Accidents and injuries have impacts that go well beyond the physical. The leading cause of PTSD is car accidents. Anxiety and depression can go hand and hand with a loss of physical capacity and the pain of an injury, as well. It’s hard to overstate the amount of stress that any accident can cause.
In fact, mental health concerns are already factored into non-pecuniary damages. They are the “suffering” portion of the pain and suffering award. Anxiety is, nevertheless, an “invisible” illness, so it can be harder to prove or to factor into any form of monetary compensation. Even when you can prove you have anxiety, it is often difficult to prove its severity.
Canadian law does recognize anxiety as a disability, and all benefits providers accept it as such as well. However, it takes more than a diagnosis of anxiety to claim benefits, and a diagnosis alone is often not enough to increase the pain and suffering award in your personal injury case.
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Understanding Anxiety Disorders
Everyone worries from time to time. Anxiety becomes a disorder, however, when it seeps into every part of your life. Anxiety Canada identifies eleven different types of anxiety and related disorders, all of which include physical responses, as well as invasive thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. These disorders disrupt lives.
“This disruption can interrupt or even stop adults from participating in a variety of experiences such as attending higher education, pursuing meaningful work, joining social, athletic, or recreational clubs, being in relationships, and more.” –Anxiety Canada
When attempting to claim benefits from a benefits provider or to increase a pain and suffering award, it is necessary to focus in on the impact that anxiety is having on your life, not just the diagnosis that you receive. If you want disability benefits, in particular, you must prove that your anxiety makes it actively impossible to work.
Can a Personal Injury Case be about Purely Mental Damages?
Yes. Our team has helped clients with mental damage cases. While cases that involve purely emotional damages are rare, they do exist. Many are the type of case known as an “intentional tort,” wherein someone set out to deliberately inflict damage. For example, it is possible to sue a workplace for a manager’s abusive behavior, or even to sue a stalker for the fear and anxiety they cause.
In any case, where clear and present physical injuries exist, it is usually better to focus on the physical injuries and to use anxiety as more of an add-on to the pain and suffering award. This is because anxiety is an “invisible” illness. While we can use expert testimony, psychological bills, prescriptions, and other testimony to show that your anxiety is real, it is impossible to measure the true extent to which you can or can’t work or the true extent to which you can or cannot participate in your daily activities. You might even have good days and bad days, confusing the issue further.
Anxiety in Personal Injury Cases
Here’s what you need to know about how an anxiety diagnosis might play out in a personal injury case.
Does personal injury include emotional distress?
Yes. Emotional distress is already factored into the pain and suffering award.
Pain and suffering is negotiable and it’s subjective. Your anxiety diagnosis or the impact that anxiety has on your life will be one of the issues that your lawyer will use to help you maximize a pain and suffering award.
In Alberta, these awards are capped at $370,000, which is the amount that is generally given to paraplegics. Your lawyer will work to get your award as high as possible. To do this, your lawyer will need to be able to draw a direct line from your case to your anxiety. If you’ve had anxiety in the past it might be dismissed as a pre-existing condition.
How do you prove emotional distress damages?
There are various ways to prove that emotional distress exists and that it is damaging your life.
One way is through your own testimony and documentation of your experiences. We encourage our clients to document all the ways all of their injuries are impacting their lives for the worse.
Family members, friends, and employers may also testify as to the impact the anxiety or other emotional distress is having on your ability to function.
We also use evidence like psychiatric evaluations, prescriptions, instructions given to you by your care provider, and expert testimony to help you prove that emotional distress exists.
Can You Get a Long-term Disability for Anxiety?
It can be difficult to get a long-term disability payout for anxiety alone, either from a private insurance policy or from public programs. Often, these payouts require you to prove that there is no way that you can possibly improve your condition. Numerous treatments do exist for anxiety, so short-term disability may be your only option.
If you have other, more physical injuries we usually recommend that you focus on those, letting your anxiety diagnosis play more of a supporting role in your case than a starring role. The physical injuries and their impact are easier to prove. They also tend to elicit more sympathy from judges, juries, and even opposing lawyers.
Still, we can help even if you weren’t injured in an accident. We’ve got expertise handling long-term disability cases of every stripe.
Need Help with Your Personal Injury or Disability Case?
When you’ve been disabled, our team of Red Deer personal injury lawyers is here to help you put your life back together.
Most of our lawyers have over 20 years of experience with personal injury and disability law. We’re known for being some of Alberta’s toughest negotiators and savviest litigators. We’re responsive and caring. Calling us is absolutely risk-free: we’ll evaluate your case without a retainer and without charging an exorbitant hourly rate. We don’t get paid unless we bring your case to a satisfactory conclusion.
Don’t struggle through the process of making a disability claim alone. Don’t let insurance companies take advantage of you. Call (403) 269-7777 to claim a case evaluation today.