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The Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, P.C.

Emotional distress after auto accidents: pain and suffering, mental anguish

Barry G. Doyle
Illinois accident lawyer and Chicago nursing home lawyer providing FREE information to help those in need.

When someone is injured (or killed) in an auto accident in Illinois, civil law provides a means for the victim (or his or her surviving family members) to receive relief. Medical expenses from injuries or treatment can be reimbursed. Compensation can be paid out to account for unearned wages.


But the law also considers psychological damage to the plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death lawsuits. This compensation is intended to address the emotional distress that arises from the effects and consequences of an auto accident.

There are two terms commonly used to describe emotional distress. Pain and suffering refers to the effects brought on by the injuries themselves, and is influenced by the type of injury, length of time the victim suffers, and the extent and/or severity of the pain. Mental anguish refers to the emotional responses to the traumatic experience of a crash, such as anxiety, grief, worry, and fright; as well as how the victim's well-being is impacted by the accident's consequences (for instance, feeling embarrassed to go out in public after a disfiguring wreck).

There is no hard-and-fast formula to compute non-economic damages. Juries can award monetary damages for pain and suffering and/or mental anguish if the plaintiffs can provide testimony and evidence related to their current emotional or psychological state and how it has changed as a result of the accident. (A 1995 law passed in Illinois limited these types on non-economic damages to $500,000 per case, but the law was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.)

In addition, plaintiffs can seek economic damages that pertain to their psychological costs.

These costs are more easily quantifiable, and may pertain to the expenses incurred from:

  • psychological outpatient therapy sessions
  • inpatient psychiatric treatment
  • medications to regulate one's mood or mental state
  • loss of income due to a mental or emotional inability to work or drive

These costs can also apply to the family members of a loved one who was killed in an accident, and may be awarded in a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit against the individuals or parties responsible for the incident.

Since it can be difficult to properly calculate total damages related to the psychological toll of an accident, it's vital that victims engage the service of an experienced auto accident attorney. He has the knowledge and skills to obtain the appropriate amount of financial relief for plaintiffs in any lawsuit that is filed after an auto accident.