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Does Pain and Suffering Include Emotional Distress?

If you experienced mental distress or trauma after a car accident, you may be able to recover compensation for emotional distress as a part of your overall pain and suffering damages. Noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress, can greatly vary case by case. It's important to note that emotional distress damages are typically only awarded in cases of severe injuries. Read on to find out how pain and suffering emotional distress damages work.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Generally, "pain and suffering" refers to physical pain and emotional distress that you experience from an accident. As a part of pain and suffering damages, emotional distress (also called mental anguish) is when someone's actions cause you to suffer mental harm, such as anguish, humiliation, torment, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Pain like headache or body ache is not considered emotional distress.

In order to have a valid emotional distress claim, you must show (1) the distress is more than fleeting, (2) the defendant's conduct caused the distress, and (3) the distress is medically significant. Most states also require you to prove physical injuries related to your emotional distress.

While emotional distress can be considered pain and suffering, it can also be brought up in other ways:

  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress: This is a tort action where a person intentionally causes distress of substantial or enduring quality that no reasonable person should be expected to endure. The person must know or suspect that you would be subject to such emotional distress as a result of his or her conduct.
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress: This is when you suffer mental or emotional harm due to someone else's negligence.
  • Loss of consortium: This is when you suffer from deprivation of the benefits of married life or parenting due to the negligent or intentional acts of another person.

Emotional Distress in a Pain and Suffering Claim

As a part of your pain and suffering claim, your emotional distress damages must be supported by relevant documentation and evidence. First, gather evidence that will support your claim (for example medical records, photos, doctor's diagnosis). Then, draft a demand letter that includes details of your injuries. You should wait until your medical condition is stable before sending the demand letter to the insurance company.

How to Prove Emotional Distress

In your car accident claim, you will need to specifically show the extent of the emotional distress you've experienced. Here are five factors to consider when evaluating your emotional distress claim:

  1. Intensity of your distress
  2. Duration of the pain
  3. Related bodily harm
  4. Underlying cause of your pain
  5. Doctor's diagnosis of your psychological symptoms

You should gather documents and evidence to show the above factors. It's a good idea to keep a personal journal containing your emotional or mental health condition. Sometimes your journal can be used as evidence as well.

Do You Have a Valid Emotional Distress Claim? An Attorney Can Help

Most people have a hard time proving their emotional distress damages on their own because it can be a somewhat subjective area. If you're suffering emotional distress from a car accident, a legal professional can help produce the evidence needed to prove your claim, including the procurement of expert witness testimony. Learn more by contacting an injury attorney near you.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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