Can I Sue for Emotional Distress?

When you are injured, sometimes the damage doesn’t stop at physical injury. A traumatic event that causes you harm can have a lasting impact upon your emotional and mental health. We often make mental and emotional health take a back seat in our lives, but no one deserves to have their suffering extend beyond their physical injuries. You deserve to be compensated for the full impact of someone else’s harmful action against you.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

One way to sue for emotional distress is by suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress. In these situations, someone either intended to cause you severe emotional distress or acted recklessly in regards to the risk that their actions could cause you severe emotional distress. Generally, this is evidenced by the extreme and outrageous conduct of the individual, meaning their conduct exceeds the normal standards of what society would consider human decency. For example, if someone decides to play a “joke” on you by telling you that your spouse has been killed, or if someone with a weapon threatens to harm you or your partner with that weapon.

There is an important distinction between extreme and outrageous conduct, and insults and simple threats. Simply insulting someone, threatening them, or shaming them generally does not qualify as intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, if you are part of a group of people known to have a heightened sensitivity, such as the elderly, pregnant women, or young children, this kind of abusive language and conduct may be enough to qualify as extreme and outrageous.

Generally, to prove that you have a case for intentional infliction of emotional distress, you need to demonstrate that you suffered severe emotional distress beyond what a reasonable person could endure. Courts generally do not require that you prove physical injury also occurred.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Another way to sue for emotional distress is by suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress. What distinguishes this from intentional infliction of emotional distress is that the person who harmed you did not intend to do so, and that you must show that a physical injury also occurred. This kind of a claim is highly dependent on whether a duty exists between you and the person who harmed you.

There are a few different ways you can show a duty existed. First, you can demonstrate that you were within the “zone of danger” of the person’s harmful conduct, such that you were placed in harm’s way and that the threat of the physical harm caused you emotional distress. Second, you can recover under a bystander theory, which requires you to prove that you were closely related to an injured person, were present at the scene of their injury, and personally observed the injury. With bystander cases, you do not need to have been within the zone of danger. For example: if you watch your spouse get hit by a car as they cross the street, you could recover under a bystander theory.

Have You Suffered Emotional Distress?

Your mental and emotional suffering is just as important as your physical suffering, and you deserve to be compensated for it. Contact an NYC personal injury attorney at Scaffidi & Associates today to learn what steps you can take to get the compensation you deserve.

Posted in: Personal Injury Law


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