Suing for Emotional Distress After an Injury (With Examples)

Andrew Levine
Partner, Attorney
suing for emotional distress in New York

The devastation after an accident can create long-term emotional pain, not just physical pain or loss. Many people experience trauma due to what they saw, experienced firsthand, and felt. It can be one of the most difficult to overcome the challenges of significant injuries. 

Suing for emotional distress may be an option for some individuals, but it's a complicated process.

One of the core problems with suing for emotional distress is that it's hard to put a financial value on what you're experiencing. Unlike a broken bone that can be seen through an x-ray, the trauma you've experienced isn't as evident, and it ranges widely in severity from one person to the next.

That doesn't mean you do not qualify for compensation for emotional distress, just as you would for physical loss. 

It's just that the process is more complicated to prove and value. If you've suffered a significant loss, a traumatic experience, or a physical injury, work closely with a personal injury attorney who can guide and support you in the recovery process.

If you’ve been involved in an accident and have questions about filing a legal claim for emotional distress or what your next steps should be, we can help.

Call 212-268-3222 or contact us online to discuss your emotional distress claim with an experienced injury attorney at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm today.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is sometimes called mental anguish. It's a non-physical and mostly psychological injury. It's recognized as a state of mental suffering that occurs due to the negligence or intentional acts of another person, business, or entity. 

Typically, this occurs as a result of some physical incident. This type of injury may be applied in civil lawsuits.

Remember that it may not just be the person who experiences the physical pain or injury that suffers from emotional trauma. In some situations, it may be a bystander or witness to the event that suffers the emotional trauma. 

It could also be a family member who lost a loved one due to the actions and suffered emotionally devastating consequences. 

Because of how complex this type of event can be, it's always a good idea to talk about any mental anguish you face after losing a loved one, or a significant injury occurs. You may have the right to compensation for that loss, even if it may not seem obvious.

Examples of Emotional Distress Lawsuits

Emotional distress claims may occur for various reasons. Pain and suffering after a car accident isn't the only type of loss many people have in this type of event. Instead, they may struggle with seeing the traumatic event replay over and over again in their mind. 

They may have intense fears and limitations in their lives due to what they've experienced. Severe emotional distress may lead to an inability to enjoy a high quality of life, work, or meet other responsibilities. None of this shows up on your medical records, though.

Look at some examples that may allow you to pursue an emotional distress lawsuit. These are just a few types of emotional distress claims you may be able to file based on your situation.

Medical malpractice

A physician may cause emotional harm to a person if they engage in treatments or procedures that may not be appropriate for the situation. 

For example, you may suffer physical harm if a doctor does not follow expected medical treatment guidelines, and you suffer an injury due to the treatment provided. However, your mental health may be harmed as well. 

You may fear doctor's appointments or receiving medical care after a poorly performed procedure.

Witnessing a wrongful death

Seeking emotional distress damages may also be applicable in situations of wrongful death, where you've watched a loved one die due to the negligence of another person. You may have watched a doctor provide improper care or watched a person struggle after a car accident. 

Some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to witnessing such events. Perhaps a person watched a loved one suffer after being involved in a truck accident, watching them pass away due to the pain and injury.

Emotional distress after a car accident

Car accidents are traumatic events. They often cause physical pain and injury, creating mental anguish. Driving after a significant event caused by another person can be difficult or impossible for some people. 

Some people may find themselves with emotional injuries due to the reckless driving of another person and now, after much time, still see the images of a car coming at you on the highway. It might be a personal injury case if the other party caused your losses in a vehicle collision.

Nursing home abuse

Whether suffering from it or witnessing it, nursing home abuse can be catastrophic. If a person in a nursing home faces emotional abuse or physical trauma from the actions or inactions of those working for the nursing home, that may cause long-lasting outcomes. 

In some cases, the outrageous conduct of a staff member may even lead to an elderly person's decline due to the trauma itself. 

Often, they are so ashamed of what's occurred or have no way of communicating it to their family members that they give up. Family members may not learn of this until much later, after weeks or longer of abuse.

Personal injury

Emotional distress may occur in any personal injury situation. That could include slip & fall injuries, neglect, physical abuse, and many other examples. 

With these types of events, damage occurs in the brain that isn't easily improved upon, especially without recovery therapy. 

It may impact a person's ability to work or live a life they used to because of the fear, PTSD, or negative thoughts of the event they've experienced.

Wrongful arrest

In some situations, a person may experience trauma from a wrongful arrest

This may happen when there is a particularly violent experience or even in a simple handcuffing. Suppose a person is arrested for what they did not do. 

In that case, it may make it harder for them to place trust in the U.S. courts or police officers again, especially if the time spent in confinement led to any physical or emotional trauma.

