD, depression, and anxiety are some of the kinds of emotional distress that make it hard to work. If, in the middle of the workday, you have a panic attack or flashback to your accident, you may have trouble taking care of customer service. If you missed work or lost your job because of the emotional distress you suffered after your car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for those lost wages.

Loss of Quality of Life and Emotional Anguish

Along with the tangible financial losses you sustained while you sought treatment for your emotional distress, you may suffer immensely, especially if you suffered a loss of quality of life due to your car accident injuries. A lawyer can help you determine what types of compensation you are eligible to receive.

Your Family Members May Also Seek Emotional Distress Damages

Lawyers sometimes ask for emotional damages for spouses or children of those who witness an accident. The members of a household can suffer greatly, even if they were not directly injured.

After a car accident, you (and possibly your family members) may seek damages for emotional distress.

Contacting a car accident lawyer is the single best thing you can do to obtain emotional distress damages.

July 1, 2022
Boohoff Icon

Free Consultation

We Are Here For You 24/7


“Boohoff Law definitely stands behind integrity. Tatiana is not only a fantastic attorney in her expertise, she’s also down-to-earth – truly a people person.”
– Elissa M.

“Really pleased with Boohoff Law! Received immediate responses when I had any questions. Treated amazingly by all staff … made this process a true breeze!”

– Caitlyn M.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. They made me feel right at home.”
– Brandy K.

Related Posts

What to Do After a Boat Accident in Tampa

You must seek immediate medical attention after a boat accident in Tampa. Your next step should be hiring a qualified Tampa boat accident lawyer to seek fair compensation for your accident-related damages from any at-fault parties. An attorney can pursue your financial recovery while you recover from any injuries suffered during the boat accident. The […]

Who Is Liable: The Car Owner or Driver?

When someone causes an accident in a car they don’t own, they may share liability. However, the vehicle owner’s insurance provider often bears primary responsibility for covering victims’ accident-related losses. If the car owner’s insurance does not provide adequate coverage for your losses, you may then seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Insurance […]

What to Do if a Car Hits You From Behind

If a car hits you from behind, the motorist who hit you is likely liable for your accident-related damages. You should seek the compensation you deserve by hiring a car accident lawyer to lead your case. You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible, as this will protect your health and benefit your […]

Recovery is personal.

We recover millions for our clients every month, but we know that every case is different and that recovery is personal.
“Boohoff Law definitely stands behind integrity. Tatiana is not only a fantastic attorney in her expertise, she’s also down-to-earth – truly a people person.”
– Elissa M.
% star rating
“Really pleased with Boohoff Law! Received immediate responses when I had any questions. Treated amazingly by all staff … made this process a true breeze!”
– Caitlyn M.
5 star rating
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. They made me feel right at home.”
– Brandy K.

You're better off with Boohoff.