Can I Claim Emotional Distress After My Personal Injury Accident?

Author: Mesriani Law Group
Posted on: May 21, 2021

Generally, pain and suffering can be awarded as part of the overall damages to personal injury victims. However, there are certain circumstances where a person can get injured without any physical injury. In that case, injured victims may be able to claim emotional distress damages.

The two (2) causes of actions where emotional distress damages are available without a coexisting physical injury include:

  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED)

While they may sound similar, there are several key differences between intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Here’s what you should know:

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress  

Intentional infliction of emotional distress includes four (4) elements:

  • The defendant acted recklessly or intentionally.
  • The defendant’s act must be outrageous or extreme.
  • The conduct is the cause of the emotional distress.
  • The injured personal suffered extreme or severe emotional distress.

It’s important to note that intentional infliction of emotional distress can be brought independently- even if there was no physical injury. However, emotional distress damages can only be recovered once.

Many types of actions can be considered intentional infliction of emotional distress. Some common examples include:

  • Repeated threats
  • Playing a malicious joke
  • Causing someone to think they are going to be killed
  • Causing someone to think that a family member has been killed
  • Other outrageous or offensive behavior that causes severe emotional distress

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress 

Negligent infliction of emotional distress is similar to the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but with several differences. Unlike intentional inflection of emotional distress, NIED doesn’t require intent from the defendant to cause emotional distress – it only requires that their neglectful behavior caused it.

There are two (2) possible ways to claim negligent infliction of emotional distress which include:

  • Direct victim – The plaintiff suffered because of the defendant’s action which was directed at the plaintiff.
  • Bystander victim – The plaintiff suffered because of the defendant’s action which was directed towards another person.

A bystander victim requires a special relationship with the victim such as a parent, child, or spouse. For example, a mother witnesses the defendant commit an outrageous act towards her child. In this example, the child may have a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Additionally, the mother (bystander victim) who witnessed the outrageous act may have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. 

Damages for Emotional Distress 

California law allows for victims to claim damages for emotional distress. Damages for emotional distress can include economic and non-economic damages. Common examples include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Emotional distress damages are intended to compensate you for the psychological impact the injury had on your daily life. It can be difficult to calculate how much you should be compensated for emotional distress but an experienced attorney can help. 

Speak with a California Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured and emotionally distressed due to the negligent actions of someone else, you should get compensated for your loss. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you with your emotional distress claims. We offer all clients a No Win No Fee policy – that means if we don’t win your claim, you don’t pay us anything. Contact our office today for your free legal consultation.