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Secondary Disabilities: When Injuries Cause Mental Health Concerns

People who acquire disabling medical conditions in an accident will undoubtedly face some of the greatest challenges of their lives. Severely injured accident victims may be required to endure lengthy recovery periods, expensive costs of medical care, lost income from an inability to work, a reduced earning capability, and other financial burdens.

Surviving a serious accident with life-altering injuries can be an overwhelming and isolating experience. In addition to the physical and financial burden of sustaining a disabling injury, accident survivors may endure emotional turmoil and mental anguish. In the aftermath of a disabling medical diagnosis, the combination of physical trauma, social isolation, and financial instability causes many injured victims to acquire secondary disabilities. Often, these disabilities take the form of severe mental health conditions, like depression.

Also referred to as clinical depression and major depressive disorder, depression is a very real, very serious mood disorder. Depression may require long-term treatment, including medication, psychotherapy, or both. Common symptoms of depression include persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness, extreme fatigue, serious weight gain or loss, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.

Additionally, survivors of traumatic accidents who have sustained a disabling physical condition could also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most people who live through a traumatic event have difficulty coping and re-adjusting to life afterwards. They may experience pervasive symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about their accident. Without extensive psychological treatment, these symptoms could cause an accident victim to develop significant social problems at home, in public, and at their workplaces. It could even lead to the disintegration of an accident survivor’s closest relationships.

If you or someone you know is currently in crisis, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, visit your nearest hospital, or call 911.

Getting the proper treatment for disabling mental health conditions can take a great deal of time. However, if your primary physical impairment or secondary mental health disability makes it impossible for you to return to work, affording treatment in addition to your regular expenses may seem like an impossibility. If your injuries were sustained in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, an Ontario personal injury lawyer may be able to help you pursue damages to compensate you for costs related to your physical and mental recovery.

Claiming LTD Benefits for Mental Health Issues

Following a serious accident, injured accident victims may eventually be able to physically adjust to the duties of their jobs. Depending on the nature of their occupation, employers may be able to accommodate the accessibility needs of their injured employee. However, in the aftermath of a traumatic event, accident survivors may develop disabling mental health conditions. Even if they are physically able to perform the duties of their jobs in an adjusted capacity, these secondary disabilities may make it impossible for them to return to work.

After receiving an official diagnosis for a severe mental health condition that prevents accident survivors from working for an extended period of time, the symptoms of their mental illness could be exacerbated by concerns over how they are going to pay their bills. However, provided they have the appropriate coverage, those suffering from disabling mental health issues may be able to find a degree of financial stability through long-term disability (LTD) benefits.

In Canada, LTD policies usually replace between 60-70% of a recipient’s normal income. Typically, policyholders only become eligible for long-term disability benefits payments once they have exhausted all other compensatory options available to them, such as paid sick leave, vacation time, short-term disability benefits, and more.

People seeking financial compensation to help them cope with mental illnesses often face pushback from their insurance providers. Unlike physical injuries, it can be difficult to prove the severity of a person’s mental illness with objective evidence. Even if a claimant supplies thorough medical assessments and expert testimonies about their conditions, insurers may claim that they cannot substantiate an applicant’s subjective emotional experience, and therefore, deny their claim for benefits.

If you suffer from a disabling mental condition resulting from physical injuries you have sustained in an accident, but your claim for LTD benefits has been unfairly denied, an Ontario LTD benefits lawyer may be able to help overturn your insurance provider’s decision.

Who is Eligible for Pain and Suffering Damages?

Serious accidents caused by another party’s negligence can cause victims to sustain serious injuries including:

  • Fractures
  • Torn Ligaments
  • Disc Herniations
  • Chronic Pain
  • Loss of limb
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of eyesight
  • Paralysis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Other mental and behavioural disorders
  • And possibly more

If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, you may decide to pursue a tort claim against them to recover financial compensation for the costs you’ve incurred, or will incur. In addition to the costs of medical expenses to address physical injuries, these economic damages could also include psychiatric treatment for disabling mental health conditions, as well as loss of income due to an inability to work, among others.

However, depending on the severity of the injuries sustained, accident survivors could also endure emotional turmoil and distress. In these cases, injured victims may also be entitled to recover “non-pecuniary” damages. These damages are designed to compensate accident victims for less tangible losses they have endured because of their injuries. Non-economic damages for injured victims may include any physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering an accident victim has endured or will endure in the future as a result of their injuries.

The cost of individual victims’ pain and suffering claims is determined on a case-by-case basis, in relation to the unique circumstances of the victim’s experience. In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada imposed a cap on the total amount of damages a seriously injured accident victim may be able to receive as compensation for pain and suffering. Because of this action, unlike many litigious Americans who are able to pursue very costly claims, injured Canadians can only recover a limited amount of money for pain and suffering.

When this financial limitation was originally imposed, the cost of non-pecuniary damages available to injured accident victims was $100,000. After more than forty years, this cost has been adjusted for inflation, and is now roughly $390,000.

How a Lawyer May Be Able to Help 

If injuries from an accident cause a person to develop other disabling conditions, like mental health issues, they may be unable to return to the workplace. However, since the subjective emotional experience of someone suffering from a mental health condition cannot be precisely proven with medical evidence, their insurance providers often decide to deny their claims for LTD benefits.

In these situations, denied applicants may choose to appeal their insurance provider’s decision. However, the process of appealing a denied benefits claim can be confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming. For those suffering from disabling mental health conditions, the appeals process may seem like an insurmountable challenge. Many denied applicants simply walk away from the situation, rather than engage in a complicated, overly bureaucratic process.

A long-term disability may be able to ease the burden of appealing a denied claim for LTD benefits. Depending on the situation, a lawyer may suggest filing a lawsuit against the insurance company for unfairly denying a disability claim. If successful, a lawyer may be able to help denied claimants recover benefits payments, which can provide much-needed financial relief during a difficult, stressful time.

A lawyer may also be able to help catastrophically injured accident victims pursue legal action against the negligent party who caused their accident to occur in order to recover compensation for pain and suffering, in addition to any quantifiable expenses they have incurred as a result of their injuries. It may be possible to pursue pain and suffering damages if the accident survivor’s resulting injuries significantly diminish their quality of life.

Proving the degree to which an accident survivor’s pain and suffering affects their quality of life can be difficult. In order to substantiate a victim’s claim and illustrate the toll pain and suffering has taken on their client’s lives, a lawyer may compile and present various forms of evidence. These types of evidence may include:

  • Medical records
  • Attending physicians’ reports
  • Testimonies from medical experts
  • Medical prognosis
  • Psychiatric assessments
  • Personal impact statements
  • Statements from eyewitnesses to the accident
  • Video surveillance footage or photographic evidence from the accident scene
  • And possibly more

While the cost of non-pecuniary damages like pain and suffering can be difficult to quantify, by presenting a thorough collection of evidence, a personal injury lawyer may be able to illustrate the degree to which another party’s negligence negatively impacted an accident victim’s quality of life. By doing so, they may be able to help their clients recover the financial compensation to which they are entitled.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If you have developed serious mental health conditions as the result of physical injuries caused by another party’s negligence, Preszler Injury Lawyers may be able to provide crucial legal assistance and advice.

To discuss the details of your claim in a free, initial consultation, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers today or call us at 1-800-JUSTICE.

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