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Emotional Distress: Can a Personal Injury be Psychological?

Accidents can cause great harm to survivors, beyond just physical injuries. Emotional harm caused by accidents can also manifest in life-changing wounds that require a lengthy recovery. If you experienced emotional distress in addition to a personal injury as a result of an accident, a compassionate personal injury attorney can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Defining Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is categorized as a type of pain and suffering that an accident victim experiences. Emotional distress may result when another person’s negligence causes an accident in which you are injured. Mental harm can manifest in various ways, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Establishing Distress as Part of a New York Accident Claim

Emotional distress in New York is classified as a tort, which requires evidence establishing that the person who caused an accident was responsible for the resulting harm. Several elements must be established for a tort claim to be successful, such as extreme and outrageous conduct, intent to cause emotional distress, a connection between the behavior and resulting injury, and severe emotional distress.

Types of Emotional Distress Claims

Emotional distress compensation often falls into three categories — garden-variety, significant, and egregious. For garden variety emotional distress claims, evidence of mental distress is often limited to the victim’s testimony without much understanding of the severity or consequences associated with the condition. These claims often lack extraordinary circumstances and are not supported by medical records. Significant emotional distress claims are based on more substantial harm or more offensive behavior and are sometimes supported by medical records or the testimony of medical professionals. Egregious emotional distress claims often involve either outrageous or shocking behavior that significantly impacts the victim’s health. Often, the greater the emotional distress, the greater the amount of compensation that a victim is able to receive.

Intentional Versus Negligent Infliction Claims

When it comes to New York court cases, emotional distress is divided into intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. For intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, bodily harm not be established before a party can receive compensation. This is because bodily harm is not always present in intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. In cases involving the negligent infliction of emotional distress, bodily harm must exist in addition to emotional harm before the party pursuing damages can receive compensation.

The Role of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims

A person is considered to have experienced intentional infliction of emotional distress when that person experiences mental anguish as the result of outrageous or reckless behavior by another individual. To prevail with an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, it must be established that:

  • The responsible party demonstrated intolerable, reckless, and outrageous behavior
  • The responsible party acted intentionally
  • The intentional malicious conduct resulted in extreme and severe emotional distress

Given their severity and the absence of physical harm, intentional infliction of emotional distress claims are often more difficult to establish than negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. One example of the basis for an intentional infliction of emotional distress is someone who begins to experience heart pains as the result of mental anguish associated with defending against a defamation claim.

The Nature of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims

Negligent infliction of emotional distress occurs when someone inflicts mental distress on another individual through negligent behavior. A common example of negligent infliction of emotional distress is a pharmacist who prescribes an incorrect medication that causes a patient to experience depression as well as other physical complications as a result. To establish a negligent infliction of emotional distress claims, the victim must established that:

  • The party who caused the harm was negligent
  • The responsible party’s negligence caused both emotional distress and physical harm

Deciding the Value of Emotional Distress Claims

The costs associated with emotional distress are often difficult to calculate because these injuries are not visible and easily identifiable. To make sure that emotional distress claims take the full extent of damages into consideration, several factors are utilized to determine the worth of these claims, including whether medical professionals support the emotional distress claim, the credibility of the testimony, and the nature and extent of the condition and how it has impacted the person’s life.

Properly Record Emotional Distress

Obtaining a professional endorsement is one of the best steps you can take to support an emotional distress claim. Endorsement can be provided by therapists, physicians, or psychiatrists who are familiar with the victim’s suffering. Testimony from witnesses who can speak about the victim’s emotional challenges as well as changes in mood and physical distress can also help to support a claim. These testimonies can be obtained from coworkers, friends, and family members.

Advice on Pursuing Emotional Distress Claims

Whether you are the victim of intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress, the following are some helpful strategies you can follow to pursue compensation:

  • Promptly seek the assistance of a medical or psychological professional. The sooner that you can establish a record of your condition, the easier it will be to establish a connection between the harmful event and the conditions that you now face.
  • Sufficiently document your claim. This includes medical records as well as personal notes about how the accident occurred and the injuries that you are now facing.
  • Remember that the time you have to pursue a claim is limited. If you wait to initiate a claim for compensation, there is a risk that you might be barred from doing so. Additionally, if you wait to pursue a claim, there is a substantial risk that you might lose critical evidence that helps to establish the extent of your injuries.

Speak with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

When accidents occur, victims can endure serious physical injuries as well as significant emotional distress. If you need the assistance of a dedicated personal injury attorney who will remain committed to fighting for the compensation you deserve, contact Cohen & Jaffe LLP today for assistance.


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