Suing For Emotional Distress After an Accident

If a recent accident due to another person’s negligence left you injured, you may be able to collect compensation for the full extent of your injuries. Personal injury claims consider many types of injuries aside from the physical. The emotional aspects of an accident can be just as damaging to your psyche as physical injuries are to your body. Therefore, many personal injury claims involve compensation for emotional distress.

When Can I Collect Damages for Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress damages can be trickier to collect than economic damages, which typically involve quantifiable expenses such as medical bills and lost wages. In a legal sense, there are two main types of emotional distress:

  • Negligent infliction of harm. In this first category, the party responsible for your injuries exhibited an action or inaction that directly led to your distress. For example, you may be able to collect based on negligent infliction if you witnessed a loved one die in a car accident.
  • Intentional infliction of harm. This type of harm is more serious and involves an outrageous or grossly negligent behavior that led to your distress. An example might include emotional distress charges in a sexual assault civil case. If you begin to experience panic attacks or exhibit symptoms of PTSD following this type of accident, your emotional distress becomes compensable.

In some cases, intentional infliction of harm can give rise to punitive damages. These are damages specifically intended to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and discourage similar behavior in the future. For example, a jury might award punitive damages to a victim if a pharmaceutical company knowingly encouraged the off-label prescription of a drug it knew was dangerous.

Determining when a victim can sue for emotional distress can be tricky. To collect these damages, your attorney must link your distress to outrageous or negligent conduct. An employer screaming obscenities at an employee might be inappropriate behavior, but it may not count as emotional distress. An attorney can help you determine the difference, which is why we always recommend scheduling a free initial consultation.

How Much Is My Emotional Distress Worth?

Another common question we encounter is, “How much is my emotional distress worth?” It can be difficult to assign a monetary value to the pain associated with your experience. Generally, personal injury attorneys use one of two methods to calculate emotional distress general damages:

  • The factorial method. Using this method, your attorneys will negotiate with the other party and determine general damages by multiplying your economic damages by a number up to five. The bulk of the negotiating involves determining the appropriate factor – for example, instances of gross negligence or the death of a loved one will involve a higher factor than one involving the unintentional infliction of harm.
  • Insurance companies use the per diem method less commonly, but it is appropriate in some cases. Using this method, your personal injury attorneys take a monetary value and multiply it by the number of days you experienced emotional distress. Usually, the base number is what you make at work each day, as the theory holds your distress should at least be as equal as reporting to work each day.

Suing for emotional distress is possible following an accident, but it requires a thoughtful approach. Using one of these established methods, your attorney will determine how much your emotional distress is worth and negotiate on your half to achieve compensation for the full extent of your suffering. If an accident led to emotional distress arising out of negligent or intentional infliction of harm, you may be eligible to collect compensation for your suffering. Contact us for more details.