Yes, you can sue for emotional distress, which is also known as mental anguish. Has a relationship been so toxic that you feel you are deserving of some monetary claims? If you feel strongly about such a relationship, the good news is that you can take up such a case in court. In this post, we will extensively answer the question, ‘Can you sue for emotional distress?’ and discuss practical ways to go about it.
What Is Emotional Distress?
Before answering the vital question, ‘Can you sue for emotional distress?’ it is imperative that we understand what emotional distress entails. We don’t want you to pay lawyer consultation fees without a fair grasp of what emotional distress entails.
Emotional distress, also known as mental anguish, is induced by an incident of either negligence or intent. Emotional distress is the psychological or mental anguish that an individual experiences as a result of intense or traumatic events, behaviors, or situations. There are varying degrees of emotional distress, which determines the damages you are entitled to.
Examples of Emotional Distress
Now that you are familiar with emotional distress, what are some practical examples of emotional distress? It is worth noting that emotional distress can vary greatly and impact each individual differently.
Here are 7 examples of emotional distress:
1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD might be a term we might throw around with friends and family, but as you may know, it has more depth. PTSD is caused by a stressful experience, such as watching or suffering violence, accidents, or natural disasters. Nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and panic are some of the symptoms.
2. Panic and Anxiety Disorders
Have you ever had a panic attack? Well, I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. Panic attacks and episodes have a substantial influence on daily life. And yes, they all fall under the big umbrella of emotional distress.
Depression is also an example of emotional distress. Persistent sadness and hopelessness in previously appreciated activities are all symptoms of depression.
4. Humiliation and embarrassment
Emotional distress can undermine a person’s dignity or self-worth. Public humiliation, bullying, or harassment are some examples.
5. Grief and bereavement
Grief usually happens following the death of a loved one. Sadness, sobbing, trouble accepting loss, and feelings of emptiness are among the symptoms.
6. Emotional distress due to discrimination or harassment
Have you experienced unprecedented discrimination before? Maybe at the workplace or even in a random place like a shopping mall. It goes without saying that such discrimination can trigger emotional distress.
7. Betrayal and rejection
I have always toyed with the idea that I have abandonment issues pending official diagnosis by a licensed mental health practitioner. I believe such abandonment issues can be exacerbated by betrayal and rejection, which might result in emotional distress.
Types of Emotional Distress
We have answered the question, ‘Can you sue for emotional distress?’ in the affirmative. Well, the next step is knowing the type of emotional distress there is.
The three major types of emotional distress are:
1. Intentional infliction
I had a candid conversation with someone who hurt me recently. And I told him, ‘It was like you set out to hurt me. It was like you wanted to see how much I can hurt.’ Of course, I won’t categorize this friend’s action as emotional distress; it is just a mild example of how emotional distress can play out.
Thus, this example shows that intentional infliction happens when someone’s (in the legal term defendant) purposeful acts are meant to cause you emotional distress. Examples may include constant bullying and verbal attacks that go beyond any decency.
It is also possible that the defendant may not have intended to cause emotional distress but acted in such a way that an unreasonable danger of harm was created. Thus, in situations like this, what is argued is not the intentionality of the defendant’s act but rather the fact that the defendant ought to have known that such actions would result in harm to the other person. Examples include irresponsible driving, unsafe goods, or participating in extreme sports without sufficient safety procedures.
What must be proven is that the defendant was aware of the hazards and behaved in such a way that an undue risk of damage was created.
2. Negligent Infliction
Have you ever had a disagreement with a close friend that made you say something like, ‘It’s like you don’t know how much you hurt me with your actions.’ Well, that is what comes to my mind when I think of negligent infliction.
From a legal perspective, emotional distress as a result of negligent infliction occurs when the defendant causes mental agony accidentally or negligently.
If a drunk driver murdered a kid, the family left behind would experience emotional distress and would be eligible to initiate a civil action.
Employers may also be held accountable for emotional distress if they fail to take reasonable precautions to ensure an employee’s safety or well-being. This covers situations in which an employee experiences mental anguish as a result of physical or verbal abuse, discrimination, or harassment at work.
3. Bystander emotional distress or secondary trauma
I think one of the reservations I might have had about marriage might be an example of bystander emotional distress. I have my family to blame for that, and I am currently toying with the idea of suing them all (haha haha, I got jokes).
Well, just as the name suggests, bystander emotional distress occurs when you observe another person’s suffering and suffer as a result. It may be a family member, a friend, or a stranger.
