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Can Emotional Distress Count as a Personal Injury?

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Posted On 06.19.15 by in Blog

Can-Emotional-Distress-Count-as-a-Personal-Injury

If you’re at all familiar with personal injury law, then you know that it covers a fairly wide spectrum of potential cases. You could sue a business owner if you slipped and fell on their property. You could sue your neighbor if they let their dog out the door without a leash and it ended up biting you. Your doctor could be sued if they prescribed you medicine that it turned out you were allergic to. While these injuries would be obvious to anyone, emotional distress probably wouldn’t be. However, it can still be a reason you sue for personal injury.

Emotional Distress and Personal Injuries

In the past, emotional distress and personal injuries were usually treated as two separate things. Although emotional distress was often brought up in personal injury cases, the understanding was that it wasn’t reason enough by itself to file a complaint. Instead, it was used almost like evidence to help bolster a plaintiff’s claims. That’s begun to change though. Courts in both New York and California have already ruled in favor of plaintiffs who brought nothing else to the table but the claim that someone’s actions hurt them emotionally.

One very good example of this would be sexual harassment. By itself, sexual harassment may not result in any physical damage, but it can definitely hurt someone on an emotional level. Two other common examples would be slander and libel.

However, it’s worth pointing out that there are limits to what emotional distress covers. Take breach of contract for example. It causes nonphysical damage, but that doesn’t mean a judge will look at it as a personal injury. Other business dealings fall under this type of thing too.

Evidentiary Issues

When physical injuries are the result of a personal injury case, you have practically all the evidence you need, so long as you can prove someone else is to blame. Obviously, this can be a bit more difficult to do when you’re trying to prove emotional distress occurred because of someone else’s actions or negligence. No amount of x-rays will prove you’ve been hurt and many people with legitimate emotional pain don’t show any signs on the outside.

This is why your personal injury case will almost certainly require that a therapist or psychologist weighs in. Not only will you need their expert testimony to help prove your case, but you’ll also want someone who can assign some type of dollar amount to it for the sake of damages.

Always Get Legal Representation

The moment you believe you have a case for emotional distress, begin documenting what you think your symptoms are. They might be insomnia, depression or anxiety. Even something like humiliation can count. Write down any symptoms you believe you are currently experiencing as a result of the personal injury you suffered.

Then contact an attorney with experience in this realm. They’ll know of a therapist to call (if you’re not seeing one at the moment), to help you prove your personal injury case in court.

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