How To Prove Emotional Distress In A Personal Injury Lawsuit

In the aftermath of sustaining an injury caused by the negligent or careless actions of another person, victims often have to file personal injury lawsuits to recover compensation for their losses. There are various types of compensation available for victims of personal injuries, including both economic and non-economic compensation. Emotional distress damages are one type of compensation that victims may seek in their case. However, proving emotional distress can be difficult. The team at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates has extensive experience helping personal injury victims in these situations. Let our Chicago personal injury attorneys get to work investigating your case today so we can secure the compensation you deserve.

What are emotional distress damages?

Emotional distress, also commonly referred to as mental anguish damages, are non-physical injuries that a person incurs that are mostly psychological in nature. Emotional distress injuries can manifest themselves in a range of feelings, including humiliation and shame, insomnia, depression, anxiety, stress, or even thoughts of self-harm. Many victims of personal injuries also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Emotional distress injuries can arise as a result of actual physical injuries that a person sustains or as a result of being placed in a traumatic, non-physical injury situation.

Woman suffering emotional distress due to someone else's negligence

Evidence for proving emotional distress

Unfortunately, proving emotional distress damages can be more difficult than proving other types of damages in a personal injury claim. That is because, unlike a broken bone or other type of physical injury, there is very little actual physical proof of this type of damage.

In order to successfully recover emotional distress damages in a personal injury lawsuit, a victim is going to need documentation from a doctor, psychologist, or therapist with a diagnosis of some sort of mental health condition (depression, PDSD, etc.).

Aside from showing that the injury victim is suffering from this type of emotional distress, there will need to be a solid link between the mental health diagnosis and the incident in question. The injury victim or their attorney still needs to show that the actions of the alleged negligent party caused the emotional distress in question. In order to do this, an securing attorney may be necessary because they will have the resources to be able to gather all the facts surrounding emotional distress injuries in question. This can include:

  • Video or photo surveillance of any injury-causing incident
  • Statements from eyewitnesses to the incident
  • Statements from family and friends about a victim’s behavioral changes
  • Documentation from doctors and therapists

Finally, it needs to be shown that the injury victim suffered some sort of loss due to their injuries. In an emotional distress case, this could be the expense of seeing a therapist or doctor, coverage of prescription medications, or proof of lost income if they are unable to work due to their emotional distress.

Types of emotional distress claims

There are two main types of emotional distress claims. Victims in these situations may be able to recover compensation for the following:

  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress. A claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress will occur when a negligent party’s (defendant) actions are unintentional or accidental. However, even if an injury happened by accident, if the defendant’s actions were responsible, they could be held liable for the injury victim’s (plaintiff) emotional distress damages.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress. A claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress will be made if the defendant in the case acted intentionally or grossly negligent when they caused harm to the plaintiff. Intentional infliction of emotional distress could occur in cases where a person was robbed at gunpoint and shot. A non-physical injury example of intentional infliction of emotional distress could be a person suffering from repeated bullying and harassment in the workplace, an employer knowing that this was taking place, and doing nothing to stop it.

Can you sue for emotional distress without physical injuries?

Securing compensation for emotional distress without actual physical injury in Illinois can be complicated. Typically, an emotional distress claim requires some form of physical injury or other type of pecuniary harm (meaning, they suffered some sort of monetary loss). However, not all injuries are physical. For example, an emotional or psychological injury can also result in significant medical expenses.

In order for a person to make an emotional distress claim in the absence of physical injuries, most jurisdictions will require that the person making the claim to have been within the “zone of danger.” Legally, the zone of danger is typically the area in which a person was in actual physical peril from the negligent actions of another person.

For example, suppose a person is in a car accident with their family that was caused by the negligence actions of a drunk driver, then that person may be able to recover emotional distress damages they suffered from both their physical injuries and the injuries they witnesses occur to their families.

What can you do to help your claim?

If you believe you have suffered from an emotional distress injury, there are a few steps you can take to help ensure you receive maximum compensation:

  1. Keep a journal in which you describe the way you have been emotionally impacted. Describe any feelings of fear, anxiety, humiliation, or fright. Document any instances of crying or lack of sleep.
  2. Obtain and make copies of all evidence related to your emotional distress injuries. This includes any visit you make to a medical professional and proof of prescription medications you may be taking.
  3. Document any days you miss from work due to your emotional distress. If you are no longer able to hold a job due to your injuries, obtain documentation of your employment dates and proof of your income.

Contact an attorney for help

If you or somebody you love has sustained emotional distress injuries as a result of another person’s careless, negligent, or intentional actions, contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, we are ready to get to work investigating every aspect of your claim so we can secure full compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering damages, and more. When you need an Illinois emotional distress and negligence attorney, please call our Chicago office at (312) 372-8822 or our Joliet office at (815) 723-8822, or you can call our toll free number at (800) 985-1819.