Understanding Emotional Distress Damages in Personal Injury


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For every action, there is an equal reaction and true enough, accidents not only cause physical pain and injury but can also produce mental anguish and suffering on the part of the victim.

Personal injury accidents in particular, such as car crash accidents can result to catastrophic injuries that can physically, mentally, and emotionally incapacitate and traumatize victims. And under personal injury tort law, when one is hurt by another’s wrongdoing, the victim may file a claim for damages against the liable party. Damages are legally defined as the amount of money used to compensate the injured party.

There are however, two categories of damages: economic and non-economic damages and these include:

Economic Damages

The amount is usually based on medical expenses (past and future), loss of wages (past and future), lost earning capacity,  damage to real and personal property and loss of profits.

Non-Economic Damages

Physical pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (loss of spousal companionship and services).

Generally, economic damages are easier to prove through medical bills and actual property damage but non-economic damages require a different kind of proof as they are not as tangible as actual economic damages.

Non-economic damages are also known as quality-of-life damages. Thus, for victims of accidents or incidents which have caused considerable emotional distress and pain, acquiring the services of a personal injury attorney is a must.

Emotional Distress

Damages for emotional distress are usually only permitted when there is a way to assure the validity of the claim. There are also several components of emotional distress which may be unquantifiable such as:

  • Mental anguish
  • Depression
  • Fright
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Humiliation
  • Embarrassment
  • Physical pain

It is the duty of the lawyer of the victim who is seeking emotional distress damages to prove his client’s feelings occurred by reason of the negligence or fault of the defendant.

Also, take note that under tort law, there may also be a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is a claim separate and distinct from economic damages where four elements must be proven:

  • That the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly
  • That the defendant’s conduct was extreme or outrageous
  • That the extreme or outrageous conduct caused
  • Severe emotional distress

In order not to add further stress or anxiety to personal injury victims, it is strongly advisable to acquire the services of a lawyer who is well-versed in damages. They will be able to take up the cudgels for the injured party and ensure that the ones liable for the emotional distress and other injuries to pay for the costs of the actions.

(Learn more about the valuation of different injury settlements)

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