When we hear about personal injury cases, it’s usually in the context of a physical injury. For instance, nine people sued electric scooter companies not long ago, with several people claiming that scooters ran into them and caused injuries like a split lip, or that they tripped over scooters left out on the sidewalk.
It’s also common to hear about personal injury lawsuits that resulted from car accidents or slip and fall injuries. It’s relatively easy to get a jury on your side if you can prove that you suffered physical harm due to someone else’s recklessness or negligence, but what about mental and emotional harm? Here are some things to know regarding personal injury suits for mental damages.
Defining emotional distress
It’s often called “emotional distress” or “pain and suffering”, but defining it can be a trickier matter. Different juries may be moved by different things, and the credibility of the plaintiff is going to matter if they’re asking for financial damages for pain and suffering. It requires a lot of evidence and more specific claims than simply “feeling bad”. If a passing car splashes a pedestrian with water, that’s going to make the pedestrian feel bad, but it won’t cause lasting emotional damages.
An example of emotional distress might look like this. A woman gets hit by a car when she’s taking a walk around her neighborhood, and the driver who hits her flees the scene but gets caught the next day. The woman breaks a leg and has other physical injuries, but she also finds that she can’t sleep anymore due to unusually intense nightmares. She has trouble working because she’s afraid to leave the house. A psychologist diagnosis her with post-traumatic stress disorder and connects it to the hit-and-run. In this hypothetical case, the woman might very well have a claim for both physical injuries and emotional distress.
Was the damage intentional?
The bar is even higher for something called “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” That means the plaintiff believes the person they’re suing meant to cause emotional suffering with their actions. Going back to the hypothetical hit-and-run above, let’s say that the driver rolled down the car window and shouted targeted threats immediately before striking the woman with his car. If that happened, the woman could argue that he acted with intent, which is different than just being a bad or negligent driver.
To use another example, let’s talk about texting and driving. Way too many people do it, but someone who was just texting a friend when they rear-end another car probably can’t get sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, if that texting person was sending messages like, “This jerk in front of me is dumb, and I’m going to wreck their car,” then this naturally changes everything.
Should you talk to a lawyer?
Those are extreme examples, and in real life, it can be harder to tell if you have a case for emotional damages. If you feel like talking to a lawyer would give you closure, than look up places like Avrek Law Firm that specialize in dealing with personal injury cases. They can go over the specifics of your case and tell you whether or not they feel like they can represent you in court.
You usually won’t become a millionaire due to pain and suffering damages. In fact, states like California cap medical malpractice personal injury suits at $250,000 for “non-economic damages,” which is another way to refer to pain and suffering. An experienced lawyer can go into detail about what separates economic damages from non-economic differences, since there’s often a very fine line between the two.