Car Accidents and Their Impact: When Can You Recover for Emotional Distress Related to a Car Crash?

Personal Injury

Car accidents have more than just a physical impact on their victims. In many cases they can cause serious emotional damage as well.

Although the law allows a plaintiff to recover for both physical and emotional damage caused by a car accident, the standards for recovering money for emotional distress (as opposed to those for physical damage) are quite strict.

Emotional Distress Claims


In most personal injury cases, you can recover for both “economic” and “non-economic” damages caused by the negligence of another.

Generally speaking, “economic damages” refer to damages incurred as a result of the accident that you can put a dollar amount on, such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Physical therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Car repair bills

“Non-economic damages” on the other hand, are just what you would expect them to be. These are damages that are not related to a specific monetary amount. Non-economic damages are damages incurred for things like “pain and suffering,” or “loss of consortium.” They can also be damages related to the trauma or emotional distress caused by an accident or incident.

What Types of Emotional Distress Do they Involve?

Accidents cause more than physical damage. Their impact can cause considerable emotional and psychological damage as well. Depending on the severity of the injuries, a person could suffer any number of emotional or psychological reactions. Emotional distress claims try to recover compensation (i.e., money) to compensate the injured plaintiff for these types of damages. Emotional distress claims can include (are not limited to) things like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fear
  • Humiliation

Who Can Recover for Emotional Distress?

Very often when we talk about emotional damage in personal injury cases, we are thinking only of the person who is physically injured in the accident.

But there are occasions when a bystander or passenger may seek to recover for the emotional trauma he or she has suffered because of witnessing the injury or death of someone close to him/her. For example, the death or serious injury of a child or spouse.

In many states, emotional distress claims can be pursued even if the person did not suffer a physical impact or injury himself.

That is not the case in Georgia, however.

Georgia follows what is known as the “impact rule.”

While not many other states follow this rule, in Georgia, the “impact rule” dictates that no matter how severe the emotional distress a person suffers, unless he or she was physically injured/impacted by the accident, he cannot recover for his emotional damage.

In other words, there must be a physical impact that caused an injury, and that injury must be what caused the emotional distress. If there is no physical impact, then no matter how severe, the person cannot recover for his/her emotional damages.

Personal Injury Attorneys in Cumming, Georgia. 

The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C., are here to help you. We serve clients in Atlanta, and in a number of counties throughout Georgia, including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County, among others.  To find out how we can help you, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or contact us here.

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