Emotional distress damages are more challenging to address through the legal system because of the very nature of the emotional pain. Unlike physical pain or injury that can be demonstrated, quantified and visible, emotional pain and suffering because of psychological
trauma is invisible and highly subjective. However, this doesn’t mean that emotional distress cannot be compensated through the courts. In fact, with different options for professional testimony and advances in different types of medical and psychological testing emotional distress compensation is awarded in a number of different situations.
Legal Definition of Emotional Distress
Emotional distress in the eyes of the law is emotional pain and suffering that is caused because of the intentional or negligent acts of another. For example, in cases of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, libel, slander or threats, the injured party may experience emotional distress even if there was no physical injury. In addition, providing false information to cause distress can also be found under this definition if the information is provided to intentionally cause emotional pain and suffering and is knowingly false by the person providing it.
Proving Emotional Distress
Proving emotional distress can be very challenging but certainly not impossible.
In general your attorney will need to prove that:
• There was a negligent or intentional physical injury that contributed to the emotional distress
• If there is physical injury or even if not the emotional component was designed to cause distress
• The defendant (the cause of the emotional distress) acted intentionally and recklessly and the behavior was extreme and outrageous
The definition of extreme and outrageous is somewhat subjective but is considered behavior that a normal person would find to be extreme and emotionally distressing. This means that the level of insults, slander, libel, threats or verbal abuse has to be more than what the
typical, average person would see as over the top and not just insults or petty comments.
Filing Your Lawsuit
The first step in filing a lawsuit for emotional distress starts with getting a personal injury attorney involved.
Different states have different statute of limitations that apply based on the type of underlying claim. This could be personal injury, in most states 2 years, or in cases of defamation it could be as long as three years or as short as 6 months. Consulting with your attorney
as soon as possible will ensure you act before your time to file has expired.
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