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A Guide to Recovering Emotionally After an Accident


After an accident, physical injuries can take months to heal. But emotional wounds may last even longer—affecting your ability to work, connect with family and friends, and even perform daily tasks.


Emotional distress differs for everyone. While some may experience minimal emotional stress after a car accident or workplace injury, others may experience debilitating anxiety that significantly impacts their lives.


In this brief guide, we'll give you a rundown of what qualifies as emotional distress, how to recover, and how to get compensation.


What Qualifies as Emotional Distress?

Whether you were hit by a car, bitten by a dog, or injured in a work accident, you suffered both physically and emotionally as a result. You likely felt stressed, anxious, or depressed. These symptoms occurred because of your physical suffering, but also because the accident happened outside your control, making you lose your sense of security.


Besides stress, anxiety, and depression, common symptoms of emotional distress include:

  • Humiliation

  • Fright

  • Crying spells

  • Sleep loss and fatigue

  • Frustration

  • Guilt and shame

  • Anger

  • Mood swings

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Aches and pains

  • Racing heartbeat


These symptoms may last for several months, but should fade over time. You can mitigate the effects by doing some of the following:

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Exercising daily

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Maintaining a consistent daily schedule

  • Seeking help from friends, family members, and religious leaders

  • Trying relaxing exercises like meditation, yoga, nature walks, and journal writing


It is not helpful to ignore your feelings and hope they'll go away. Accept and acknowledge your feelings so you can move on. However, if the symptoms become severe and dissipate, consider whether you need professional help.


When Should You Seek Professional Help?

Talk to a doctor or therapist if you experience the following:

  • Severe anxiety or depression

  • Flashbacks and nightmares

  • Inability to maintain close relationships

  • Trouble functioning at work

  • Avoidance of things that remind you of the accident

  • Drug and alcohol use as a coping mechanism


The therapist will use various therapies and techniques to help you heal from the emotional distress. Stay patient as you recover; everyone recovers at a different pace.


Can You Get Compensation for Emotional Distress?

Just as you can get compensation for medical bills and lost wages, you can also receive compensation for emotional distress. You'll need to prove that the distress relates to the injuries from the accident, that it's ongoing, and that it affects your daily life.


As you meet with a personal injury lawyer, he or she may ask you for evidence of your emotional suffering, such as:

  • A daily record of your feelings and symptoms

  • A list of your prescriptions

  • Letters from your doctor, counselor, or therapist with an evaluation of your condition

  • Letters from family members, coworkers, or friends who have noticed changes in your condition

  • Letters from family members, coworkers, or friends who have noticed changes in your condition


If the case is successful, you'll receive compensation to cover your emotional suffering along with compensation to cover your medic al bills and lost wages. You may receive greater compensation if you can prove the person who caused the accident intended to cause emotional distress or was grossly negligent. For example, a driver may have hit you while driving drunk, or a coworker may have failed to follow work procedures, causing your accident.


What Are Florida's Laws on Compensation for Emotional Distress?

Before you file a claim for emotional distress in Florida, you should know a few important details about Florida laws.

  • When to File: You need to file the claim within four years. If the case is against the government, you need to file it within three years.

  • In Car Accident Cases: In Florida, your own insurance company pays for most accident damages. You can't hold another driver liable unless you have a serious, permanent injury. A lawyer can help you determine if this is the case.

  • In Dog Bite Cases: While many states give dog owners a break after their dogs bite someone for the first time, Florida does not. Owners are liable for injuries their dog causes, whether they knew the dog was dangerous or not.


Also, be aware that many states have what's called a "damage cap," a limit on how much compensation you can receive. In Florida, no damage cap exists for emotional distress. However, there is a damage cap on punitive damages, which punish the perpetrator for wrong doing. There is also a damage cap on emotional suffering caused by medical malpractice cases, so talk to your lawyer about the specifics of your case.


You should also know that in Florida, the amount of your compensation depends on whether you share fault for your injuries. For example, if another driver hit you after running a stop sign, but you were speeding, you may be partially at fault.


While compensation can't take away the emotional suffering you've experienced, it can help you recover financially after your accident. Seek help from a medical professional to heal emotionally from your accident. And if you choose to seek compensation, talk to a lawyer about building your case.

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