Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?
Brian White | December 11, 2020 | Personal Injury
Most people associate traffic accidents and other personal injuries with physical injuries. While it is common to sustain broken bones, brain injury, and other physical injuries in an accident, it is also common to experience emotional distress. Being injured in a car accident, slip and fall, workplace accident, or other incidents can be one of the most traumatic experiences a person might experience.
Texas personal injury laws provide legal recourse for accident victims to seek compensation for their emotional distress and the damages that it causes.
What is Emotional Distress?
The conditions associated with emotional distress can include severe psychological disorders. It also includes symptoms that are associated with a traumatic event.
Examples of emotional distress include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Panic attacks
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse
- Sleeping too much
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
- Having low or no energy
Children can also experience emotional distress. Additional signs of emotional distress in children can include aggression, withdrawal, and being disruptive. Children may also begin to perform poorly in school and lose interest in activities they enjoyed before the accident.
Emotional distress can be as debilitating as a catastrophic injury. A person may be unable to work, care for their family, or accomplish daily activities of living.
With severe emotional distress, a person may require mental health treatment. Treatment for emotional distress may include medication, counseling, and other forms of therapy. Severe cases of emotional distress could result in in-patient care.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim for Emotional Distress in Texas
Most claims for emotional distress related to personal injury claims are filed as the negligent infliction of emotional distress. Texas does recognize intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, but those claims generally apply in cases such as nursing home abuse, assaults, or threats of violence.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress arises from an accident or incident caused by negligence, errors, or mistakes. Examples of cases that could involve negligent infliction of emotional distress include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and truck accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Dog bite injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Bus accidents
- Construction site accidents
- Maritime injuries
- Defective product injuries
- Premises liability claims
Filing a claim for emotional distress may include demands for compensation of economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages can include lost wages, cost of treatment, and other financial losses. Non-economic damages refer to the pain and suffering experienced because of emotional distress.
Accident victims can file claims for emotional distress. However, other individuals might be able to receive compensation for emotional distress. Individuals who witness a traumatic event might also receive compensation for emotional distress, even though they did not sustain physical injuries because of the accident.
Valuing a Claim for Emotional Distress
Placing a value on a person’s pain and suffering is challenging. Economic damages are the total of the financial losses associated with emotional distress. However, there is no statutory formula or specific law that states how to calculate the non-economic damages caused by emotional distress.
Some types of evidence can be used to help prove the extent of a person’s emotional distress:
- Medical records and mental evaluations by mental health professionals
- Photographs and medical records establishing the extent of physical injuries sustained in the accident
- A journal documenting the daily symptoms and experiences of the accident victim
There are two common ways to value emotional distress in personal injury cases. The parties can agree to a per diem. The per diem is a dollar figure used to calculate the value of emotional distress. The per diem is multiplied by the number of days between the accident and when the doctor releases the patient from treatment.
However, the multiplier method is generally the method most parties use to calculate non-economic damages. A multiplier is assigned to the claim based on the severity of injuries and other factors. The multiplier is a number between 1.5 and give.
The value of the non-economic damages caused by emotional distress equals the person’s financial damages times the multiplier. The multiplier method works well in cases that involve financial losses. If there are no financial losses, the per diem method may be used.
Do I Need an Attorney to File a Claim for Emotional Distress?
You are not required to hire a personal injury lawyer to file a claim, but you may want to consider hiring an attorney. Claims for emotional distress can be complicated. Insurance companies often allege that victims are exaggerating claims for emotional distress.
Having an attorney who understands personal injury laws, evidence, and insurance company tactics can help you receive the money you deserve after an accident or injury.