How Can You Put a Price on Grief After an Accident?
It is late. You are sitting at a stoplight. Your spouse is in the passenger seat next to you, preoccupied with something in the glove compartment. Suddenly, another vehicle crashes into the passenger side of your car. You hear a sudden squeal, crunching metal, and breaking glass, shards are flying all around you and your spouse. At the same time, the airbag deploys, covering you in the stench of gunpowder as it shoves you rudely back into your seat.
The next thing you know, you are on a stretcher, being loaded into an ambulance. Through the flashing lights and smoke, you look over at what is left of your car. Your spouse is nowhere to be seen.
Car Accidents Are Traumatic and Filled with Emotions
Any accident can be incredibly traumatic. Immediately after – and in the following days and weeks – you may feel several, sometimes competing emotions, such as shock, disbelief, anger, nervousness, fear, and guilt. No two people grieve alike and it is completely understandable to undergo a kind of post-traumatic stress after a motor vehicle accident. This can include:
- A chronic sense of unease.
- Persistent anxiety about getting back behind the wheel.
- An aversion to medical treatment.
- A gnawing irritability or anger.
- Troubled sleep, plagued by nightmares.
- A general sense of disconnect from strangers and loved ones alike.
Fighting through these issues often requires more than time and medical treatment. It can take weeks or even months to work through your feelings of grief and trauma – time that can take you away from other commitments, such as family, friends, and your career.
How Do You Quantify the Emotional Repercussions of an Accident?
If you have suffered bodily injury in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensatory damages in Colorado. These damage awards are intended to make you “whole,” according to the law, and are meant to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and any other expenses incurred as a result of the accident. But what about the resulting emotions and feelings a traumatic car leaves behind?
Emotional distress is just as real as the physical ones and often can be more devastating than any physical injury you may have suffered. They can also be much more difficult to quantify. Emotional distress is a negative emotional reaction – which may include fear, anger, anxiety, and suffering.
Under Colorado law, claims that detail pain and suffering damages fall under the classification of “non-economic loss or injury,” which can encompass injuries such as:
- Inconvenience: Any interruption to your regular schedule, including work or other activities.
- Physical impairment or disfigurement: Any scarring, loss of limbs, or interference of normal bodily functions.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: Any loss of your ability to continue any hobbies, outdoor pursuits, sports, and any activity outside of your job.
- Loss of consortium: The loss your spouse suffers because of your injuries.
While these non-economic losses can be difficult to prove, they can still be pursued through litigation or through settlement talks. Relevant factors judges and juries consider when deliberating over non-economic damage amounts include the victim’s age, the family circumstances, the victim’s health history, educational background, and employment record, to name a few. As such, damage awards can vary dramatically, even among similar cases. Because of the lack of quantifiable evidence illustrating actual dollar values, these decisions are, by their very nature, subjective.
Worst-case Scenario: Wrongful Death
Survivors of a sudden death, such as losing a loved one in a car accident, face an even more difficult and grief-filled road. Yet thousands of drivers lose their loved ones in traffic accidents every year. It is natural to wonder why this happened to you and how you will ever recover from such a sudden, heart-breaking loss. A crucial part of answering that question is to determine if the negligence of the other driver played a role.
In Colorado, that negligence allows you to pursue a wrongful death claim against the other driver. You have the right to seek compensation for your painful loss. A wrongful death claim pursues the recovery of both economic and non-economic losses you and your family have suffered as a result of your loved one’s untimely death.
Economic damages can include burial expenses, as well as the loss of earnings and benefits the lost family member would have received over the course of their career.
If you have been seriously injured – or worse, lost a loved one – in a car accident because of someone else’s careless behavior, call a Burg Simpson Denver injury attorney at 303-792-5595 or fill out our FREE Evaluation Form right now for help.