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Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?

Legal Assistant Personal Injury Law Leave a Comment

Emotional pain can be as severe as physical pain. If someone causes physical bodily harm, they can be sued. Does this same principle apply if someone causes mental anguish, such as emotional distress?

What Is Mental Anguish?

Mental anguish is a legal definition that describes a high level of inflicted emotional distress, such as anxiety, fear, trauma, grief, or depression. Mental anguish can occur during the commission of a crime. For example, if an offender committed armed robbery by holding a gun to the victim, the victim could sue the offender in civil court for emotional distress.

women with anxiety

Mental anguish can be difficult to prove as the injuries are not visible; however, that does not mean the injuries should go unnoticed. Mental anguish can be debilitating in a person’s everyday life. Damages from mental anguish can be evident, such as loss of work or medical bills. Other damages may be harder to prove, such as insomnia, depression, or PTSD.

Sometimes emotional distress can manifest into physical conditions, such as ulcers, hair loss, and high blood pressure. Keep a record of these physical impairments to help strengthen your case.

If you have suffered mental anguish, you can take your claims to civil court. You will need to find a personal injury lawyer who specializes in emotional distress.

Find a Personal Injury Lawyer

A personal injury lawyer will review your information and determine if you have a strong case against the defendant. In order for your lawyer to review your information, you will need to keep a record of your emotional distress, such as:

  • Medical records
  • Work records (time off, loss of wages)
  • A daily journal of mental, psychological health and feelings
  • Electronic health tracker to monitor heart rate, sleep habits

As mental anguish and emotional distress are harder to prove than physical injuries, keeping as many records as possible will help strengthen your claims. Keep these records to present to your lawyer to review. The more relevant information for your lawyer to review, the stronger your case will be.

Suing for Mental Anguish

After you have obtained a personal injury lawyer to review your case, your lawyer will prepare to move forward with legal action. A mental anguish lawsuit will be filed with the court and served to the defendant. Once the defense responds to the lawsuit, each party will exchange information that will be presented at the trial.

men in grief

At this point, your lawyer will begin to prepare depositions and gather expert witness testimonies. After the information has been exchanged between the parties, it is not uncommon for a settlement offer to be presented. A settlement offer is an offer that can be accepted in order to keep the case from being heard in court.

A settlement offer can bring quicker resolution to a case, rather than having the case drag on throughout the court system. A settlement offer also shows you the exact amount you will be receiving if you approve the offer.

Your lawyer will advise whether or not you should accept the offer based on the evidence and strength of your case.

If you choose to continue taking your case to court, a judge will hear both party’s evidence and witness testimonies to make a ruling.

Two Types of Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is categorized in one of two types: negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

  • Negligent Intention of Emotional Distress – this is when a defendant accidentally or unintentionally inflicts emotional distress on a person. This typically happens during the commission of a crime. For example, if a defendant committed homicide during a home invasion by killing a family member who was witnessed by a member in the house, this may qualify as the negligent intention of emotional distress.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – this is when a defendant intentionally causes emotional distress on a person through outrageous, reckless conduct, words, or actions. The actions must be outrageous and reckless, such as intentionally telling someone that their spouse has suffered a heart attack and is currently at the hospital.
women with fear

Whether the emotional distress was negligently or intentionally inflicted, you will have a strong case to sue someone for emotional distress if you have sufficient proof the distress was inflicted.

Should I Sue for Emotional Distress?

If you have little to no evidence to prove you have suffered emotional distress, pursuing a mental anguish lawsuit may not be in your best interest. Proving that you have suffered from emotional distress is difficult, as there may be no visible injuries associated with the distress.

If you have substantial evidence proving your emotional distress, such as medical records, health tracking monitoring, or loss of work records, you will have a better probability of being awarded reimbursement from damages.


If you have been a victim of intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, you can pursue legal action against the defendant. In order to prove you have suffered emotional distress, you will need to document and provide this documentation to your personal injury lawyer.

Your lawyer will review your documentation and determine the strength of your case. Your lawyer may request additional information before filing a mental anguish lawsuit.

Once the lawsuit has been filed, your lawyer will begin preparing evidence and expert witness testimonies to present at trial. Your lawyer will also exchange information with the defense team in order to determine what evidence will be presented at the trial.

At this time, the defense may offer a settlement. A settlement is a way to resolve the civil matter outside of court. A settlement can be beneficial because it offers resolution and keeps the case from being prolonged. A settlement also tells you the exact amount you will be awarded, rather than awaiting a ruling from a judge, if the judge rules in your favor. Your lawyer will advise you whether or not it is in your best interest to accept or refuse the offer.

If you are the victim of emotional-distress, contact a personal injury lawyer to review the evidence in your case.

If you have more legal questions, you can also chat online with a attorney where you’ll be instantly connected to a lawyer who can give you legal guidance on your specific case or question.

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