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Is Emotional Distress a Personal Injury? A Guide to Mental Anguish Damages in Indianapolis

May 2, 2024 | Personal Injury, Uncategorized


personal injury attorney for emotional distress

Jack had a car accident that left him disfigured, and now he’s too ashamed to leave the house. Susie witnessed her husband die in a truck crash. These days, she’s so depressed that she can barely leave her bed.

Can these victims recover damages for emotional distress? More than likely, yes.

Is emotional distress a personal injury? Yes, and you have the right to pursue compensation for your mental anguish. Below, learn everything you need to know about emotional distress damages from a reputable personal injury lawyer in Indianapolis.

Types of Emotional Distress

Emotional distress falls into one of two categories: negligent infliction or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Let’s go over what these terms mean next.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

The vast majority of mental anguish cases fall under negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). This means you suffered emotional distress because of someone’s negligence or careless actions.

For example:

  • You became disabled in a car crash and are depressed because you can no longer work.
  • Someone’s dog randomly attacked you, and you fear leaving the house because it could happen again.
  • You hit your head in a slip-and-fall accident, resulting in drastic personality changes and mood swings.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is much rarer. It occurs when someone intentionally causes you harm. For example:

  • A burglar breaks into your home, not caring that the experience will probably traumatize you.
  • A dog owner deliberately lets his animal off the leash to attack you.
  • An angry driver purposely hits your car in a fit of road rage.

Who Can Sue for Emotional Distress in Indianapolis?

Is emotional distress a personal injury? Yes. Indianapolis allows you to sue for emotional distress if:

  • You’ve suffered a direct physical injury
  • You witnessed a loved one’s injury directly or shortly after the accident

The Modified Impact Rule

Under the modified impact rule, you may recover damages for emotional distress if you suffered injuries because of someone’s negligent actions. This rule states that the event must have directly impacted you to recover damages.

The Bystander Rule

There is an exception to the modified impact rule: the bystander rule. Under this rule, you don’t need to be directly impacted by the event to seek compensation. This means you can recover damages if you arrive at the scene soon after an accident and see something distressing.

Here’s an example. Brenda’s husband, George, has a terrible accident on the way to work. Shortly after, she drives past the accident scene and finds George, who is horribly injured. Under the bystander rule, Brenda could sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

How To Prove Emotional Distress

Proving emotional distress can be very challenging. Unlike physical injuries, emotional distress is invisible to everyone but the victim. Here’s what you must do to win your case.

Determine Whether the Distress Was Negligently or Intentionally Inflicted

This step is important because it can affect your settlement or award. If someone intentionally harmed you emotionally, you might win a larger settlement.

NIED examples include:

  • Witnessing a serious car accident
  • Becoming depressed or anxious after a slip-and-fall accident
  • Developing a fear of doctors after a surgical accident

IIED examples include:

  • Experiencing threats of violence
  • Unwanted sexual advances or stalking
  • Harsh gossip aimed at ruining your reputation

Collect Evidence

You can’t win a car accident or slip-and-fall case without evidence, and an emotional distress case is no different. Good evidence for your emotional distress case might include:

  • Medications you’re taking to cope with the distress
  • Statements from your doctor or therapist after assessing you for emotional distress signs and risks
  • Records of physical injuries related to the distress
  • The impact your distress has had on daily life (for example, being unable to work because of it)

Prove Causation

You must prove that the defendant’s actions caused your emotional distress, whether negligent or intentional. This can be a challenge, so it’s wise to hire an Indianapolis attorney.

Need Help Proving Emotional Distress? Call Our Indianapolis Firm

If you’re still wondering, “Is emotional distress a personal injury?” and want to know more about the types of damages that a personal injury lawsuit covers, contact Stewart & Stewart Attorneys at (800) 333-3529 for a free consultation.

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