Construction Accident Witnesses Can Suffer PTSD

Construction Accident Witnesses Can Suffer PTSD Construction accidents can be grisly and traumatic events. People might fall from high places or get hurt by power tools or heavy machinery. Injuries from construction accidents might include head trauma, amputations, electrocutions, and other injuries that are difficult to witness. Construction accident witnesses may suffer harm themselves, even if they were not physically hurt. People in the area can see someone suffer life-altering and disfiguring injuries, which they might never forget. Sometimes, witnessing such an event will change a person’s life. If you suffered emotionally and are dealing with the long-term effects of seeing something catastrophic with your own eyes, you may be entitled to financial compensation. When you consult an experienced construction accident attorney, they can advise you on the most effective way to get the financial compensation you may deserve. However, given potentially tight legal time frames, this is a call that you need to make immediately.

Construction Accident Witnesses Often Deal with Emotional Distress

​Construction Accident Witnesses Can Suffer PTSDEmotional distress is a potential claim in certain construction accident lawsuits. Emotional distress is one of the many non-economic damages that a construction accident victim can recover when they can prove that a third party is responsible for their injuries. Of course, the most frequent cause of an emotional distress claim is the physical injury the victims suffered. Emotional distress damages can be considerable because accident victims may live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for years after the accident. They may never undo the psychological effects of the accident. Some people are so devastated by the accident that their lives are never the same. Their trauma can keep them from working again or from having normal daily human relationships.

Emotional Distress Is a Personal Injury

There are other types of emotional distress claims that victims may file after an accident. In some cases, the emotional distress itself is the injury. Seeing something can be highly traumatic, even if it did not directly happen to you. Many people witness things they cannot ever forget, and it causes them distress for the rest of their lives. They may be questioning why they emerged from the accident when they were close to it. Some emotional distress cases result from intentional infliction. In these cases, the defendant has done something outrageous and shocking to cause the victim damages intentionally. This concept will generally not apply to a construction accident lawsuit.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress for Construction Accident Claims

In construction accident cases, the more likely concept is some negligent infliction of emotional distress. The legal theory at work here is that someone’s negligence caused you emotional distress. In some cases, you may recover these damages if your primary injury was emotional distress and you did not suffer any physical injuries. Remember that a personal injury can damage your physical body, reputation, or psyche. Even if you did not suffer any broken bones, you can still suffer lasting and long-term damages when you sustain an emotional injury. There are many different causes of these psychological injuries. One cause of profound psychological injury is when you witness a severe accident. Seeing what happened and possibly escaping serious injury can have profound emotional effects. Not only can you be scarred by seeing the violent injury that befell someone else, but you can also suffer trauma from being in the zone of danger. For example, even if you escaped without any physical injuries, seeing what happened and running from immediate harm can be an injury in and of itself.

Negligence Refers to Someone Else’s Actions that Caused the Accident

The negligent part of negligent infliction of emotional distress refers to the carelessness of the person responsible for the accident. Negligence means they failed to act with the reasonable care that an ordinary person would have manifested under the circumstances. The first step to winning a negligent infliction of emotional distress lawsuit is showing that someone was negligent. In a personal injury case, you need to prove:
  • Someone owed a duty of care to another (it can be that they owed the duty of care to the person who suffered a physical injury from the negligence)
  • They breached the duty of care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances
  • Someone suffered an injury
  • They would not have suffered an injury had it not been for the unreasonable actions of the responsible party.

You Must Prove You Directly Witnessed What Happened

Then, someone who is claiming compensation for emotional distress must have directly witnessed what happened. They must have been traumatized by seeing someone else’s severe injury or death. In many legal cases, this is the “zone of danger.” Eligibility for emotional distress financial compensation when you have witnessed a severe accident requires that:
  • You were present when the accident occurred and directly witnessed what happened
  • You knew at the time that someone was suffering a severe injury or death
  • You suffered severe emotional distress as a result of what you saw

Emotional Distress Cases Rely on Your Account of Your Suffering

Emotional distress cases can be complex because they are often subjective. You are seeking compensation based on what you say you have gone through. Any case that is not 100 percent objective will draw extra scrutiny and opposition from the insurance company. Defendants are always skeptical of damages you claim they can not see on paper, as evidenced by a test. Therefore, you must start documenting your situation immediately after the accident to prove emotional distress injuries. One requirement is to seek help from a psychological or psychiatric professional. They will speak to you and learn more about what you have experienced. They will document your condition through treatment notes and a diagnosis. You hope that a formal medical diagnosis from a respected and experienced professional can be enough to persuade an insurance company or jury to grant you damages.