For instance, seeing a lifeless body in the middle of the highway can trigger some form of emotional distress for you.
Speaking of motor accidents, you can claim emotional anguish in some situations if the vehicle accident wounded someone close to you, even though you were not in the car or present at the time of the accident. The most important requirement is that you were emotionally affected and suffered emotional pain as a result of the occurrence.
Reasons to Sue for Emotional Distress
Why do you feel the need to sue for emotional distress? The first thing that comes to my mind is vengeance. Yes, I can be that petty. However, there are other reasons to sue for emotional distress. Apart from the monetary benefits that come with it, there is also the satisfaction that comes with knowing that someone who caused you emotional distress is paying for it.
Depending on the depth of emotional distress caused, you may have lost your job or even spent hard cash on getting therapy. So it makes sense that you are entitled to some monetary damages.
How to Sue for Emotional Distress?
Has it been established that the actions of someone caused you emotional distress? Well, the next step is suing for emotional distress. What are the steps involved in suing for emotional distress? Well, let’s find out.
How to sue for emotional distress includes the following:
1. Document your emotional state
To win an emotional distress claim, you will need to demonstrate how the actions of the defendant caused you emotional distress. Thus, if you have made up your mind to sue for emotional distress, you may want to retrieve evidence that shows how the defendant’s actions caused you distress. This may include termination of employment documents, legal papers, and medical records that accurately represent your state of mind. This can serve to strengthen your case and make getting compensation easier.
2. Speak with a lawyer.
The next practical step is to consult attorneys who specialize in similar cases. An attorney will help you navigate the legal system and examine your records with a view to strengthening your case.
3. File a lawsuit for emotional distress
Once your attorney determines that you have a substantial case to make, the next step is to file a case at the appropriate court.
4. Prepare for trial
You should have it at the back of your mind; trial is not an easy feat. You will have to rehash the incident all over again. Reliving such traumatizing incidents won’t be easy. It is possible that the defendant will opt for an out-of-court settlement, given how sensitive the subject matter of the suit is. This is often preferable since dealing with emotional distress on trial can be triggering for the victim. More so, predicting the outcome of a trial can be quite difficult.
Your attorney’s responsibility is to advise you on whether to accept a settlement or go to trial.
5. Going to Trial
After both sides have stated their cases, the courts or, in some cases, a jury will decide the case’s outcome. It is critical to understand that suing for defamation and emotional distress is notoriously difficult.
Do you need physical injuries to make a claim for emotional distress?
Most claims for emotional distress necessitate that you have experienced bodily injury as a result of the occurrence. Recent rulings, however, have permitted victims to seek emotional distress damages without proving physical injuries. Depending on the circumstances, psychological and emotional damage caused by situations such as sexual assault or defamation may be grounds for an emotional distress claim.
Can You Sue a Family Member for Emotional Distress
Yes, you can sue a family member for emotional distress. Suing for emotional suffering has subjective grounds. As a result, you need to gather as much evidence as possible to substantiate your claim.
Emotional distress lawsuits are frequently the result of marriage and other intimate relationships. If a person is trying to go on with their life after separating from a previous spouse, but that other partner is emotionally torturing them in a way that causes trauma and mental suffering, they may be able to file an emotional distress claim.
What Qualifies as Emotional Distress Evidence?
During the discovery process, your emotional distress attorney will gather evidence about the occurrence, such as records and reports, in order to develop your case.
If you submit a copy of your mental treatment bills, you can also demonstrate that you were emotionally upset. If you do not have psychiatric treatment bills, having an expert witness willing to speak on the record, such as a therapist or doctor who diagnosed your mental disorder, is beneficial.
Your attorney may also advise you to keep a record of your daily activities and to use a health tracker to detail how the incident has affected your daily life.
How to Prove Emotional Distress
As stated above, sometimes, making a claim of emotional distress in court can be difficult. Thus, you need to be fully prepared to make a case of emotional distress.
There are many various types of evidence you may and should collect when establishing that you have endured emotional distress, including mental anguish and trauma.
Here are ways to prove emotional distress:
1. Physical injuries
As stated above, most cases of emotional distress usually come with evidence of physical injuries. This is because it is easier to prove emotional distress with evidence of physical injuries.
When proving physical injuries, gather images of the injuries. The paperwork includes invoicing of any doctor or medical appointments you had to undergo, physician testimony, and other evidence relevant to the physical harm caused by the identified defendant.
