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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

Can I Sue for Emotional Distress?

After sustaining physical injuries in a negligent or intentional incident, victims frequently take perpetrators to court and sue. If they win the case, they receive appropriate compensation, which may help them cover their medical bills or replace their income as they recover.

But what if the injury isn’t physical? What if the only damage is emotional, yet it prevents the victim from functioning normally? Is it possible to sue even in such a case?

The answer is usually yes, but let’s take a closer look at emotional distress lawsuits and what they entail.

What Is Emotional Distress?

What Is Emotional Distress?

A broad definition of emotional distress is any sort of mental pain that may cause feelings of anxiety and depression and get in the way of normal functioning. However, it’s important to know the legal definition before attempting to win a lawsuit. Legally, mental anguish is any mental suffering that results from another person’s conduct and for which one can seek damages.

Some symptoms of emotional distress that may count as evidence in court include:

● Frequent mood swings

● Sleep disturbances

● Irritability

● Troubles with memory and retention skills

● Issues with anger management

● Chronic fatigue

Can you sue for anxiety after a car accident? On their own, these symptoms don’t win a lawsuit. A personal injury lawyer has to prove they are a result of the other party’s actions first. They hold actual weight only then.

Requirements for Filing an Emotional Distress Lawsuit

Before filing an emotional distress lawsuit, the victim needs to consult a personal injury lawyer. This lawyer has to examine the details of the potential lawsuit and decide whether it would make a viable case. Here are the requirements each case should meet before going to court.

Enough Evidence

Emotional distress is much harder to prove than bodily harm since it’s not typically outwardly visible. Still, the victim’s claim that they suffered isn’t enough — there has to be other, more tangible evidence to back it up. Usually, that includes:

● Medical records

● Expert witnesses, such as therapists or psychiatrists

● List of prescriptions

● Other witnesses who know the victim well

In preparation for the trial, the attorney might ask the victim to write a daily journal describing how the incident affected their life. While that won’t be enough to win the case, it can certainly help during the trial.

Proof of Intentional Infliction or Negligence

For the lawsuit to hold up in court, the attorney must prove that the defendant’s actions inflicted emotional distress. There are two types of infliction typically discussed in courts — intentional and negligent.

Intentional infliction means that the defendant acted with the intent to emotionally or physically harm the victim or showed reckless indifference. On the other hand, negligent infliction happens when a person acts carelessly and, as a result, harms another. For instance, a drunk driver may unintentionally kill someone, causing their family great emotional pain. In such a case, the family can sue for emotional distress.

Physical Trauma

In some states, it’s only possible to sue for emotional distress if physical trauma is involved. That means the victim can sue a doctor who misdiagnosed them, causing them both physical and mental harm, for example. But if they’ve been suffering regular insults and verbal assault at work, they can’t sue because the physical element is missing.

So, before deciding to sue for emotional distress, the victim has to check whether their state allows it only if they have physical trauma too. And even if bodily injury isn’t a requirement, those who have it receive compensation more frequently.

What Happens After Filing the Lawsuit?

Even once the lawsuit is filed, the case might not go to trial. Usually, during the preparation stage, the victim’s and defendant’s attorneys will meet and present information about the case. Based on that, they can advise their clients whether it’s better to settle the issue outside of court or take it to trial. If the clients agree to settle car damage even without insurance, the whole process stops there.

However, if they don’t, the court determines a date for the hearing. After both sides have presented their evidence, arguments, and witnesses, the court or a jury decides the outcome. If the victim wins the lawsuit, the defendant has to pay a certain sum as reparations.

Final Thoughts

When there is no physical harm involved, winning an emotional distress lawsuit can be difficult. Still, it certainly isn’t impossible — not with a good Des Moines car accident attorney backing the victim up. Tom Fowler Law has such attorneys, ready to help with any sort of mental anguish lawsuit. Contact us today!


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