Mental Injuries Are Complex Factors
When something extreme and negative happens to a person, this can affect the victim on multiple levels. A child, for example, who has never known anything but love and support from parents is going to be deeply affected by a traffic accident in which he or she is not only injured, but witnesses the death of the parents. This means, obviously, that in addition to the injuries that the child needs to be physically treated for, there is the emotional and psychological toll of witnessing the death of the parents. There may also be subsequent developmental issues that can arise from growing up as an orphan.
But even for adults, there is often an associated “mental injury” that can come from negative experiences. Soldiers returning from war, for example may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. People who have been victimized by sexual assault often share similar PTSD afflictions. In some cases, these mental injuries, such as anxiety, depression, or even an inability to take part in normal, everyday activities could have been easily avoided.
A person, for example, who is bitten by an out of control dog may suffer from a phobia of dogs thereafter, but if the owner had simply kept the dog on a leash, this could have prevented the injury and mental injury. This is why mental injuries, otherwise known as emotional pain and suffering, or emotional distress, may be a part of a lawsuit.
Not In Isolation
One thing that is important keep in mind is that despite the profound, possibly lifelong effects of a mental injury, it is very difficult to go to court, or even make a claim for workers compensation strictly on the basis of emotional distress/suffering. There have been attempts in Florida to change this at the state law level. People have begun to realize, for example, that emergency first response teams that go to shootings on a regular basis, are exposed to a far higher level of horrific experiences than most other people, and may legitimately contract post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their job.
Under ordinary circumstances, it is extremely difficult to get a lawsuit off the ground with only a mental injury as the source of the dispute. Someone involved in a car accident, especially one with lifelong disabilities as a result of the injury, may choose to add mental injury to the list of other causes for going to court. The same can be said right now for people filing for workers compensation if a specific injury leads to trauma. Even other non-injury related lawsuits, such as sexual harassment at the workplace, or wrongful termination, can have mental injuries added on as reinforcement.
Keep this in mind while considering going to an experienced lawyer for a personal injury lawsuit, or even a workplace accident. Florida law does recognize the effects and legitimacy of mental injuries on a person’s life.
However, that law is quite reluctant to address only a mental injury, and it is often far easier to tack it on as a “rider” to other primary causes in a lawsuit.