Emotional Distress: 9 Examples and Their Implications

emotional distress examples

Experiencing a serious accident or traumatic event can leave more than just physical injuries. Many victims are also left with significant emotional distress lasting for weeks, months, or even years. Anxiety, depression, grief, anger, and other mental health impacts are very common after catastrophic injuries.

At Pasternack Injury Law Group, our personal injury law firm has over 43 years of combined legal experience, making us a force to be reckoned with when pursuing personal injury claims.

We have fought hard to get full compensation for the emotional suffering endured by injury victims in California. We understand how to thoroughly evaluate these complex injuries and ensure our clients’ emotional suffering is fully accounted for in their cases.

What is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress refers to a range of adverse psychological impacts, including:

  • Anxiety, stress, constant fear
  • Clinical depression, profound sadness, grief
  • Anger, irritation, frustration
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
  • Strained relationships, social withdrawal

The distress can range from temporary feelings to severe long-term mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Emotional distress can arise in someone directly injured or in witnesses or bystanders of traumatic events. The specific circumstances and severity of the distress determine whether it warrants compensation.

9 Common Types of Emotional Distress Injuries in Personal Injury Cases

There are several common ways emotional harm enters into personal injury claims:

1. Temporary Mental Anguish

Short-term emotional reactions are very common after serious accidents. A car crash victim may experience driving anxiety or depression, making daily tasks difficult for weeks after the collision.

With counseling support and time, many people can move past the initial trauma of an accident. Their emotional troubles are still real but fade after the normal grief process runs its course.

Documenting exactly how the emotional distress temporarily impacted work performance, relationships, and overall quality of life is crucial. We help clients gather medical records, statements from loved ones, and any other evidence to clearly demonstrate temporary mental anguish.

2. Pain and Suffering

Physical injuries very often produce emotional suffering as well. The trauma, stress, grief, and limitations resulting from an injury can easily lead to anxiety, depression, anger, and other issues. Thoroughly documenting how pain and physical restrictions affect mental health is essential.

3. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks frequently arise after serious accidents. For example, a car crash victim may develop driving anxiety, or a subway accident victim could develop anxiety about public transportation.

We help clients demonstrate how new accident-related anxieties severely impact their ability to function normally. Evidence like testimony on family life, work struggles, or forfeited activities paints a compelling picture.

4. Clinical Depression

In addition to anxiety, major clinical depression is another common psychological impact of injuries. Permanent physical damage, changes to capabilities, lost income, and trauma of the event itself can all trigger depression. We take care to ensure any depressive symptoms or other issues are fully considered when calculating damages.

5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD often emerges after accidents, assaults, and other traumatic events. Symptoms like flashbacks, hypervigilance, avoidance, and nightmares disrupt everyday life. Car crashes, workplace accidents, animal attacks, and even slips and falls can potentially trigger PTSD.

Unlike temporary distress, PTSD is a longer-term and more disruptive condition needing substantial treatment. Our clients deserve total compensation, covering the costs of therapy, medication, and loss of income stemming from PTSD.

Establishing a clear PTSD diagnosis and direct connection to the accident calls for solid medical evidence and opinions. As experienced California personal injury attorneys, we know precisely what documentation establishes a PTSD claim.

6. Bystander Emotional Distress

Witnessing a traumatic event can certainly cause lasting emotional harm to bystanders. For instance, seeing a loved one struck and killed in an auto accident could easily lead to PTSD, depression, and more.

However, bystanders must show their emotional distress meets certain legal standards to pursue a valid claim. Relevant factors include their relationship to the victim and proximity to the trauma.

Our attorneys can thoroughly assess bystander emotional distress scenarios and build a solid legal case for compensation if the criteria are satisfied. Over the years, we have helped numerous witnesses hold negligent parties fully accountable.

7. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

In limited instances, someone intentionally inflicting emotional distress on another can become its own legal claim. But the conduct must be proven to be extreme, outrageous, and atrocious – well beyond mere insults or minor annoyances.

Additionally, there must be clear evidence showing the victim suffered severe emotional distress with extensive medical documentation. Given the very high legal bar, these types of cases are rare, but they are possible in California personal injury law, given truly egregious facts.

8. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)

Like intentional infliction, negligently caused emotional harm may warrant compensation in certain situations. Again, the negligent conduct and resulting distress must be extreme and thoroughly documented medically. We carefully analyze all factors to evaluate if the legal criteria for negligent infliction are fully satisfied when assessing potential cases.

9. Loss of Companionship/Consortium

When a spouse or child suffers catastrophic injuries, families feel the emotional fallout, too. Loss of companionship claims address this by covering the psychological toll of losing intimacy, day-to-day support, and shared activities with an injured loved one. The impact can be immense when a previously active spouse or child is suddenly completely dependent. We make sure to capture the full scope.

Seeking Rightful Compensation for Emotional Harm

Emotional distress can profoundly impact all aspects of accident victims’ lives. However, quantifying these intangible, non-economic damages can be difficult. Our legal team has extensive experience evaluating and translating mental health repercussions into fair dollar amounts.

We dig deep to gather all available evidence, including:

  • Medical records from psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists
  • Counseling notes documenting observed symptoms and impacts
  • Testimony from friends and family about personality changes
  • Journals or other records kept by injured parties themselves

In court over our 35+ year history, we have secured multi-million dollar awards for emotional injuries in catastrophic injury cases. Out of court, insurers know we can take cases to trial if needed to prove full damages. As a result, they agree to fair settlements that fully cover emotional suffering.

Emotional Distress Claims Require Careful Legal Analysis

There are meaningful legal standards in California for viable emotional distress cases. Minor, temporary fears or sadness immediately after an accident typically do not warrant compensation on their own. For a valid claim, the emotional impacts must cause substantial disruption to normal functioning and be corroborated by medical evidence.

Physical manifestations of distress like ulcers, migraines, or insomnia also strengthen claims. Our attorneys carefully analyze the facts during free case evaluations to assess the strength of emotional injury claims. We aggressively pursue fair compensation through settlement or trial for valid cases with supporting evidence.

Our Personal Injury Attorneys Are Here to Help With Your Emotional Injury Claim

Coping with emotional trauma from an accident is difficult – but you don’t have to do it alone. For years, our California personal injury law firm has helped clients recover damages related to mental anguish, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more resulting from someone else’s negligence. We provide caring, honest guidance to maximize compensation for both physical and emotional injuries.

To explore your options in a free consultation with our compassionate legal team, contact Pasternack Injury Law Group today. Together, we’ll fight for the full justice you deserve.

Author Bio

Barry A. Pasternack

Barry Pasternack brings over three decades of legal experience to his role as the founding attorney at Pasternack Injury Law Group. He holds a J.D. from the esteemed California Western School of Law in San Diego, California, and has been a member of the California State Bar since 1988. Located in downtown San Diego, Barry’s practice serves clients throughout the San Diego region, providing comprehensive guidance and representation.

Barry’s commitment to his clients is unwavering, and your initial consultation is always free of charge. You only pay attorney’s fees when he successfully recovers compensation on your behalf. When you choose Barry Pasternack, you’re selecting a skilled legal professional who will tirelessly fight for your rights and work diligently to help you on your path to recovery.

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