You Usually Cannot Sue Your Employer for a Personal Injury

The usual workplace lawsuit rules apply regardless of who the personal injury victim is. If you have suffered an injury in a construction accident, you cannot sue your employer in a personal injury action unless minimal exceptions apply. Still, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation if you suffer severe emotional distress or post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps you from working. Workers’ compensation is not just limited to physical injuries that interfere with your ability to work. PTSD and emotional distress can also be considered injuries for a worker’s compensation claim. Even though these claims will take more work to prove, they have still recognized injuries that can keep you from working and entitle you to benefits. Nonetheless, claimants have a more difficult time proving psychological injuries that do not appear on an MRI or CT scan. If you file a workers’ compensation claim, you may face tight deadlines to notify your employer and submit your claim for benefits. The challenge with an emotional distress workers’ compensation claim is that the full extent of your psychological harm may not be apparent for some time after the accident. The insurance company may deny the claim because they will argue that you did not notify your employer in time. However, it is challenging to notify your employer when you do not yet know the full extent of your injuries. You almost always need an attorney for an emotional distress workers’ compensation claim.

You Can File a Third Party Claim for a Construction Accident Injury

However, you can file a lawsuit when you witness what happened to someone else’s employee, even if that person can not file a personal injury lawsuit themselves. If you were walking by a construction site, even if you were not employed there, you can recover financial compensation when you witness a severe accident at the scene. You may still file a lawsuit against someone else if they were the cause of the accident that resulted in your emotional injuries. Like any other construction accident claim, you can potentially sue a third party who is not your employer in a personal injury case. Your lawyer will review the facts of your case to determine whether there is a potential third party who is legally responsible for your injuries. Potentially liable third parties might include:
  • Another contractor or company at the construction site who was the cause of your injuries
  • The manufacturer or seller of work equipment that proved to be defective and caused the injury
  • A third party who was responsible for the leak of a toxic substance that caused an explosion
  • An architect or engineer whose negligence caused a building or trench collapse
  • A power company or other entity responsible for utilities who negligently buried power lines that caused an electrocution
  • A trucking company or third-party driver whose vehicle ran over a construction worker or caused an accident at or near the site

You Have the Burden of Proof to Show Your Damages

Even if you did prove that you suffered emotional distress damages as a result of seeing a construction accident, it might be challenging to estimate and prove your damages. Again, emotional distress damages are subjective in nature, and you are asking an insurance company to take your word for how you have suffered. They will almost certainly dispute every element of your damages, claiming that you are not as injured as you have represented.

Your Damages When Witnessing a Construction Accident

When you recover financial compensation for an emotional distress injury, you can receive:
  • The cost of the therapy and medical care that you need to treat your emotional distress
  • Lost wages, if your PTSD keeps you from working or reduces your earning capacity
  • The emotional damage that you have sustained through your pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Embarrassment and humiliation
Obtaining financial compensation for things you have witnessed is not simple. If you are trying to handle the claim on your own, you may not be taken seriously by the insurance company. Emotional distress claims require the assistance of an experienced lawyer, who will tell your side of the story and argue why someone else was responsible for your injuries. Again, there are three critical challenges in every case of these types that you must surmount to receive compensation for your injuries. You must show that there was negligence in the first place and then that you were distressed by what you saw. You must also prove that you were close to what happened and what you knew and saw at that time. However, it is legally possible to get emotional distress damages after being an accident witness. You may need to fight more challenges to get what you deserve, which is precisely why you need an aggressive personal injury lawyer.

What to Do After You Have Seen a Construction Accident

paula a wyatt attorney wyatt law firm san antonio
San Antonio Catastrophic Injury Accident Attorney, Paula A. Wyatt
There are two steps that you should take after you have witnessed a severe accident:
  • You should immediately get help from a mental health professional to establish the documentation of your injury and show that you are doing everything possible to mitigate your damages.
  • You should contact an experienced attorney to learn more about the legal process and your options for obtaining financial compensation.
You must contact an attorney as soon as possible. Given the complexities of a third-party lawsuit for a construction accident, your attorney will need to launch an immediate investigation to gather the necessary evidence to file a lawsuit. They will also advise you on what you need to do to put yourself in the strongest position to obtain financial compensation. Since your injuries are emotional, there may be different things required than you will see in another type of personal injury case. When you are continuing your treatment for PTSD or related emotional injuries, you should allow an attorney to work on the legal side of things. You can trust someone is fighting for justice for your injuries, even if you did not suffer physical injuries yourself.


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