What Qualifies as Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Claim?

Published on Jun 25, 2020 at 9:14 am in Personal Injury.
What Qualifies as Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Claim?

When negligence contributes to an accident, thoughts immediately go to the financial consequences and injuries. Depending on the accident, a person could be suffering from broken bones, soft tissue injuries, or more debilitating conditions. That, however, is not where the harm ends. For many who have suffered preventable accidents, they are also left to deal with emotional trauma—which is compensable through the eyes of the law. Let’s take a look at what qualifies as emotional distress in a personal injury claim.


Emotional Distress From a Legal Standpoint

Sometimes referred to as mental anguish, emotional distress can be debilitating. After a car accident, dog attack, or other traumatic events, it’s normal for someone to experience psychological injuries. The degree of severity of emotional distress varies based on the individual and the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Common types of emotional distress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Insomnia
  • Fear
  • Shame
  • Humiliation
  • Bitterness

When a person experiences emotional distress, their recovery is often extended. This is because mental anguish can cause physical suffering. In addition to the emotional responses above, a person suffering from emotional distress could experience weight fluctuations, appetite changes, fatigue, and more.

While physical injuries are often treated directly, an accident victim could be unwilling to seek help for emotional trauma for fear of judgment, or they could simply fail to recognize the impact the accident had on their psyche.

In legal terms, emotional distress is considered a noneconomic damage. This means that there is no specific way to quantify the victim’s suffering. Instead, compensation amounts are based on the impact the distress has had on the person’s life.

It’s important to note that pain and suffering and emotional distress are different when it comes to personal injury claims. While pain and suffering is tied to a personal injury claim, emotional distress can be considered a claim in its own right. This means that it’s often more difficult to recover compensation for emotional suffering.

Proving Emotional Distress

Because emotional distress is not tangible in the same sense that physical injuries are, it’s considerably harder to prove—especially when you’re in negotiations with an insurance company. As such, working with an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure you’re properly compensated for the emotional distress you’ve been forced to endure.

Proving emotional distress starts with an evaluation. The victim needs to determine the ways they’ve been emotionally impacted by the accident. Often times, this involves many of the feelings and symptoms discussed above. Personal testimony and additional evidence about the severity of the accident is useful. Your lawyer may also ask your friends and family for testimony—especially if they’ve been around you a lot since the accident and have an understanding of how you’ve changed.

It’s important to note that emotional distress claims are only successful if physical harm or another form of tangible harm occurred. An emotional distress claim is not possible for near misses—like if you were traumatized by a car almost hitting you, but were not actually struck.

Caps on Noneconomic Damages in Mississippi

Because there’s no specific formula for calculating noneconomic damages, some states, including Mississippi, have placed caps on the amount of compensation you can collect for damages like emotional distress.

According to MS Code § 11-1-60 (2010), noneconomic damages are limited to $1,000,000. So in the event a personal injury claim proceeds to court as a lawsuit and a jury awards the plaintiff $4M in noneconomic compensation, they would only be eligible for $1M.

It’s also important to note that Mississippi is a pure comparative fault state. This means that the law limits the injured party’s damage recovery in proportion to their degree of fault. So if the victim was responsible for 10% of their accident, they’d only be eligible for 90% of the total compensation.

Maximize Your Personal Injury Claim Compensation

Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law understands the struggles that come with recovering from an accident and tackling a personal injury claim. In order to ensure you are properly compensated for all of your damages—including emotional distress—it’s important to work with an experienced attorney. When you contact our law office, we’ll evaluate your situation and determine what you’re owed for your economic and noneconomic injuries.

While most personal injury claims settle through negotiations, it’s important to note that we are prepared to take your case to trial to get you fair compensation. No matter what route your claim takes, we’ll be with you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more.



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