Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Attorney

What is Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case?

June 10, 2023 | Injury Law

In a personal injury case, emotional distress is an aspect that may not be as common as physical injuries. Often, the psychological impact an accident or injury can have on an affected individual can be overlooked. 

Emotional distress is the psychological suffering experienced by an individual due to a traumatic event or injury. This can include feelings such as anxiety, depression, fear, and sleep disturbances. Emotional distress has the potential to be as debilitating as physical injury, leading to long-lasting impacts on an individual’s mental health and daily functioning. In personal injury cases, emotional distress is considered a “non-economic” damage, one which cannot be measured by objective monetary value.

The Role of Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Cases

Emotional distress claims arise when the defense alleges that the plaintiff’s emotional suffering is directly linked to the injury or accident in question.

Examples of emotional distress claims include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from a severe car accident
  • Anxiety and depression caused by a traumatic injury
  • Loss of enjoyment of life stemming from a debilitating injury
  • Fear, anxiety, and stress experienced during a sexual harassment case

It is important to remember that proving emotional distress in a personal injury case can be challenging, as demonstrating the direct connection between the injury and the emotional distress experienced by the plaintiff is required. This usually involves providing evidence such as medical records, therapy notes, or witness statements that support the emotional distress claim.

Factors Influencing Emotional Distress Compensation

When it comes to assessing the value of emotional distress damages in personal injury cases, several factors can come into play:

  1. Severity of the emotional distress: Emotional distress that significantly impacts a person’s daily life or mental health is likely to result in higher compensation.
  2. Duration of the emotional distress: Longer-lasting emotional distress, such as chronic PTSD, can be awarded more significant damages compared to short-lived emotional trauma.
  3. Credibility of the emotional distress claim: Emotional distress claims need to be supported by credible evidence, such as medical records, expert testimony, or witness statements.
  4. Impact on relationships and overall quality of life: Emotional distress that results in damaged relationships or reduced quality of life could lead to higher compensation awards.

Proving Emotional Distress in Court – Important Evidence 

To successfully claim emotional distress damages, an attorney must prove that the emotional distress is directly connected to the plaintiff’s injury or accident. This may involve:

Medical Documentation

Medical documentation can serve as a powerful tool to prove emotional distress. Be sure to seek out professional help from a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Keep records of any diagnoses, mental health treatment, medications, and relevant notes from your healthcare providers.

Witness Testimony

The testimony of friends, family members, and coworkers can help strengthen your claim of emotional distress. These individuals can share their observations of your emotional state, and any symptoms they have noticed since the incident.

Evidence of Changes in Your Daily Life

Showcasing any changes in your daily activities can be helpful in proving emotional distress. This might include documentation of missed work, difficulty performing tasks, the need for additional assistance, or changes in your ability to maintain relationships.

A Personal Diary

Keeping a personal diary can provide strong evidence in support of your claim. Describe your emotions, thoughts, and experiences following the incident causing your distress. Be honest and consistent in your diary, as inconsistencies can weaken your case.

Emotional distress is a critical component in personal injury cases that often gets overshadowed by the focus on physical injuries. However, recognizing, acknowledging, and pursuing compensation for emotional distress can positively impact an individual’s overall recovery and ability to move forward from a traumatic event. For help, contact us to schedule a free consultation.