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Suing for emotional distress after a car accident

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, you know that the resulting physical harm can be damaging enough. However, it is important to know that the emotional distress a serious car accident may cause can be just as harmful. Suing for emotional distress after a car accident is well within your rights. 

What types of damages can you see after a car accident?

A car accident can have a lasting impact on the victims in more ways than one. Different damages can result in different kinds of legal cases, and it is important to know where your particular situation falls. Once the full scope of the damages in your case is understood, you and your legal team can begin to seek the deserved compensation. Here are some examples of potential damages as a result of a car accident:

Property damage

The victim’s car or vehicle is likely to be damaged in a motor vehicle incident. Whether it is totaled or needs to go to the shop for some serious repairs, your car is still your property. This means you could sue for property damage on top of the other probable damages. This is where the evidence gathered by the police report will come in handy to prove what condition your vehicle was left in. 

Pain and suffering 

Pain and suffering is a legal phrase that describes not only physical harm resulting from an accident, but also the emotional and mental strife following the event. A lawyer can help you gather the evidence you need to prove that the pain and suffering you’ve experienced are a direct result of the auto crash. Doctor’s notices and diagnosis count as useful evidence in this case. 

Wrongful death 

By far the worst kind of damage, a wrongful death compensation claim can be filed when there is a loss of life resulting from the accident. The relatives of the person who passed away can receive compensation in this case. The Compensation to Relatives Act gives the victim the right to sue the negligent party for damages in New South Wales and Queensland. In Western Australia, the Fatal Accidents Act 1959 governs these cases. Victorian legislation points to the Wrongs Act 1958.


You may be able to immediately claim immediate payment for your treatment and loss of earnings without having to lodge a formal claim. These benefits are available regardless of who was at fault, in some states. Aside from this, you can add physical injury to the suffered damages that you are seeking compensation for.

Emotional trauma 

Finally, you can file a lawsuit for psychological injury as a result of a car accident. Emotional distress damages can present itself in many different ways, including:

  • Continued fear and distress. 
  • Night terrors. 
  • Mood swings. 
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Proving PTSD

A common type of emotional damage and distress is known as PTSD. It is a mental disorder that comes as the result of experiencing extreme mental trauma. According to NPS Medicinewise, the criteria and symptoms of the disorder may include the following:

  • Continued fear, helplessness or horror. 
  • The traumatic event is re-experienced as intrusive memories, dreams or flashbacks. 
  • Numbing of general responsiveness. 
  • Poor concentration, anger or trouble sleeping. 
  • Symptoms occur for longer than a month. 
  • Symptoms impair normal function. 

Even though you or someone you know may be experiencing all these symptoms, the court will need proof. This could be doctor notices or witnesses to the worsening condition or mental pain. A professional could provide accurate information and act as evidence to suggest that the accident victim has PTSD. 

Who can claim emotional distress?

If you or someone you know has suffered from emotional distress as a result of an automobile accident, there are several different circumstances where suing is an option. 

No fault of your own

If you and your lawyers can prove that the accident happened because the other party is at least partially at fault, you are eligible for personal injury compensation.  An emotional distress claim can be filed whether you are involved as:

  • Driver.
  • Passenger.
  • Pedestrian.
  • Cyclist.
  • Motorcyclist. 
  • Pillion passenger.
  • Anyone else who uses the road.

Keep in mind that, while you may still receive some compensation if you are partially at fault, it will not be nearly as much as if you had no fault at all. The following may be reasons why some of the fault could fall on the victim:

  • No seatbelt. 
  • Speeding. 
  • No helmet on a bike or motorcycle. 
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Knowing that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Suing for emotional distress, a kind of non-economic damage, requires a substantial amount of evidence. However, a personal injury or car accident lawyer from Gerard Malouf & Partners can help you or your relative manage the process. 

Types of car accidents that cause emotional distress

There are many different kinds of car accidents that can result in physical and mental anguish. You may think that the only incidents involving two vehicles will qualify for an emotional distress lawsuit, but that is not the case. Here are some of the most common accidents that can cause emotional trauma:

  • Car collisions: Whether front-end or rear-end accidents, one vehicle crashing into another fits into this category. 
  • Motorcycle: This can be two motorcycles in a collision or a car colliding with a motorbike.
  • Pedestrian: When a vehicle crashes into a person who is walking or standing near the roadway, this is considered a pedestrian accident. 
  • Biker: If a cyclist is involved in a car or bike-on-bike accident, the victim may qualify for emotional distress. 
  • Drunk driver: Any of the above can also fit into the category of a drunk driver accident, which could mean more compensation in certain situations. 

Can a spouse sue for emotional distress?

There are some cases where the spouse of a victim can sue the negligent driver for emotional distress. If the spouse or victim has suffered extreme injury or there was a wrongful death as the result of the accident, a husband, wife, or another close relative may have grounds to sue for emotional distress. This can take the form of negligence claims. Keep in mind that the total compensation is reduced depending on the level of fault that falls on the plaintiff. 

When you can file a claim

When filing a claim asking to be compensated for your emotional distress, you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Take comfort in knowing that Gerard Malouf & Partners is one of Australia’s leading car accident law firms and our experienced team has extensive knowledge to guide you through the process. 

In Queensland, for example, an action in court should begin within 6 months of the compulsory conference, but must at least begin within 3 years. Before the compulsory conference, negligence must be established and the claim must have been reported to the police. In addition, the injured must provide written notice of the claim to the insurer. This is standard in most states.  

Because filing a claim on time is so important to receiving compensation, take note that a claim must be filed within 3 months of the accident in most Australian states. Each territory in Australia may have different requirements, so be sure to speak to your lawyer about how your location will impact the case filing. 

We manage emotional distress claims on a “no win, no fee” basis. This means you can claim compensation for non-economic damages following a car accident without worrying about the financial burden of building a case, gathering evidence and running investigations on your own. At Gerard Malouf & Partners, we take care of all of that for you, so that you can focus on your health and wellness following the event. 

To learn more about how to start a claim, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners today. 

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Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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