When filing an emotional distress claim, time is in your favor. The longer the claimed activity that produced the emotional distress continues, the more likely your lawsuit will be successful.
3. Medical documentation
Gathering information demonstrating any medical care you had as a result of your emotional distress might be beneficial to your claim. Reports from any psychologist, therapist, or other professionals who provided you with therapy for your emotional trauma are typical forms of data you’ll want to include.
Documentation over a lengthy period of time can be extremely beneficial to your case since it demonstrates the persistence of the emotional trauma and how it has affected you.
4. The severity of the incident
In contrast to other objective statements, showing emotional discomfort might be completely subjective. As a result, the severity of the occurrence is critical. As previously stated, just being the target of hurtful statements and having your feelings harmed is insufficient grounds for filing an emotional distress claim. The more disruptive, intense, and life-changing the occurrence, the more likely your claim will be successful.
Is It Hard to Win a Case of Emotional Distress?
In reality, winning a case of emotional distress is not a run in the park. Damages that cannot be seen might be difficult to establish. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or similar psychological disease is far more difficult to show than a concussion or a broken limb.
As a result, suing for emotional distress frequently necessitates a documented diagnosis from a doctor or mental health therapist. This individual would then be the expert witness who testifies in court, offering evidence to establish the plaintiff’s emotional damage.
In addition to demonstrating emotional distress, lawyers who conduct legal investigations into emotional distress claims must demonstrate that the occurrence caused the damage. The attorney must demonstrate that the incident occurred with either purpose or negligence and that it was the exclusive and direct cause of all future mental distress.
How are Emotional Distress Damages Calculated?
Not to sound like a broken record, but proving emotional distress can be a tad difficult. In the same vein, calculating emotional distress can be a bit complex. This is because there is no clear formula or set criteria for establishing the amount.
The intensity of the emotional distress, the impact it has had on the plaintiff’s life, and any accompanying economic losses are all considered when calculating these damages.
Here are some factors that are considered when calculating emotional distress:
1. Severity of emotional distress
There are varying degrees of emotional distress. Thus, the higher the plaintiff’s pain, the higher the amount rewarded as damages. This is usually determined by looking at the nature of the distress, how long it lasts, and how it affects the plaintiff’s general well-being.
2. Impact on life
The amount to which the plaintiff’s mental suffering has damaged her everyday life, relationships, work, and general quality of life is considered. This might involve a breakdown in personal relationships, a loss of enjoyment in life, and a deterioration in mental or physical health.
3. Economic losses
Emotional distress damages may also include monetary compensation for economic losses incurred as a result of the distress. For example, if the distress has resulted in medical bills, treatment charges, or income loss, these monetary losses may be included in the computation.
4. Judicial precedent
Courts may look to similar cases and verdicts to find a fair range of damages for emotional distress in a specific circumstance. Prior instances involving comparable circumstances and the consequent compensation can be used as a guideline.
5. Expert witnesses
Expert witnesses, such as mental health doctors, may testify in support of the plaintiff’s claim and assist in quantifying the level of emotional distress caused.
Can You Sue For Emotional Distress In The UK?
Yes, you can. However, in most cases, emotional distress claims can rarely stand on their own. For example, you may have experienced a physical injury in a car accident, and part of your claim may include compensation for emotional distress as a result of that damage.
Can You Sue For Emotional Distress In Nigeria?
In Nigeria, emotional distress is termed as emotional abuse, which comes under criminal law. Thus, emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse is punishable under Nigerian law with terms of imprisonment and a fine. It follows that a private person can not sue for emotional abuse but rather can be a complainant if the government decides to take up such cases of emotional abuse.
Can You Sue For Emotional Distress In Canada?
Yes, you can sue for emotional distress in Canada if you can show that the party you’re suing was negligent or purposefully caused you harm. Because of how severe mental suffering may be for the victim, the law in Canada considers it to be as serious as physical injury.
Can You Sue For Emotional Distress In the US?
Yes, you can sue for emotional distress in the US. Emotional distress is a sort of harm that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a civil action in the United States. Emotional distress damages are classed as non-economic damages since they come within the legal umbrella of pain and suffering.
Final Thoughts: Can You Sue For Emotional Distress?
One more, the question of whether you can sue for emotional distress is answered in the affirmative. Once you have determined that someone’s action caused you emotional distress, the next step is to seek the services of a personal injury lawyer. I am rooting for you.