Serving All of British Columbia Call 1-888-404-5167

Can I Claim Emotional Distress After a Car Accident?

There is no question that many car accidents result in extreme emotional distress and trauma. However, changes in ICBC regulations as of April 1, 2019, now consider any type of mental health issue due to a motor vehicle accident a “minor injury.” That means any claim of emotional distress or psychological problems stemming from an accident is subject to a cap of $5,500 in damages. If your accident occurred prior to April 1, 2019, it falls under the previous regulations.

Disturbingly, that puts emotional distress in the same category as sprains, bruises, and “aches.” Just as worrisome is that concussions, which may cause psychological symptoms, are also considered minor under the new law. The ICBC does make exceptions, however, if emotional distress and related repercussions from the car crash persist for more than four months. At that point, the ICBC may consider them major injuries.

Psychological and emotional distress

Psychological and emotional distress covers a broad range of disorders and symptoms. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Personality changes
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
Call 1-877-572-1324 to speak with our British Columbia legal intake team for free Book Free Consultation

Most physicians agree that mild concussions and similar injuries generally resolve within three months. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury, but not as severely impairing or long-lasting as a standard TBI. If the patient is still symptomatic after four months, conditions may not improve further.  Multiple concussions can cause long-term brain injury, so let your doctor know if you have ever had a concussion before.

Some car accident victims may develop driving phobias, which affect their work and personal lives. Sometimes, a chronic pain issue may occur after an accident, and the individual feels the emotional effects long after the actual injury has healed. The connection between emotional distress and chronic pain exists but can be hard to prove.

Additional options

Even if a person suffers emotional distress over a car accident for less than the four-month limit, there are options available under the new ICBC regulations. Now, the ICBC will pay more money for medical treatment for such injuries, and permit those diagnosed with psychological issues to access services such as acupuncture, kinesiology, and massage therapy, for which the ICBC would previously not pay. Those affected may also avail themselves of counselling per the new rules.


Even if the symptoms are still ongoing four months post-accident, a psychological injury must render the victim incapacitated to qualify as a major. Incapacity might include the inability to go to work or attend school or go about normal daily life. The latter might include the inability to shop, clean the house, prepare meals, or take prescribed medication. Under the ICBC definition, incapacity refers to someone who can barely function, making it difficult for all but the most damaged people to qualify as having a major injury.

Seek prompt medical treatment

Often, a person is not apparently physically hurt in an accident, or at least not seriously so, but emotionally he or she is deeply distressed. If someone is already having difficulty coping psychologically, the car accident, or what they witnessed may prove to be the last straw. While it is vital to always seek prompt medical treatment after a car accident, it is also crucial to tell the doctor about any psychological issues that have developed pertaining to the collision.

If you decide to pursue a major injury claim, medical documentation of your psychological disorder or emotional distress will be necessary. Keep in mind the ICBC will look for any other possible causes of a psychological disorder to avoid paying additional compensation. That is why it is wise to seek legal counsel as soon as possible if serious emotional distress occurs post-accident.

Contact a Vancouver car accident lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered emotional or psychological distress after a car accident, and the symptoms remain long-term, the ICBC law firm at Preszler Injury Lawyers can help. Schedule a free consultation by calling 24/7 or contacting us online. We will review your case and let you know your options. Our lawyers have represented those injured because of another party’s negligence or recklessness since 1959, and our results speak for themselves.

Connect With Our Legal Team

Schedule a call with our personal injury legal intake team. Our team is available 24/7 so call us now to book your call. Our scheduled intake allows you to tell us details about your accident and gives our legal team an opportunity to review your case and advise you on possible solutions and outcomes. The best part is, if you decide to hire us after this call - you don't pay anything unless we win. We can help clients regardless of where they reside in British Columbia so let us help you get started on your road to recovery.


1321 Blanshard Street
Suite 301,
Victoria, BC
V8W 0B6
Fax: 778-373-8213
Toll Free: 1-877-572-1324
4720 Kingsway
Suite 2600,
Burnaby, BC
V6E 3C9
Fax: 778-373-8213
Toll Free: 1-877-572-1324
5811 Cooney Road
Suite 305 South Tower,
Richmond, BC
V6X 3M1
Fax: 778-373-8213
Toll Free: 1-877-572-1324
7164 120th Street
Suite 202,
Surrey, BC
V3W 3M8
Fax: 778-373-8213
Toll Free: 1-877-572-1324
1631 Dickson Avenue
Suite 1100,
Kelowna, BC
V1Y 0B5
Fax: 778-373-8213
Toll Free: 1-877-572-1324
1075 West Georgia Street
Unit 825,
Vancouver, BC
V6E 3C9
Fax: 778-373-8213
Toll Free: 1-877-572-1324
*These are consultation offices that require a booked meeting in advance. Walk-ins are not allowed.

DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that the header image and other images throughout this website may include both lawyer and non-lawyer/paralegal employees of Preszler Injury Lawyers and unrelated third parties. Please note that the purpose of this disclaimer is to ensure that the usage of our spokesperson, John Fraser, or any other non-lawyer/paralegals in our legal marketing is not to be construed in any way as misleading to the public. Any questions regarding the usage of non-lawyers in our legal marketing or otherwise can be directed to management. Please also note that past results are not indicative of future results and that each case is unique and that case results listed on site are from experiences across Canada and are not specific to any province. Please be advised that some of the content on this website may be out of date. None of the content is intended to act as legal advice as each situation is independent and unique and requires individual legal advice from a licensed lawyer or paralegal. For legal advice on your individual situation – we can provide legal guidance after you have contacted our firm and we have established a lawyer-client relationship contractually. Please note that some of the content on this website may be out of date and no longer relevant after May 2021. For additional clarification on legal questions please contact our law firm and book a consultation with a member of our legal team.