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What Are Emotional Distress Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?

Posted on June 11, 2019 in

The context surrounding most personal injury claims is rarely lighthearted in nature. Often, individuals suffer from emotional damages incurred by the incident and the physical injuries they sustain. Instead of discounting the emotional aspect of an accident, a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer offers plaintiffs the opportunity to seek compensation as a form of recovery.

Are Emotional Damages the Same as Pain and Suffering?

On many law firm informational pages, you might see emotional distress and pain and suffering listed as damages that you can claim via lawsuit. In practice, pain and suffering refers to both physical pain and emotional suffering. In pain and suffering claims, you provide evidence for emotional distress along with physical damage. This differs from a lawsuit that is only claiming emotional distress, which is where the distinction comes in. Both types of claims require evidence of emotional distress, but one accompanies physical damage as well.

How Does the Court Calculate Emotional Damages?

Because it is impossible to put a static figure on emotional damage, the details of each case dictate how the court calculates compensation. While the assignment of feelings do not contribute to a compensatory figure, the resulting damages caused by this emotional distress does add up.

  • In-patient/Out-patient psychiatric services – In extreme cases, personal injury cases involve individuals who require serious medical treatment to deal with the incident. This is most common in wrongful death and/or debilitating accidents that change the trajectory of the individual’s life. If an accident leaves an individual unable to cope without psychiatric help, they can seek reimbursement for the associated costs.
  • Recurring medical costsRegular therapy is not as intense as psychiatric servicing, but it is still costly. This also applies to medication prescribed for conditions like depression. Plaintiffs can seek compensation for present and future costs associated with therapy and medication through their claim.
  • Lost wages – Lost wages that may occur result from missed work associated with issues like depression or PTSD.

How to Prove Emotional Distress

Much like assigning a dollar figure to emotional damage, proving this damage comes into question during personal injury cases. Because it isn’t possible to look at emotional distress directly, evidence typically pertains to distress-caused symptoms:

  • Sleep loss
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Substance abuse

Describing the context of these symptoms also supports your claim.

  • The intensity of your symptoms increases the viability of your claim. Accident-related distress that disrupts daily living is cause for compensation. This is especially true in cases where the defendant inflicted intentional emotional harm onto the plaintiff.
  • The duration of your symptoms also serves as proof. Problems like PTSD generally persist over time and can take weeks to months to manifest. The longer your symptoms last, the more severe the court considers your emotional distress to be.
  • The emotional distress that results in bodily harm is one of the only physical ways to prove its severity. Ulcers, headaches, palpitations, and even weight loss are physical indications that emotional distress has severely impacted the plaintiff.
  • The external circumstances that caused your distress to determine the legitimacy of your claim. For instance, intentional emotional damage sustained via abuse will hold differently in court than a case based on a rear-end collision.
  • Obtaining a doctor’s note provides solid proof when illustrating emotional distress. This expert opinion supports your case because it goes beyond your own personal account.

Though it might not initially seem to have grounds in the legal realm, emotions are a plausible cause to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, simply being angry does not constitute as distress. The plaintiff must sustain actual emotional damage from the incident that has impacted their daily living in the way a physical injury would.