Lawyers For The People

Can I File a Lawsuit Over Emotional Distress?

| Dec 16, 2021 | Personal Injury

Depending on your circumstances, you can file a lawsuit for your emotional distress. To be clear, this does not include a relationship gone wrong or an unhappy childhood. Legally speaking, emotional distress happens when someone, through either negligence or direct intent, wrongs you. The result of that wrong is severe trauma or distress, affecting every aspect of your life.

Typically, lawsuits solely focused on emotional distress do not include physical injury. For example, you may have been defamed, or someone could be guilty of committing libel against you. Situations like these can be severely traumatic, and an emotional distress lawsuit may be appropriate. Sexual assault could also qualify for an emotional distress suit. Not all sexual assaults are violent or leave physical traces, but the mental toll they take is immeasurable.

Is an Emotional Distress Lawsuit Right for You?

It’s important you understand exactly what your lawsuit entails. Several lawsuits can involve an element of emotional distress, but that distress may not be the focal point of the suit.

For example, imagine a loved one is killed by a drunk driver. You are certainly distressed and traumatized by this event, but that may not be the best foundation for your lawsuit. In this case, you would be better served by a wrongful death lawsuit. Through this suit, you could receive several different kinds of damages. You can be compensated for your distress, for sure, but you can also be reimbursed for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of support, and more.

The same is true if you were injured or attacked by someone. These acts leave an emotional impact, and you can be compensated for that impact. However, you can also receive damages like the ones outlined above, reimbursement for your troubles.

A lawsuit based solely on emotional distress should not include physical injury.

Damages You Can Receive

Despite what many believe, civil lawsuits are not a get-rich-quick scheme. They are designed to provide direct financial compensation to make up for someone’s harm. This is why your compensation is called “damages.”

For emotional distress, you could be compensated a surprising number of direct expenses. You may have psychiatric and psychological treatment that demands compensation, along with any related prescriptions. Your emotional trauma may have led to a hospitalization, and you can have those bills covered.

Trauma affects every aspect of your life. You may have been wounded to the point of losing your job or your promotion. This is considered “lost income,” and those expenses can be included in your lawsuit.

Often, personal injury suits include compensation for pain and suffering. This is a dollar amount that helps relieve the misery you experienced. The longer and more severely you suffered, the more your lawyer can negotiate for these damages.

When experiencing a mental health crisis, the pain and suffering sometimes goes beyond your direct anguish. Perhaps your mental state ended your marriage or caused you to lose custody of the children. These direct impacts can allow for greater compensation in a lawsuit.

Finally, you may be eligible for punitive damages as well. The judge may wish to punish the defendant with extra expenses. A civil court cannot hand out criminal charges. Punitive damages are the only way it can penalize egregious behavior. If the defendant is guilty of behavior that is fraudulent, malicious, and/or intentional, the judge may see fit to punish them with punitive damages.

Collecting Evidence

If you consider your mental distress the same as any other injury, you can easily imagine which evidence to produce.

Any mental health treatment you received can be compensated, so collect all your associated bills.

If your distress affected your job, there should be documentation available for that as well. Your employer, or former employer, should have records of job loss or demotion along with justifications for these decisions.

Perhaps you didn’t lose a job, but your performance declined, leading to poor performance reviews. These could be entered into evidence as proof of your mental decline, if not as a loss of income. However, performance is sometimes tied to bonuses, so if you missed a bonus, that could be included in your loss of income claim.

Your attorney can also bring in witnesses. Close friends and family should have direct accounts that can validate your declining mental state.

Other forms of evidence may not be as direct. You could, for example, enter your personal journal into evidence. This can serve as a chronicle of your declining mental state, helping prove your case. Be wise before entering such evidence. It will be read by everyone involved in the case, and it will become a matter of public record.

The Challenge of a Mental Distress Lawsuit

Personal injury lawsuits normally start with an undeniable fact: Someone was physically hurt. It’s easy to see someone limping, bandaged, and so on. From there, the challenge is in proving what led to the injury.

In a mental distress case, you must also prove that the injury occurred at all. Unless a plaintiff began self-harming, there are probably no direct, outward signs of the injury. The defense can easily claim that no injury occurred at all. This is why you need rock-solid evidence, as described above. Through documentation and witnesses, you must prove to the court that the harm took place, then you can start the work of proving it was the defendant’s fault.

You must also consider the emotional impact of such a suit. Reliving the events that led to your decline can reignite the trauma. Talk the decision over with your mental health professional before moving forward.

Mental and emotional distress lawsuits are difficult, and they require the services of a skilled attorney. If someone else’s behavior hindered your ability to manage life, contact our office today. We can offer you a free consultation and guide your next steps. You can reach our office online or by phone at (607) 228-8404.