Can You Claim For Emotional Distress?

Falling and getting a concussion, breaking a bone or suffering from a serious laceration as a result of another’s negligence are common injuries people think of when they’re talking about personal injury law. Injury claims such as these have evidential aspects that are easier to prove. External injuries are visible and possible internal injuries can be proven with X-rays or other medical scans. Claims for mental pain and suffering and emotional distress aren’t as easily proven but are still genuine to the individual suffering.


What is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a highly unpleasant emotional reaction (as anguish, humiliation, or fury) which results from another’s conduct and for which damages may be sought”.

Damages for emotional distress may be recovered whether there was intentional or negligent behaviour. In cases where negligent actions resulted in emotional distress, the plaintiff is generally required to have also suffered from a physical injury.

Signs & Symptoms
Too much of anything can affect a person. If you eat too much cake, you will end up with a stomach ache. Listening to upbeat, energetic music repeatedly can cause you to feel certain emotions such as happiness or excitement. Similarly, too much stress can lead to both emotional and physical symptoms. Knowing these signs and being able to identify them can help you reduce and learn to manage them.

Healthline outlines some of the emotional signs to pay attention to.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability & mood swings
  • Problems concentrating or remembering things
  • Compulsive behaviour


How Can It Be Proven?

The burden of proof falls on the victim when it comes to emotional distress lawsuits. Since emotional distress is mainly psychological, it becomes even more difficult to prove in court. Unlike a broken arm where an X-Ray can allow for a visual of the injury, there is no physical evidence to prove an injury has even occurred when it comes to mental health.

Andrew Lu describes some of the ways you might be able to prove your emotional distress claim.

  • Intensity

The more intense one’s mental suffering, the more likely it can be to prove. However, cases claiming negligence against another party often require some kind of physical injury to be present.

  • Duration

Proving the pain is consistent, reoccurring and stays with you for a significant period, like PTSD.

  • Related bodily harm

Proving a related injury, like migraines or ulcers, can help point to signs of distress.

  • Underlying cause

An extreme situation that brought on emotional distress (e.g. surviving a bombing) is more likely to show a court emotional distress was brought on by a traumatic incident. As opposed to a car accident where no one suffered any injuries.

  • Doctors note

This will help support your claim and should be incorporated for this exact purpose.


How to Manage Stress


Luckily, there are things you can do to help manage and even reduce your stress. Identifying the source of your stress is the starting point for addressing your emotional symptoms.

As explained by the American Institute of Stress, there are several ways to manage stress. It’s important to find techniques that are right for you; nothing is universal when it comes to stress management. Some may find taking a hot yoga class to be relaxing while another could find it quite boring and become irritated.

  • Participating in physical activity; running, playing sports, dance etc.
  • Calming activities; meditating, yoga etc.
  • Listening to music, reading, writing in a journal/diary etc.
  • Getting a massage or attending a therapy session (private or group)

Claiming emotional distress is a complicated and overwhelming process. Involving an experienced personal injury lawyer, like Dye and Russell, to help guide you through your case is the easy part, and the first step in your road to recovery.


If you or someone you know is suffering from emotional stress due to the negligence of another, a workplace incident or traumatic event, contact the experienced team at Dye and Russell today.

Skye OliverCan You Claim For Emotional Distress?