Most people are familiar with the concept of emotional distress, at least in general terms. If you read the news or watch media featuring legal cases, you've probably heard the term used in personal injury settlements. While the term may seem straightforward, applying emotional distress to your injury can be more complicated than expected.
The specific laws governing how emotional distress factors into personal injury cases will vary from state to state, but a handful of things remain true almost anywhere in the country. If you think you've suffered emotional distress due to the actions of another, here are three important facts to remember as you schedule your consultation with an attorney.
1. Physical Symptoms May Matter
Emotional distress can cause numerous physical symptoms, and these symptoms may matter in some states. This distinction is usually only important if you are suing primarily for emotional distress. For example, if an accident caused you emotional trauma but no physical injuries, some states may require that you demonstrate physical harm due to your emotional suffering.
Physical harm can take many forms, including insomnia, chronic headaches, sweats, or similar symptoms due to anxiety, depression, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since your symptoms may be important, you should keep a detailed log and consult with physicians as needed. Maintaining a record of your symptoms and their onset can provide critical evidence of your emotional suffering.
2. Emotional Distress Often Includes Pain and Suffering
If you've heard the term pain and suffering, you might wonder how it differs from emotional distress. In most cases, pain and suffering are a subcategory of emotional distress. When you suffer physical injuries due to an accident, the emotional consequences of those injuries fall under the heading of pain and suffering. On the other hand, emotional distress includes trauma absent physical injuries.
Note that your emotional symptoms still matter! If you suffer from anxiety or other issues due to the pain caused by your injuries, you should take the same approach to recording and treating these symptoms. Pain and suffering are often easier to prove than pure emotional distress, but you should still maintain as much evidence as possible.
3. Negligence May Apply Even Without Physical Injuries
While most people naturally assume that personal injury cases always include physical injuries, another party may still be responsible for damages if you suffer emotional distress without any injuries at all. For example, you may be able to sue for non-economic damages, including emotional distress, if you're involved in an accident as a passenger and do not suffer any injuries.
Although these cases may be more difficult to prove, the distress of an accident can result in many long-term emotional symptoms that can severely impact your life. If you believe you've suffered serious emotional trauma due to the negligence of another, you shouldn't hesitate to contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation.