What Qualifies as Emotional Distress? When Are Damage Available? How to You Determine the Amount of Your Losses?
You’ve been in a motor vehicle accident and you find yourself terrified to go near a car. You were attacked by a vicious dog and have a fear of all types of animals. You were hurt in any type of accident and are experiencing depression, anxiety or stress because of the wholesale changes in your life and lifestyle. You’re suffering what is legally referred to as “emotional distress.”
What Is Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress is any psychological or mental response to an event that negatively affects your life. Though emotional distress is highly subjective in nature, and can look very different from person to person, common indications include:
- Heightened anxiety or fear in ordinary matters
- Sleep disorders, from insomnia to excessive fatigue
- Severe mood swings, from elation to depression
- Uncontrolled or uncharacteristic anger or rage
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD
What Are the Typical Situations Where an Injured Person May Seek Damages for Emotional Distress?
Because emotional distress is so subjective, it may be a reasonable response to a wide range of events or occurrences. It’s important to understand, too, that a person may suffer emotion distress not only from the actual event, but from the memory of that event. Furthermore, a person may suffer from emotional distress without incurring any physical injury.
A claim for infliction of emotional distress may be based on allegations of intentional conduct or on a claim of negligence:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress—This can involve actual intent, but it may also arise from conduct that was “extreme and outrageous,” recklessly causing severe emotional distress. Falsely telling another person that a family member has been killed or seriously injured would qualify. Intentionally sending threatening letters or emails is another example.
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress—This claim is available where another person’s carelessness or negligence (failure to act reasonably) causes mental or emotional harm. A common example of negligent infliction of emotional distress is the “bystander” situation, where a person observes catastrophic injury to or death of a close family member because of the unreasonable (and negligent) conduct of another person. The careless misdiagnosis of a medical condition is another example.
How Do You Calculate Damages for Emotional Distress?
To help the jury determine an appropriate amount of compensation for emotional distress, your attorney will first introduce evidence of the emotional impact of the event:
- You may keep a daily journal, documenting the emotional consequences of your accident, injury or event
- Your primary care or other treating physician may ask questions, make observations and include findings about your emotional state in your medical record
- Your attorney may have friends or family members testify regarding their interactions with you
Once it has been clearly established that you suffered emotional distress, your lawyer will typically ask the court to apply a “multiplier” to determine damages for emotional losses. With this method, the court will determine economic losses—medical bills, lost wages and other tangible losses—and multiply that number by a factor, usually between one and five, based on the severity of the emotional distress. For example, if your economic losses were $1 million, the court may apply a multiplier of 1.5 and award $1.5 million for emotional distress.
Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we will aggressively help you pursue full and fair compensation when you have suffered any type of loss because of the carelessness or negligence of another person. Contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.