Proving Emotional Distress: How it’s Done


Calculating damages for lost wages and medical expenses is usually straightforward in personal injury cases. Medical records and pay stubs provide clear proof of any quantifiable damage. Proving emotional distress, on the other hand, is more subjective. Thus, it can be a bit more difficult to quantify. There can be proof of physical injuries, but plaintiffs might have a difficult time proving to court that they are entitled to damages.


What is emotional distress?

Emotional distress is the state of mental suffering due to a traumatic experience. This suffering might result to anxiety, panic, suicidal thoughts, self-guilt, and depression. Once the emotional distress causes physical harm, the case now becomes easier to win due to the obvious evidence. When the emotional distress remains only emotional, however, it becomes more difficult to prove recovery unless the defendant’s conduct becomes outrageously extreme.


Here are some ways on how you can strengthen your claim of emotional distress in court:


Show that your emotional distress is caused by your physical injury.

The claim of emotional trauma without evidence of physical injury is difficult to prove. Although it happens at times, plaintiffs who pursue these damages without an injury are not always successful. If you, however, suffered severe injuries that led to the loss of use of a limb, disfigurement, or an inability to perform usual physical tasks, then you might have a strong argument for emotional distress.


Provide evidence that emotional trauma exists.

No matter how much time you spend organizing and presenting your emotional distress, the court might still find it difficult to take your claim seriously. The jury requires solid evidence that you are, in fact, suffering emotionally. There must be proof of how your emotional state caused you to submit either physically or mentally. A doctor’s letter and a psychiatric testimony can help demonstrate the level of distress you are in. Courts will listen to acceptable diagnoses such as depression and anxiety.


Show an extreme underlying cause.

Emotional distress, oftentimes, is the direct result of a highly traumatic or terrifying event. In personal injury cases, it is commonly disfigurement, permanent scarring, the death of a loved one, or a real fear of death. An extreme underlying cause will give you a better argument.


Legitimize claims of emotional distress with well-kept records.

If you are suffering from an emotional injury, it is important to record every daily occurrence as well as your emotional reaction to it. If you are having difficulty with work performance or any sleeping problems, keep a record of them.


Personal injuries are often highly traumatic and expensive. The truth of the matter is, many injuries caused by accidents alter the lives of the victims completely. If you were injured due to another person’s negligence, call us at 1.855.905.9222 to learn if you have valid grounds for a lawsuit.