What to Know When Suing for Emotional Distress

emotional distress

Physical injuries are usually straightforward to prove, and getting compensated for them is a relatively simple process. Emotional distress, on the other hand, can be more difficult to prove, because of its intangible nature. This can include emotional trauma resulting from an accident or neglect from the at-fault party.

Emotional distress can manifest through anxiety, stress, self-destructive thoughts, depression, insomnia, and humiliation or shame. In most cases, mental anguish that results from your physical harm can be directly linked. But if your trauma is an indirect result of an incident, such as through the harm or death of a family member, it is still possible to sue for mental distress. 

The first step towards filing a successful claim is to know your way around the lawsuit process. Here are some insights to help you succeed in your emotional distress lawsuit:

Types of Emotional Distress

If you have suffered from emotional distress or mental trauma, it is possible to recover compensation for your emotional distress. A personal injury lawyer can help calculate pain and suffering damages. But before that happens, it’s important to understand the two types of emotional distress claims. 

They include:

  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress –  You can file such a claim if the defendant’s actions were accidental. However, there needs to be proof that your mental anguish can be tied back to the incident in question. An example would be the mental trauma you have to go through after losing your arm in an accident.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress – You can file this claim if the emotional trauma you are going through is a result of the defendant’s intentional actions.

The legal proceedings for both cases are complex. Hiring a reputable lawyer can make it easier to navigate the filing process and help you collect enough evidence to support your claim. 

Getting Diagnosed for Emotional Trauma

First, you need to prove that you are indeed in a state of distress. This process largely involves getting a diagnosis from a therapist, psychologist, or doctor. You may also have to work with these professionals as expert witnesses to your case.

Second, you need to prove that the state of mental distress you are in resulted from the defendant’s intentional or unintentional actions. The court will need proof that the defendant acted with outrageous or extreme misconduct, or that they were negligent in their responsibilities.

Hold on to Documents for Proof

Medical documents are essential in proving emotional distress, but there are other documents you can use to help strengthen your case. For instance, you may have some unpaid bills from the months you failed to go to work. You could also have personal notes from your therapist on how to cope with your situation.

Any journal entries you might have about your current emotional state could also be beneficial to your case. Take your time collecting such documents and present them to your lawyer. You could ask your boss for records of the days of work you have missed, or ask your mortgage lender for records of missed payments.

Consider Your Social Media Presence

The defendant’s side will be looking for anything to prove that you were not in fact in a state of emotional distress. Your social media posts could be an easy target when collecting evidence for them. If you have pictures or posts of you celebrating or smiling on vacation, they may use this against you in court. 

Also, posts that allegedly show your evidence as fabricated could ruin your case. For instance, a post that shows you were out having fun on a day you missed work will not support your claim you were experiencing mental anguish on that day. For the period of the lawsuit, be careful with your social media posts, and those of your loved ones too.


The emotional burden that comes with a personal injury can turn your world upside down. Since you may have to live with a certain amount of emotional trauma for a long time, it is your right to get suitable compensation. Work closely with your personal injury attorney to build a strong case that increases your chances of getting fair compensation. 

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