Is Emotional Distress a Personal Injury?

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Emotional distress is one of those phrases that gets coverage in the media that people love asking a personal injury attorney about. Some people are suspicious of people that claim emotional distress and others are simply curious how it can be proven. 

So, is emotional distress a type of personal injury? The short answer is yes. However, it’s complicated and not always the case. Sometimes it isn’t and sometimes it isn’t a personal injury in its own right. Keep reading to learn more!

How a Personal Injury Attorney Defines Emotional Distress

An accident, especially severe ones, can absolutely cause mental trauma for the victim. This hurts the victim’s recovery and can have a huge impact on their life. The person whose negligence caused this anguish should be responsible for correcting this damage.

When it comes to personal injury law, emotional distress is any non-physical harm (mental or psychological). These can be specific and clinical or generalized and can include physical damages as a result of emotional anguish. Some examples can be fear, anxiety, depression, and more.

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How to Prove Emotional Distress

Emotional suffering is more difficult to prove in court than physical damage. Claimable emotional damages are also frequently capped by the courts. However, there are ways to help establish emotional duress, including (but is not limited to): 

  • An evaluation from a doctor or mental health professional;
  • Testimony from loved ones; and
  • Journals and other first-hand accounts from the victim.

When Emotional Distress Is and Isn’t a Personal Injury

Hopefully, you have a clearer idea of emotional distress. Now, we’ll discuss when emotional distress is and isn’t considered a personal injury. 

In Addition to a Personal Injury

Most often, emotional distress is a type of legal damages claimed in addition to a physical personal injury. These damages can be because of the stress of the accident or mental anguish caused by the changes in the victim’s life from the physical injuries that occurred.

Emotional Distress Alone

Emotional damages occur without any related physical injuries. These are only sometimes considered a personal injury: 

Neglectful Infliction of Emotional Distress without Physical Harm

Emotional distress usually can’t be claimed without a related physical injury. If somebody was mentally harmed by an accident, but nobody was physically hurt, there is probably not a possible legal claim available.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

One exception is if the emotional distress was deliberate. In other words, mental harm caused by “another individual who intentionally or recklessly inflicted emotional distress” (cited from Wikipedia) can lead to a personal injury lawsuit.

Bystander Emotional Distress

In-person witnesses to a traumatic personal injury can also claim personal injuries under California law. The bystander has to prove they suffered damages from the incident and they have to prove the defendant caused the physical harm through negligence.

Ask a Lawyer If You’re Unsure 

Ultimately, everything discussed in this article is a generalization. There may be a caveat to a person’s emotional distress counting or not counting as personal injury. If you’ve experienced an injury involving emotional distress, the best course of action is often to ask a personal injury attorney about it.

Belal Hamideh Law offers a free consultation to those injured, which is great for anybody who is unsure if they have a case or not. Their law firm can quickly assess your situation and offer to represent you if they believe you can win your case. They’ll even work with you to get you treatment, which can be a godsend if your emotional distress is debilitating. Call (562) 526-1224 speak with Belal Hamideh Law today.