What Is Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case?

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A traumatic accident, such as a motor vehicle wreck or slip and fall, can cause considerable emotional distress for a victim. Emotional distress is a broad phrase in civil law that can refer to many different negative feelings and personal consequences related to an accident, aside from physical injuries and property damage. In Nebraska, you can seek financial compensation for emotional distress during a personal injury case.

emotional distress in a personal injury case

What Does Emotional Distress Mean?

Emotional distress in personal injury law is a component of recovery. It falls under the umbrella of pain and suffering damages (another word for financial compensation), also referred to as noneconomic or general damages. The type of emotional distress suffered by a victim can vary according to the specific individual and the circumstances of the accident. It can include:

  • Mental anguish
  • Psychological trauma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Stress or inconvenience
  • Humiliation
  • Depression
  • Nightmares or loss of sleep
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • The inability to participate in favorite activities
  • Lost quality or enjoyment of life
  • The grief of losing a loved one

Emotional distress in a personal injury case may be related to the trauma of the accident itself or the injuries suffered. The degree of emotional distress often correlates with the severity of the injuries. A catastrophic injury, or wrongful death, for example, would most likely cause greater emotional distress than a minor injury.

How Can You Prove Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case?

It is possible to obtain financial compensation for emotional distress during a personal injury lawsuit in Nebraska. Before you can receive a financial award for this noneconomic loss, however, you or your Omaha personal injury attorney will have to prove emotional distress. The burden of proof rests with you, the plaintiff, in a personal injury case. 

Establishing emotional distress is more difficult than a physical injury, as you do not have hard evidence such as an x-ray available. One of the best things you can do to support your claim is to see a doctor or psychologist after your accident to describe what you are feeling. This can create a track record of you experiencing mental, psychological or emotional distress related to the accident.

When it comes to proving your claim, your attorney can help you gather evidence such as testimony from your friends and family members about how the accident has impacted you, testimony from a mental health expert, photographs and videos that demonstrate the severity of your injuries, and your own injury journal. A lawyer can help you fight for maximum financial compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses.

How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated?

Emotional distress is also more difficult to quantify in terms of the value that it will bring to your case. Pain and suffering damages are determined by a jury. Judges, however, do not give juries a lot in terms of guidelines for calculating the value of emotional distress. Instead, jurors are instructed to use their own common sense and reason to determine a fair and reasonable figure based on the facts of the case.

That being said, a jury may use a calculation method to place a value on emotional distress. One of the most common is the multiplier method. A multiplier is a number between 1.5 and 4, in most cases, that represents the severity of the victim’s injuries and losses. The victim’s economic damages are multiplied by the multiplier assigned to determine a fair amount in pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that a jury does not have to use this equation – or any equation at all – to calculate pain and suffering damages.

The best way to maximize your financial recovery for emotional distress in a personal injury case is by hiring an attorney in Omaha to represent you. An attorney can help you prove this intangible loss and illustrate the severity of your pain and suffering in a compelling way to a jury. Consult with a lawyer today for more information about emotional distress in your case.