Following an act of negligence, it’s relatively common knowledge that you can sue someone for physical injuries. However, a common question related to those same circumstances is, “Can I sue someone for emotional distress?”
Experiencing a serious accident can not only result in physical injuries but emotional suffering as well. Compared to physical injuries, emotional distress can be difficult to quantify. However, the damages and the impact on victims are still very real.
Suing for emotional distress allows a victim to recover some of these damages. Read on as we explore the legal ramifications of suing for emotional distress.
What is Emotional Distress
Before we get to the process of suing for emotional distress, we need to understand what emotional distress is under the law.
Emotional distress is a type of mental suffering or anguish induced by an incident of either negligence or through intent. The courts recognize emotional distress as a type of damage that can be recovered through a civil lawsuit. This means you can sue someone for emotional trauma or distress if you can provide evidence to support your claims.
Most emotional distress claims require you to have suffered physical harm as a result of the incident. However, recent cases have allowed for victims to recover emotional distress damages without evidence of physical harm. Depending on the case, the psychological and emotional trauma alone, resulting from cases like sexual abuse or defamation can be grounds for an emotional distress claim.
How To Sue for Emotional Distress
How can you sue someone for distress? Suing for emotional damages involve the following steps:
- Document your distress: You must document your medical records, work records, personal journal, etc. to back up your case. You could even have an electronic health tracker monitoring your heart rate and sleeping habits. The better you document your distress, the easier it’ll be to recover damages.
- Discuss with an attorney: Discuss the case with your attorney. Your attorney will review your documents and help you prepare for legal action.
- File a lawsuit: With the help of your attorney, you’ll file an emotional distress lawsuit against the defendant.
- Pre-trial preparations: Once the defendant is served, the discovery process where the exchange of information between the two parties will occur. The two parties may work out a settlement offer to avoid trial. Your attorney will advise whether you should accept the settlement deal.
- Trial & Settlement: The courts will hear arguments and evidence for both sides and make a decision accordingly.
Suing someone for emotional distress can be a long and arduous journey. Equip yourself with how the process works and consult with an attorney to give yourself the best chances of recovering your damages.
Emotional Distress Claims
There are two types of emotional distress claims:
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress: This is when the defendant commits an act unintentionally causing you emotional harm. Note that the person suing for emotional distress does not necessarily need to be harmed in the incident themselves. Most modern jurisdictions will permit the recovery of emotional distress damages if the individual was merely in the zone of danger.
For example, a parent was walking with their child when a drunk driver collided and killed the child. Even though the parent was not harmed, the emotional trauma suffered by the parent can be grounds for a lawsuit.
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress: This type of claim occurs when the defendant intentionally or recklessly inflicts emotional trauma upon another individual. For instance, while name-calling another person would not be considered grounds for a case, constant tormenting and verbal attacks could be.
Emotional Distress Evidence
Evidence is a major factor in understanding whether or not you can sue someone for emotional distress. If you are planning to sue for stress or other mental suffering, you need to prove you indeed sustained emotional distress. Below we list examples of evidence that you could use in your claim:
- Physical injuries: Physical injuries due to the incident can be relatively easy to identify. Conditions like ulcers, cognitive impairment, and headaches can all be indicators of emotional distress.
- Time: The longer you’ve been experiencing distress, the more credible your case is.
- Medical reports: A report from your doctor or psychologist is a major factor in demonstrating emotional distress. This is why it’s imperative to seek medical attention immediately after the incident.
- The severity of the initial incident: The more extreme and disturbing the initial incident is, the more likely the courts will rule for emotional distress.
- Testimonies: The courts will factor in testimonies of how the incident impacted your life. Family, friends, doctors, or co-workers can all testify on your behalf.
Is It Hard to Sue for Emotional Distress?
While you can sue for emotional distress, the entire process can be a tricky ordeal. Symptoms of emotional distress may not be visible to the average person, as a physical injury may be. This makes documenting your trauma all the more vital.
Additionally, you need to ensure your testimony and the testimony of others are consistent. Expert witnesses may be called in to testify about your condition, which amounts to a lot of time and money. Establishing the connection between negligence or intent to the damages you sustained can also involve a lot of legal investigative work.
As you can see, suing for emotional distress is possible, but it requires navigating a complex legal system. That’s why it’s important you consult with a personal injury attorney so they can assess the strength of your case and provide you with the most suitable options. Contact our team of legal experts to see how we can help you in your case.
Valiente Mott is a law firm dedicated to helping personal injury victims. We handle all personal injury matters, including, but not limited to, car crashes, defective products, and catastrophic injury. We are compassionate, yet aggressive when protecting personal injury victims and families who lost loved ones in fatal accidents. Learn more about who we are.
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