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May 30th, 2022

Can I Be Compensated for Emotional Distress?

Your injury isn’t just physical. It’s causing you emotional distress and mental anguish. Compensation for these reactions can be included in your insurance claim or lawsuit against the party causing your accident. To be successful, there must be evidence you’re dealing with these issues.

Each plaintiff and their injury is unique. Depending on the trauma of the accident, the degree of your injuries, and your ability to cope, your emotional distress may last for weeks, months, or years. It could be something you can control, or it could dominate your life.

You may replay the accident in your head the accident repeatedly, reliving a life-changing moment that caused severe injuries. An attack by a vicious dog may impact you emotionally for the rest of your life. You may worry a disability caused by the accident will affect your relationships and put you at financial risk.

What Is Emotional Distress?

It’s the mental and emotional harm caused by the other party. It can be stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or anger. It may be severe enough to be considered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and you may have suicidal thoughts.

You may not want to see others or leave your home and suffer mood swings. These feelings can impact you physically. You may have insomnia or have difficulty waking up, eat too much or too little, or lash out at others for no good reason.

What Kinds of Emotional Distress Claims Do Texas Courts Recognize?

Emotional harm can be inflicted intentionally or negligently. Intentional infliction of emotional distress can cover crimes, stalking, or harassment. Negligent infliction covers cases involving the legal theory of negligence, which is generally used in accident cases.

If you file a negligence claim, you’re stating the other party should’ve used more care before they caused the accident and your injuries. They failed to act when they should’ve done something, or they acted insufficiently or carelessly.

Part of your case is showing how you were harmed physically, emotionally, and financially. Emotional distress is noneconomic compensation because it covers your emotional harm, which is different than economic damages (your past and future loss of income or increased costs you’ll face). You must show a physical injury in Texas to seek an award for negligently inflicted emotional distress.

How Can I Prove Emotional Distress?

If you can’t prove you’re suffering from emotional distress, you won’t be compensated for it. Emotional distress is not tangible, like a broken bone that shows up on an x-ray or documentation of how many hours of work you missed after the accident. But there are still many ways to document what you’re going through and its severity. This evidence includes:

  • Testimony: You, family members, and friends can discuss your life before and after your accident. They can discuss how you described your feelings, how you are physically affected, and the changes in your outlook and attitude. Testimony from your treating physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist can also document what you’re going through
  • Documents: These are records of your medical or psychological care, including notes, observations, and diagnoses. They should also show what medications, if any, you’re prescribed due to your emotional distress. You should also have receipts for these drugs. A journal you write about your feeling could also be used
  • Video: When cases go to trial, we often produce a “day in the life” video showing how your injuries impact your daily life. It may show how the trauma affects how you live and your account of your emotions

If you’re not careful, evidence used by the defendant may dispute your emotional distress claim or show it’s not as severe as you claim:

  • Social media posts, as well as photos and videos you share, that show you’re living a happy, normal lifestyle, could be used against you, so stay away from social media
  • The defendant’s insurance company may hire an investigator to follow you and take videos of your activities. If you claim you’re too depressed to go out, videos showing you’re running errands and seeing friends would be damaging
  • When you talk to your healthcare team, tell the truth. Don’t engage in “happy talk” about your emotional state. If you’re not OK or fine, don’t tell them you feel OK or fine. Small talk that one usually uses in a conversation can show up in your medical records and make it seem you’re doing better than you are

Your case will be built on the facts of the accident, your injuries, how they affect you, and the law. We’ll make the strongest case we can and try to limit the evidence the defendant presents.

Protect Your Legal Rights and Retain a Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. Attorney

Not getting the right attorney can be a huge mistake, especially if your injuries and emotional distress are severe. Don’t try to learn the law while negotiating with an insurance company yourself or retain an attorney without personal injury experience.

Contact Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P if you need a personal injury lawyer with years of experience with the regional court system. Call us today to schedule a free consultation. We can discuss what happened, how Texas law may apply, and how we can help.

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