Can I Sue for Emotional Distress After a North Carolina Car Accident?

November 18, 2020 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
Can I Sue for Emotional Distress After a North Carolina Car Accident?

How to Sue or File a Claim for Emotional Injury After a Car Accident

In North Carolina, you can file a claim for emotional injury after a car accident provided certain criteria are met.

You can sue or file a claim for emotional distress after a car accident in North Carolina provided that certain legal elements are met. Many people know that you can recover for physical injuries incurred in a car accident, but you can also recover for emotional damages when certain criteria are met.

THE SHORT STORY: The laws in North Carolina are complex, and some courts have disallowed certain claims for mental distress or anguish. Every case is different, but in the context of an auto accident, claims for mental distress or psychological injuries are generally compensable if they are accompanied by a physical injury, no matter how minor. It is also helpful if a medical professional will provide a diagnosis, such as PTSD.

Car accident victims may suffer from serious or even life-threatening physical injuries from the crash, but the often untold story is that many also suffer from emotional injuries (such as PTSD) that are arguably just as severe or even more severe than the physical harm. When you have been injured in a car accident, economic damages like medical bills, lost wages, and diminished lifetime earnings can be easily presented in quantifiable numbers to the insurance company, but the emotional injuries that often accompany a car accident cannot be so easily calculated. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can help argue for compensation for “non-economic” damages like short and long-term emotional distress, mental anguish, and changes in mood and behavior.

Depending on the circumstances of your crash, you may be able to receive financial compensation for emotional injury. At Riddle & Brantley, we want to assure you that you do NOT have to go it alone during this incredibly challenging time.

Proving a claim for emotional damages can be a big undertaking, requiring the experience and skill of a qualified attorney. If you decide to hire us, we are here to take the burden of legal action off your shoulders and to fight tenaciously for maximum compensation on your behalf.

IMPORTANT: For a FREE, no-obligation consultation with a compassionate and dedicated North Carolina personal injury lawyer, call Riddle & Brantley today at 1-800-525-7111. There are no upfront costs and no attorney fees unless we win your case.

How Can I Prove Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

In North Carolina, to prove a claim for emotional injury, the plaintiff must meet several legal elements:

  • You must prove that the defendant’s behavior was negligent
  • You need to show that it was reasonably foreseeable for the defendant that this behavior would cause you severe emotional distress
  • You must demonstrate that this behavior did indeed cause severe emotional distress for you

What Is Negligence?

Breaking this down even further, we’ll take a look at what you need to do in order to prove that the defendant was negligent when filing a claim for emotional distress from a car accident. To prove that a defendant acted negligently, your claim must demonstrate the following:

  • That the defendant owed you a duty of care. Between citizens, this is generally viewed as a duty of reasonable care.
  • The defendant breached this duty. In other words, he or she did not behave reasonably.
  • This breach of duty was the actual cause of your injury.
  • Your injury was a direct and foreseeable result of the defendant’s breach of his or her duty.
  • You suffered actual damages because of the defendant’s breach of duty.

What Does “Reasonably Foreseeable” Mean?

Once you have established that the defendant was negligent, you must prove that it was reasonably foreseeable that this behavior would cause severe emotional distress for you. An injury is considered to be “reasonably foreseeable” if a reasonable, average person could have anticipated the injury would occur under a given certain set of circumstances. What constitutes “reasonable” and “negligent” behavior can also depend on the situation. For example, some people in certain positions, such as medical professionals, can be held to a higher standard of care in treating patients.

"How Do I Prove That I've Experienced Severe Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?"

After providing that the defendant acted negligently by breaching a duty of care, you must then demonstrate that you did indeed suffer from severe emotional distress because of the accident. North Carolina courts set a high bar as to what rises to the level of severe emotional distress. This means that your emotional distress must be more than just a temporary fear or disappointment.  Instead, plaintiffs must demonstrate that their emotional distress is severe and disabling to their everyday life.

Instead, you must show that you now suffer from severe, disabling emotional or mental distress for which mental health practitioners would typically diagnose and prescribe treatment. Some common examples of this include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic depression, anxiety, or phobia.  If you have experienced severe emotional distress from witnesses the injury or death or a loved one caused by the negligence of another person, you may also be able to succeed in a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. To prove this claim; however, you must show that your distress was an immediate and foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. Plaintiffs who succeed on this type of claim must also be able to show that they were at the same location where the incident occurred and witnessed the incident occur to recover damages.

Whether you have suffered several emotional distress from your own accident or witnessed the accident of a loved one, having an accomplished attorney on your side can make all the difference in proving your case for emotional damages. At Riddle & Brantley, we firmly believe that Justice Counts, and we put that belief to work when we fight tirelessly for your legal right to full and fair compensation after a car wreck.

Call us today at 1-800-525-7111 to speak with a North Carolina car accident injury lawyer. All consultations are 100% free of charge and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive financial compensation.

Evidence to Prove Emotional Distress After a Car Accident

If you have suffered severe, life-changing emotional distress after a car accident, do not expect a Court to just take your word for it.  You will have to show that the defendant meets all elements of a negligence claim and provide documented proof of your serious emotional injury.

To present a successful claim, your personal injury attorney will gather evidence to prove the extent of your emotional damages.  This evidence may include:

  • Testimony from a medical professional or mental health professional that has treated you
  • Proof that you can no longer perform your job now or in the future
  • Evidence that your daily activity in terms of hobbies, games, and sports is significantly stunted
  • Written affidavits from relatives and friends that confirm your suffering
  • Your personal testimony regarding your mental health

The Emotional-Physical Connection: Not Required in North Carolina

Unlike many other states, North Carolina does not require that plaintiffs allege or prove that their severe emotional distress manifested in a physical manner, like weight loss, irregular heartbeat, or other physical symptoms. The North Carolina Supreme Court has also held that a plaintiff does not need to allege or prove a physical injury to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Seeking Compensation for Emotional Injury After a Car Accident?

At Riddle & Brantley, our car accident attorneys have more than 220 years of combined experience in successfully handling cases involving serious personal injury, including emotional pain and suffering following a motor vehicle accident.

Call a North Carolina car accident attorney at our firm at 1-800-525-7111 for a free and confidential consultation. Not a penny will come out of your pocket for attorney fees unless we prevail in your case.

Justice Counts.