Can You Sue Someone For Emotional Distress? - Adamson Ahdoot

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Suing for Emotional Distress: When Is it Considered A Personal Injury?

February 10, 2023 Alan Ahdoot
Home » Blog » Suing for Emotional Distress: When Is it Considered A Personal Injury?

Accidents can cause severe physical and financial harm to people. But aside from this, survivors can also suffer life-changing emotional distress that negatively affects their careers, relationships, and future.

And if another person’s carelessness is what causes someone emotional distress, the victim can file a personal injury claim against them to recover damages. 

However, suing someone for emotional distress is a little more complicated. In this article, we’ll discuss whether you can sue someone for emotional distress and explore what a personal injury case for emotional damage looks like. 

What is Emotional Distress?

The court of law defines emotional distress as any non-physical injury a person receives from an accident or injury. For example, a car accident survivor who suffers post-traumatic stress after the incident can recover damages for emotional distress if they decide to file a personal injury claim.

What complicates emotional distress lawsuits is that these types of damages are hard to assess since they vary from person to person. For instance, two people who survived a workplace accident can experience different symptoms. The first victim can develop PTSD, while the other victim could develop depression. 

But thanks to recent rulings, it’s now easier for people to sue someone for emotional distress. Victims can file a civil suit for emotional distress even if they don’t have physical injuries.

Is Emotional Distress Considered A Personal Injury?

Yes, depending on the situation, emotional distress may be considered a personal injury. If you experienced a physical injury due to the accident, emotional distress compensation typically accompanies the legal damages you can claim.

On the other hand, if you file a claim for emotional damage alone without physical injury, it may be harder to receive compensation. The law does provide for damages under specific situations, such as if your loved one was injured, and you experienced emotional distress from those circumstances. 

Two Types of Claims For Emotional Distress Lawsuits

If you sue someone for emotional distress, you can file two claims.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Negligent infliction is when a person unintentionally harms another person. This claim is often applied to car accidents. 

For example, a married couple was walking when a drunk driver crashed into them and killed one of them. The surviving spouse can file a civil lawsuit for the emotional distress they experienced after losing their partner.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

As the name suggests, intentional infliction is when a person deliberately hurts another person. Unfortunately, this claim has its limitations. The court only recognizes IIED cases if they deem the conduct extreme or outrageous. 

Name-calling is not strong enough to sue someone for emotional distress. But suppose a case of bullying takes a dark turn and becomes a severe case of verbal abuse. In this particular situation, there could be enough grounds for a person to file a distress lawsuit.

The kind of claim you can file depends on your circumstances. Was the accident a result of negligence, or was it intentional? If you need more clarification, we recommend contacting a personal injury lawyer. 

A personal injury lawyer will help determine which claim is appropriate for your case. They’ll help you understand the intricacies of the legal process and strengthen your claim further. 

Now, to successfully sue for emotional distress, you need to be able to prove it in court. 

How to Prove Emotional Distress

Just like any other court proceeding, plaintiffs need to be able to prove their emotional suffering in court. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can provide evidence to support your claims.

two people talking
With the help of a personal injury lawyer, you can file a civil suit for emotional distress

Psychological Evaluation

One important piece of evidence you can use to support your claims is a formal psychological evaluation.

It would be best if a mental health professional qualified to diagnose and treat mental disorders validates your experience. They can write you a formal diagnosis and prognosis, outlining symptoms and possible treatments. 

Suppose your mental anguish causes physical symptoms like panic attacks or tension headaches. In that case, its intensity needs to be included in your diagnosis. To strengthen your claim, you can also gather prescriptions and other receipts for related medical expenses.

If you need help finding a reliable health professional, you can ask your personal injury attorney for help. They can assist you in getting the psychological evaluation you need to support your claims.


At its worst, emotional distress can change a person’s behavior. Your family members and colleagues can testify and recount how the incident impacted your demeanor. 

If you haven’t been able to return to work, you can also ask your employer or coworkers to testify. They can share how the incident impacted their overall performance at work.

Your personal injury lawyer will help you collect all the testimonies you need to paint a picture of how the accident has affected you mentally. Plus, if you find the process of recounting the event too much, you can always ask your representative to gather testimonials on your behalf.

First-hand Accounts

Besides your family’s statements, you can also use your experience to strengthen your claim. We suggest you document the significant changes you’ve experienced since the incident through a journal or a diary. You can use it to describe how the emotional trauma you’ve sustained has affected your daily life.  

Additionally, your first-hand accounts can help establish a correlation between your trauma and the accident. For example, suppose you started noticing anxiety symptoms two weeks after a car accident. In that case, your attorney can argue that you sustained emotional trauma from the incident. 

Lastly, your first-hand accounts will provide your legal representative with all the information they need to secure a successful outcome on your behalf. What’s great about working with personal injury lawyers is that they work hard to ensure their clients fully recover from their traumatic experiences. 

They use your gathered evidence to secure an outcome that considers your current and future needs.

Speak with a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

The idea of having your experiences questioned while you work on your recovery can be tough. Thankfully, you no longer have to go through the stressful process of fighting for your right to compensation alone.

Adamson Ahdoot’s team of experienced lawyers is here to provide you with all the help you need to win an emotional distress lawsuit.

Adamson Ahdoot is a full-service civil litigation firm with over 100 years of combined legal experience handling personal injury cases. With our help, you can trust that the best lawyers will handle your case with the intimacy and attention to detail of a boutique firm, with the expertise of a larger one.

Our firm is committed to putting people first. We proudly serve a diverse clientele with their car accident cases and offer free English and Spanish consultations. Call us at (800) 310-1606 today to schedule your free consultation.

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