You've been in a bad accident caused by someone else's clear negligence. Besides your physical injuries, your mental health has been adversely affected. You are in constant pain, you haven't been able to return to work, you can't enjoy many of your pre-accident activities, and your relationships with family members and friends have become strained.
You believe you are suffering from depression, and would like to be compensated for this condition as part of your claim for damages against the party responsible for the accident. But is compensation for depression (and similar psychological issues) possible in a typical personal injury lawsuit? Read on to learn more.
Depression and "Non-Economic" Damages
In virtually all jurisdictions, personal injury claimants can recover for depression and other harm to their mental health, as long as that harm can be linked to the underlying accident.
Recovery of these damages falls under the category of "non-economic losses," which are separate and distinct from "economic losses." Economic losses (or economic damages) include things such as lost wages and medical bills. Although non-economic losses -- including compensation for pain and suffering and the emotional and psychological impact of the accident -- may be more difficult to quantify, they are no less valid than economic losses, and are often a substantial component of a jury's verdict, when properly and effectively presented. Learn more about Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages.
Establishing Depression and the Causal Link
If you suspect you are suffering from depression as a result of an accident, you would be wise to consult with a mental health professional to obtain a proper clinical diagnosis. Once your condition is diagnosed, appropriate courses of treatment can be presented and implemented.
Whether you choose to see a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or some other mental health professional, the important thing is to seek professional help and not simply self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs. Oftentimes your primary health care provider can refer you to the most appropriate person to address your mental health issues.
The pursuit of treatment for depression is not just beneficial to your overall well being; it is critical to your ability to obtain compensation for depression as part of your personal injury case.
When you ask a jury to award you damages for depression, you must prove that you have received a formal diagnosis from a competent, licensed mental health professional who can testify regarding the diagnosis, course of treatment, and prognosis. Some people diagnosed with depression respond well to talk therapy, some respond well to medication, and others respond well to behavioral therapy. Moreover, some people improve more quickly than others, and some never fully recover from their depression for decades.
In order for the jury to understand your unique circumstances and come up with an amount of damages that fully and appropriately compensate you for your past, present and future suffering, you and your treating health care providers will need to paint as clear a picture as possible of the impact your depression has had on your ability to lead a normal life.
So, yes, you can get compensation for depression in a personal injury case. But it is not as simple as getting on the witness stand and testifying that you are depressed. Rather, you must bring your depression to life in terms that resonate with the jury, by presenting testimony filled with concrete examples of the ways in which your depression negatively affects you on a daily basis. Once the jury hears this testimony, they will be able to grasp the gravity of your situation and will be more comfortable translating your mental health injury into a compensatory damages award.
If you've been involved in an accident that was significant enough to trigger depression and related psychological/emotional issues, that's probably a sign that your personal injury claim is too complex for you to handle on your own. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to substantiate and present all of your claimed losses so that you receive a fair outcome. Learn more about Hiring and Working With a Personal Injury Lawyer.