What is Considered Emotional Distress Under California Personal Injury Law?

While many who survive violent accidents suffer personal injuries like broken bones, bruises, and more, there is also the possibility of suffering psychological trauma and mental anguish. Emotional distress is considered an injury under California personal injury law.

Emotional distress is the psychological response to any traumatic event, such as a personal injury accident. The symptoms of emotional distress are generally characterized as negative emotions and feelings, sometimes hidden away beneath the surface and sometimes more visible for the eye to see, but all causing a negative effect to the accident victim. While there is a lot of sympathy that goes out to personal injury victims who suffer great physical pain and suffering, there is often less empathy provided to those who suffer from emotional distress and other trauma related to an accident. Despite this, emotional distress can compromise an accident victim’s ability to perform daily activities or even care for themselves.

There are several misconceptions about emotional distress, just as there are several misconceptions about mental health in America. If you have suffered an emotional distress injury following an accident like a car crash, you have the right to seek justice and financial recovery. However, you may face opposition and those who either do not believe your claims or dismiss them as impossible to pursue. It is possible to prove emotional distress in a court of law, and your pain does not need to be physical for it to be real.

How is Pain and Suffering Different from Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is pain and suffering. But not all pain and suffering is emotional distress.

Pain and suffering can refer to any physical or mental discomfort suffered following an incident where you were harmed by either negligence or intentional wrongdoing.

What Are Common Examples of Psychological Trauma Following an Accident?

Emotional distress can manifest in a wide range of different symptoms and conditions.

These include:

  • Anger.
  • Anxiety.
  • Bouts of uncontrolled crying.
  • Constant worrying.
  • Depression.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Experiencing chronic pain.
  • Extreme stress.
  • Falling behind on work.
  • Fatigue and drowsiness.
  • Fear.
  • Fluctuations in weight.
  • Grief.
  • Guilt.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Helplessness.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Horror.
  • Humiliation
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Irritability.
  • Loss of enjoyment in life.
  • New substance abuse.
  • Panic attacks and anxiety attacks.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Shame.
  • Social isolation.
  • Stomach problems.
  • Withdrawing from loved ones and hobbies.

Can You File a Lawsuit for Emotional Damages and Psychological Trauma?

Yes, it is possible to sue for emotional distress in California. State laws recognize the severe impact of emotional distress on accident victims, and the courts allow you to seek compensation for those damages. It is possible to recover both economic and non-economic damages with a personal injury claim. Whereas economic damages typically refer to matters such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage, they could also help pay for therapy costs. Non-economic damages are usually where emotional distress falls under. Non-economic damages are often more difficult to calculate or quantify. Similarly, it can be more difficult to prove emotional distress in a personal injury case, especially without professional legal counsel in your corner.

There are two different causes of action for situations where someone may have incurred emotional distress and have the possibility of recovering a settlement for that distress. These are intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

What is the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Intentional infliction of emotional distress could be part of an emotional distress injury claim with no need for a physical injury also to be associated with the claim.

Elements that go into an intentional infliction of emotional distress include:

  • The accused acted recklessly, aggressively, maliciously, or outrageously.
  • The intent of the defendant’s conduct was to cause emotional distress.
  • As a result of the conduct, the plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress that would have impacted any normal person in a similar way.

Examples of intentional infliction of emotional distress include malicious jokes, threats of death, threats of bringing harm to a loved one, and threats of physical, financial, or mental harm.

What is the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

There are a few key differences between intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The primary difference is that the negligent infliction of emotional distress does not require intent on the part of the defendant. The defendant only needs to be negligently at fault.

There are only two types of victims of negligent emotional distress. These include:

  • The direct victim. This would be someone who suffered emotional distress due to conduct directed at them, however negligent.
  • A bystander victim. This victim would be someone who suffered emotional distress due to conduct that was directed at or impacted someone else.

To be a bystander victim, the plaintiff must prove a special relationship to the person impacted by the accident. For example, a bystander victim may be an individual who witnessed a family member get struck by a car in a pedestrian accident.

How to Calculate Emotional Distress Damages for Financial Compensation?

In order to prove emotional distress, you and your personal injury attorneys must provide adequate evidence to support your claim. Evidence may include a daily journal of your experiences, past and present medical records, photos and videos, testimony from family and friends, testimony from doctors and other expert witnesses, and testimony from the plaintiffs themselves.

There are two main methods for calculating pain and suffering damage like emotional distress in California.

The multiplier method takes the total cost of economic damages and then multiplies them by a number between 1.5 and five to find the non-economic damages. The number multiplied will be based on the severity of the pain and suffering, with five being the most severe cases.

The per diem method assigns a monetary daily value for the victim and then calculates how many days it may take for the victim to fully recover. The technique utilizes an estimation provided by medical professionals and psychologists. The daily value can be based on things like the severity of the condition and the victim’s income previous to the accident.

Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation Today

Those who have suffered emotional distress injuries are highly encouraged to get in touch with professional legal representation. Emotional distress can be difficult to establish legally, and you would benefit from the legal counsel of experienced personal injury lawyers.

Our law firm has extensive experience representing personal injury cases throughout the state of California. To learn more about our compassionate legal services, please contact our Law Offices to schedule a free consultation today.

You may get in touch with us by calling or texting our law office at 626-280-6000.