Emotional Distress – What Does it Mean for You and Your Case?

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Emotional Distress – What Does it Mean for You and Your Case?

So many factors in any case can impact the results of pursuing reparations. There are the obvious factors such as time spent out of work, medical expenses, and lost wages. But, what about emotional distress?

Increasingly, states around the country are adopting new practices for quantifying the value of emotional distress. More cases are in fact being litigated on the basis of emotional distress apart from physical injury and lost earnings, so it’s important to understand how to define this growing legal definition.


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    The history of recognizing emotional distress as a legitimate claim to damages stems back to the nineteenth century. During the industrial revolution, one in court could claim emotional distress only if it was connected to a physical injury, in that case often being a machine that caused harm because of negligence on the part of employers.

    It was not until 1968, in the decision of Dillon vs. Legg, that established what is known as the “tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress.” This case involved a woman, Margery Dillon, and her daughter, who witnessed the death of another child in a car accident caused by a man named David Luther Legg. The distress caused by witnessing the girl’s death was ruled as a legitimate basis for claiming emotional distress.

    A “tort” is what is known as a “civil wrong,” or a wrong that is recognizable in civil court. The term “negligent infliction of emotional distress” means committing an act that would cause emotional distress.

    Need to talk to a Connecticut personal injury lawyer? Contact us here.

    What is Emotional Distress?

    In terms of defining emotional distress, there is much difficulty in quantifying the impact one’s emotions can have on a case.

    Yet as stated above, there is increasing awareness that emotional distress is a legitimate side effect of negligence or intentional harm is done onto another, even without the presence of physical harm.

    Simply put, emotional distress can be defined as an emotional state that impacts how you conduct your life. You may have taken a fall, and the trauma of that fall will keep you away from working in a field requiring heights.

    Or, you could have been sexually harassed in the workplace, making you feel uncomfortable and scared to go to do your job around the offender.

    It is a difficult concept to quantify, but that’s where this next section may be helpful.

    How Do You Prove You’ve Experienced Emotional Distress?

    Proving you’ve experienced emotional distress from a work injury or hostile work environment is difficult. One of the major impediments to making a case for emotional distress is the ability for people to “fake it”.

    That’s where professionals come in. In this regard, it’s very similar to a medical doctor attesting to the injuries you’ve incurred from a work injury.

    In order to provide proof of emotional distress, you will often have to see a psychiatrist or psychologist. After they observe your symptoms, they will be able to determine for the courts whether or not you are suffering from emotional distress.

    Sometimes a court will order you be seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist so they can develop a professional opinion on your emotional state. They will then offer their professional testimony in court, at which point a judge will decide whether or not the claim of emotional distress is legitimate.

    The Symptoms of Emotional Distress

    Just like physical ailments, emotional distress has several recognizable symptoms. These symptoms will often be used as the basis for a professional testimony to prove the presence of emotional distress.

    Many of the symptoms of emotional distress will stem from some of the most common classifications for mental anguish, anxiety and depression.

    Anxiety – Sometimes people will develop anxiety after an incident, whether it be chronic or occasional anxiety in a specific circumstance. For instance, if you’ve been in a car accident, and you become frightened and anxious every time you get behind the wheel, you might have anxiety caused by the collision.

    Depression – If an event is traumatic enough, it can cause depression in the victim. Depression is a pervasive psychological condition marked with malaise and persistent negative thoughts about oneself or life.

    Don’t Go It Alone

    Facing a court case where emotional distress is a claim can be distressful in and of itself. It’s a difficult claim to prove, which means you need the best representation behind you.

    Because this article does not substitute true legal representation, make sure you don’t face a claim of emotional distress alone—contact our personal injury law firm; Moynahan Law today so we can get to work fighting for you.

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