Whether you were in a vehicle collision or construction accident, you are likely dealing with a great deal of pain, both physical and mental. It is not uncommon for a traumatic event to lead to a serious mental illness such as severe anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you had a mental illness prior to an accident, your condition may in fact worsen because of the event and as a result of your physical injuries.
Most accident victims are quick to devalue their injuries and accept low-ball offers from at-fault insurance companies in a claim. However, more often than not victims are eligible for additional compensation if they suffered emotional and mental trauma because of an accident. While you may be concerned that your mental illness will discredit your claim, you may be protected under the law via the eggshell skull rule.
What Is the Eggshell Skull Rule?
The eggshell skull rule is a legal doctrine that argues that at-fault parties are not only liable for the injuries they cause, but the injuries that they worsen. This is commonly seen in personal injury claims that involve a pre-existing medical condition, such as weak ankles or a history of heart disease, that only got worse when the at-fault party injured the plaintiff.
For example, if you had hemophilia, a rare disorder in which the blood does not clot normally, this could lead to bleeding problems after a severe car accident. Under the eggshell skull rule, the driver who caused your accident cannot use your hemophilia against you to minimize your damages, even if it meant you were more likely to suffer a severe injury.
In other words, if you had a pre-existing condition, the negligent party who caused your accident and injuries cannot hold it against you for purposes of your claim, even if that condition worsened or contributed to your injuries. This rule applies to mental as well as pre-existing physical conditions. The at-fault party thus cannot deny liability or refuse to pay you damages for mental trauma simply because you had a pre-existing mental illness.
In addition, if you suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses and those conditions worsened as a result of your injury, the at-fault party could be liable for your mental anguish.
How Do You Prove Mental Trauma?
Pain and suffering damages, such as mental trauma, are challenging to quantify and prove. Insurance companies will try to avoid paying this type of damages, so it is up to you and your attorney to establish your pre-existing and current mental condition that was worsened by your accident. You must show that:
- Your mental illness existed before the accident
- The accident made your mental condition worse
- You have been receiving treatment for the mental condition since the accident
Ultimately, this type of claim is designed to recover the costs of the treatments you are currently receiving and will receive in the future, as well as for pain and suffering. To do so, you must demonstrate that you are currently undergoing treatment and that your treatment will be ongoing. To prove this, you may utilize medical and psychological evaluations to support your claim. If your therapist notes an increased need for sessions, medication, or other types of treatment, that may go a long way to proving your claim and receiving damages for a mental illness.
The Importance of Contacting an Attorney
As mentioned earlier, proving pain and suffering is a difficult task, especially if you do not have an attorney at your side. The at-fault insurance company is likely to dismiss your physical injuries as well as any mental trauma you have suffered. However, if you employ the skill and expertise of a knowledgeable attorney, you will have a higher chance of receiving compensation.
Our New York personal injury attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, have the knowledge, skills, and resources to pursue the maximum compensation for your injuries. We can investigate your accident, assess the full extent of your damages, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and fight for your rights in the courtroom, if necessary. If your pre-existing mental illness was made worse by an accident that was someone else’s fault, contact us at (212) 986-7353 to schedule a free consultation. We can explain your options under the law.