Emotional Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Understanding the Law in Virginia and North Carolina

Emotional Damages in Personal Injury Cases, Mental Health Awareness Month


Mental and emotional damages are a large part of what may be called “unseen damages.”


In closing arguments where there was evidence of significant mental and emotional damages, I have used an illustration that the majority of the iceberg that sank the Titanic was below the waterline, unseen.


Although the stigma of mental health disorders has been diminishing over the last decade as the public recognizes and realizes how widespread and common emotional distress is, persons affected mentally and emotionally by an accident often put off treatment for these injuries, focusing instead on getting help for their physical injuries.


Sometimes as time passes, without recording their suffering, specific instances of the harm caused by these injuries are forgotten unless there is a recording of the harm.


However, both Virginia law and North Carolina law provide a recovery for mental and emotional suffering.


In Virginia, an injured person may recover monetary damages for “physical pain and mental anguish suffered in the past and any that may be reasonably expected to suffer in the future” VMJI 9.000(2).


In North Carolina, the jury in determining the amount of “actual damages” and “fair compensation” to be awarded to an injured person shall consider evidence of “pain and suffering.” N.C.P.I. Civil 810.02.


In cases where a physical injury causes scarring or disfigurement, the law also provides for the recovery of emotional damages associated with the physical injury.


In Virginia, the element of damages instructs the jury to consider “any disfigurement or deformity and any associated humiliation or embarrassment.” VMJI 9.000(3).


North Carolina’s instruction, although not as detailed as Virginia’s, clearly instructs the jury to consider evidence of “scars or disfigurement” as an element of damages. N.C.P.I. Civil 810.02.


If you or a loved one has experienced damage to your emotional or mental health following a serious personal injury, the Slaughter & Lupton Law team is ready to guide you to the results you deserve.

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