What Is Emotional Distress? Can a Family Member Be Liable?
Physical injuries may be more apparent, but emotional trauma can often be more debilitating and persistent. Physical wounds can heal in a matter of days, weeks or months, but psychological injuries can fester, paralyzing you in many ways.
Under the law, when the wrongful acts of another person cause you emotional distress, you have a right to seek damages (monetary compensation) for your injury and loss. What if your emotional strife is caused by the actions of a family member? Can you file a lawsuit to recover for emotional injuries inflicted by a loved one?
What Is Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress is what the law refers to as a “tort,” a legal wrong characterized by an act or omission that causes harm or injury to another person or entity (other that a breach of contract). For centuries, individuals who have suffered any type of physical injury, from sprains, strains and soft-tissue trauma to serious and catastrophic injury, have been able to pursue compensation in court for all losses caused by physical injury. The law also allows for recovery of damages for “emotional distress.” In most instances where a person seeks compensation for emotional injury, there are also claims for physical injury. In certain circumstances, though, a person may be able to pursue compensation for emotional distress without suffering any physical injury.
The Different Types of Emotional Injury
As the laws governing infliction of emotional distress have evolved, they have fallen into two distinct wrongs:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress—This involves reckless or purposeful acts, where the wrongdoer’s specific objective is to bring about emotional harm or trauma. Examples include verbal assaults, stalking or other threatening behavior
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress—This occurs when the wrongdoer fails to act as a reasonable person would have under the circumstances. It’s typically the byproduct of a physical injury, but may also arise when a person witnesses an accident involving a loved one.
Does the Law Allow You to Sue a Family Member for Infliction of Emotional Distress?
Though proving infliction of emotional distress can be more difficult with a family member, there is nothing in the law that prohibits filing a lawsuit against a family member who has intentionally or negligently caused you emotional harm. These types of lawsuits are filed in civil court, so, to be successful with your claim, you must only show that your version of the facts is more credible or believable than the defendant’s story. Factors that can help improve your chances of recovering compensation include:
- Evidence that you sustained physical injuries caused by the family member
- Evidence that the conduct or behavior that constituted emotional distress happened repeatedly over a period of time
- Any medical documentation showing treatment you received because of the emotional distress, such as visits to or reports from psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or counselors
- The nature/severity of the behavior
Contact the Aggressive Personal Injury Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we understand how a personal injury can change your life. We’ll be at your side throughout the legal process, helping you pursue full and fair compensation for all your losses. We can also be your intermediary with insurance companies, so that you get all the benefits to which you are entitled. 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.