How to Sue for Emotional Distress

Taking legal action in a situation like this typically requires working closely with a personal injury lawyer who can help you describe what's occurred and provide a foundation from which to make your claims, often based on case law. 

Proving intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is even more challenging to do because of the complexity of gathering evidence that shows a person expressly set out to cause emotional harm to you or a loved one.

It is best to work with a law firm to prove your case. Your client relationship protects you and allows you to privately communicate openly with your attorney gathering a matter like this. 

More so, having this type of help to navigate insurance companies and g evidence of non-economic damages often requires some level of experience.

Here is what you are likely to experience through this process.

Document your emotional distress

To create a personal injury claim for emotional distress, you typically need to prove how it has impacted you. To do that, create a journal or list what's occurring with you. Describe your emotions, concerns, and thoughts that are unusual to you throughout the day. 

Document how you feel each day. 

Be sure your medical records and any work documentation helps to show what's occurring to you. These reports and recordings may help you obtain compensation for your losses by proving that you've suffered losses due to your mental health.

Consult with an attorney

Working with a personal injury lawyer is perhaps one of the most important decisions you can make in a challenging case like this. 

Reach out to an attorney to discuss what's occurring, including your medical bills (which may include costs to see a therapist to work through your emotional distress). Your attorney will then help you apply what's occurring in your life to personal injury law.

File a lawsuit

Whether it is against the drunk driver that cost the life of your loved one or a person that neglected you in a long-term care facility, you have the right to see compensation for your losses. 

Filing a lawsuit requires completing documentation and filing it with the court. Your attorney will help ensure you do not pass the Statute of Limitations for your case.

Prepare for your trial

Work closely with your attorney to take the next steps in your PTSD lawsuit. This may include gathering evidence in the case, such as speaking with an eyewitness or getting the help of expert witnesses to outline what's occurring in your brain as a direct result of the incident and accident.

Go through the trial and settlement

Your attorney will guide you through this process. You may have to answer questions and present information. 

A judge or a jury then makes a decision about your case. A settlement is reached between you and the insurance company for those responsible outside of court in many situations. If that's not possible, the judge will issue a verdict or settlement based on the findings in the case.

Evidence Needed for an Emotional Distress Lawsuit

To win your case, it may be necessary to have as much evidence as possible to support your claims. Your emotional distress lawyer will work with you on finding any available evidence to use. You may need to have evidence such as:

  • Physical injuries that you suffered as a result of the incident, with documentation to prove they occurred as a result of the incident
  • The length of time you've suffered from distress may play a role in the findings. If you've suffered from this distress for some time, that may play a role in your outcome.
  • Medical reports from your doctor or therapist that outline what you've experienced and how it ties back to the incident
  • Testimonials from third parties about what's occurring and the changes they've seen as a result of the incident

Emotional distress compensation

A pain and suffering claim like this is difficult to ascertain. However, mental distress lawyers have the experience to help do just that. They will determine what is appropriate in your case and fight for fair compensation for you. 

Emotional distress may qualify for both special and general damages. Your emotional injury lawyers will apply what's occurred to you to applicable law to ensure the best possible compensation in your case.

Most of the time, compensation usually amounts to 2 to 5 times the total cost of your medical bills. That may include all of your costs, such as therapies, medications, and procedures you need. It also includes your lost wages for any work you missed as a direct result of the incident or the damage it causes.

The settlement offer you might receive from your lawsuit depends on several factors unique to your case. 

We invite you to contact our law firm today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of New York City's most respected personal injury trial lawyers. 

In addition to offering all new clients a free case evaluation, Raphaelson & Levine works on a contingency fee basis. This means you pay nothing unless we secure a successful settlement offer from your personal injury lawsuit. 

To schedule your free consultation, please call 212-268-3222 or complete our online case review form today.

Andrew Levine
Partner, Attorney
Andrew J. Levine is a partner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, in New York, NY. A graduate of Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Mr. Levine has been featured in New York Magazine as one of New York’s “Top Personal Injury Litigators” and recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Top Rated Personal Injury Attorney in New York.”

Free Consultation.
No Fees Unless We Win.

Overwhelmed with medical expenses, lost wages, pain, & suffering? Don't settle with an insurance company for less than you deserve. We're here for you.
We’re available to you 24/7
You'll have direct access to a paralegal, a dedicated attorney, and a dedicated partner
30 years of experience getting maximum compensation for our clients (up to 45X more than your initial offer)
For immediate legal assistance, please call our Manhattan office.
Live Chat
Our highly trained support team is available 24/7/365 to assist with your legal needs.
Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C.
14 Penn Plaza Suite 1718
New York, NY 10122