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Need Legal Help for Your Business? Find It Here

When my husband I decided to start a business, we didn't think about the legal aspects of doing so. We didn't realize that purchasing business insurance, getting building permits and making investments all required some type of legal advice. But after speaking to a close friend, who also happens to own a small business, we contacted a business attorney. Now, we have the legal smarts to make the best decisions for our business, as well as the legal representation in case something happens to our company. I hope that you find my blog helpful and informative for your own business. It's a great resource for finding the legal advice, resources and guidance you need to get your company up and running.

Need Legal Help for Your Business? Find It Here

Proving Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case

Ronnie Mills

In a personal injury case, it's not out of the ordinary for the plaintiff to sue for emotional distress in addition to punitive and compensatory damages. As with punitive and compensatory damages, the plaintiff must prove that the emotional distress he or she suffered was sufficient enough in severity to justify a monetary award. However, proving emotional harm can be an uphill battle, especially in cases where there's little to no physical injury.

Defining Emotional Distress

Emotional distress can be described as a state of mental suffering caused by a traumatic event, such as witnessing the death or injury of a loved one or being a close bystander to a potentially life-threatening event. Such traumatic events often cause a wide variety of issues related to mental suffering, including panic attacks, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

There are two types of emotional distress actions to be aware of. Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) often describes mental or emotional harm purposely inflicted upon the plaintiff, making the defendant subject to tort action. Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) occurs when the defendant causes mental or emotional harm through carelessness instead of intent. In most cases, the negligent emotional distress must be severe enough that it causes physical symptoms in the plaintiff.

Factors for Proving Emotional Distress

If you're currently pursuing a claim for emotional distress during your personal injury case, you may end up using one or more of the following criteria for proving your claim:

  • Underlying cause—The underlying cause of the emotional distress can easily influence how the court acts on your claim. Your chances of having a successful claim may depend on the extremity of the underlying cause. For instance, you are more likely to have a successful claim if you survived a gunfight than if you were involved in an ordinary auto accident.
  • Related bodily harm—If you've suffered bodily injury as a result of emotional distress, such as an ulcer or chronic headaches, you may have an easier time proving severe emotional distress.
  • Intensity—Your chances of proving severe emotional distress can increase depending on the intensity of your mental anguish.
  • Duration—The duration of your emotional distress can also have a bearing on your claim, especially if you suffer from persistent and recurring pain such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Documentation—Supporting medical documentation from your doctor or psychologist can also help validate your emotional distress claim.

Other Factors

There are other factors that may affect your claim for emotional distress. Elderly persons, pregnant women, and young children are considered a "fragile class" of citizens due to their increased vulnerability. As a result, they are more likely to recover damages for emotional distress.

The court may also take note of plaintiffs who prove extremely sensitive to emotional distress. This means that plaintiffs who prove overly sensitive to conduct that doesn't normally qualify as extreme (such as normal insults or rudeness) may not be able to receive damages for the emotional distress they feel they've suffered.

However, these actions can become extreme and outrageous behavior if the defendant is already aware of their sensitivity. For example, if the defendant knows about a plaintiff's intense fear of spiders and decides to scare the plaintiff with real spiders as a prank, the plaintiff may be able to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, substantiating your claims of emotional distress can be a difficult challenge. Your personal injury attorney will be able to help guide you through the process of proving your emotional distress claim as well as other facets of your personal injury case. Look for a personal injury lawyer in Bronx, NY, or your local area.