How Emotional Distress Can Be Included in a Car Accident Settlement with a Drunk Driver?

How Emotional Distress Can Be Included in a Car Accident Settlement with a Drunk Driver?

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Drunk driving accidents can cause not only physical harm but also emotional distress. Such incidents can cause severe emotional damage that lasts for a long time and impacts all areas of a person’s life. In the context of car accident settlements, emotional distress caused by drunk driving is increasingly recognized.

The consequences of a drunk driving accident on emotional well-being can present as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a lasting dread of being behind the wheel or as a passenger. These psychological impacts have the potential to drastically impact a person’s daily life, hindering their ability to work, maintain relationships, and derive pleasure from familiar activities.

To get a fair settlement, it’s important to understand how drunk driving accidents can affect someone’s emotions and well-being. This way, victims can get the help and support they need to feel better.

The Physical and Emotional Consequences of a Drunk Driving Accident

A car accident with a drunk driver can result in severe physical injuries, including broken bones, head trauma, and even death. However, the emotional impact of such an experience should not be overlooked. Victims may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that can significantly impair their quality of life. The emotional distress that follows a drunk driving accident can be just as debilitating as physical injuries, making it vital to include it in any settlement negotiations. The legal system recognizes this, allowing victims to seek compensation for emotional distress as part of their overall damages.

Following a drunk driving accident, consulting with a car accident lawyer is very important. An attorney under the network of ConsumerShield specializing in drunk driving accidents can help you through this tough process of pursuing compensation for emotional distress, ensuring that their mental health struggles are acknowledged and compensated fairly. 

Understanding Emotional Distress in a Car Accident Settlement

Emotional distress is a legal term that encompasses a range of mental health issues that can arise from a traumatic experience like a car accident with a drunk driver. This can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions that impact a victim’s quality of life. A 2023 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that emotional distress claims now account for a growing percentage of car accident settlements, with an estimated 30% of settlements including compensation for emotional harm. 

To include emotional distress in a car accident settlement, victims must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence caused their emotional suffering.

This can be achieved by providing evidence of the defendant’s intoxication, the severity of the accident, and the victim’s resulting emotional distress. By establishing a clear link between the defendant’s actions and the victim’s emotional distress, victims can seek fair compensation for their mental health struggles.

How Can You Effectively Document Emotional Distress to Support Your Car Accident Claim?

To include emotional distress in a car accident settlement, it’s essential to document its impact thoroughly. This documentation serves as evidence to support your claim and can significantly influence the settlement amount. Here are some ways to document emotional distress:

Seek professional help: 

Consult with a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat your emotional distress. Their records and expert testimony can be valuable evidence.

Keep a journal: 

Document your daily experiences, feelings, and how the accident has affected your life. This personal account can provide insight into your emotional state.

Gather witness statements: 

Friends, family, and coworkers can provide statements about changes they’ve observed in your behavior and mood since the accident.

Maintain medical records: 

Keep all records of medications prescribed for mental health issues related to the accident.

Document lifestyle changes: 

If you’ve had to make significant changes to your daily routine due to emotional distress, document these changes.

The Role of Drunk Driving in Emotional Distress Claims

When the at-fault driver is intoxicated, this behavior is seen as highly reckless and negligent. This can result in increased settlement offers, punitive damages, and potential criminal charges. Insurance companies might be more inclined to settle for larger amounts to avoid a sympathetic jury. Courts also grant extra punitive damages to penalize the intoxicated driver and discourage similar actions. 

Additionally, facing criminal charges for DUI can strengthen your civil case for emotional distress, giving you a stronger basis to seek compensation for your mental health challenges.

How Can You Negotiate Emotional Distress in a Settlement?

Negotiating emotional distress settlements effectively often requires using specific negotiation skills and strategies. Present compelling evidence to paint a clear picture of how the accident has affected your mental health, emphasizing the drunk driving aspect and highlighting how the driver’s intoxication has contributed to your emotional distress. Expect resistance, as insurance companies may attempt to minimize emotional distress claims; support your claim with solid evidence. 

Consider the long-term effects, including future treatment costs and ongoing impacts on your life. Be patient, as negotiating a settlement that adequately compensates for emotional distress can be time-consuming; avoid hastily accepting a low offer.


How is emotional distress defined in legal terms for drunk driving accident settlements?

Emotional distress in legal terms typically refers to the psychological impact suffered as a result of the traumatic event, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues directly related to the accident.

How is the value of emotional distress calculated in settlements? 

The value is often calculated using methods such as the multiplier approach or per diem method, taking into account factors like the severity and duration of the distress, impact on daily life, and quality of evidence presented.


Including emotional distress in car accident settlements with drunk drivers is an important step toward ensuring comprehensive justice for victims. As technology continues to advance and legal standards evolve, the process of documenting and valuing emotional suffering is becoming more sophisticated and widely accepted.

By recognizing the profound psychological impact of drunk driving accidents, the legal system can provide more complete compensation to victims and send a stronger message about the consequences of impaired driving. As this trend continues, it’s likely that emotional distress will play an increasingly significant role in shaping settlements and promoting safer driving practices.

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