An Injurious Loss: Emotional Distress and Suffering

Most people are aware that if they are physically harmed through the intentional or negligent acts of another, they may assert a claim of loss and seek compensation through a personal injury case for the medical bills they incurred, lost wages, loss of physical function and the inability to participate in the activities they once enjoyed due to ongoing disability and pain. However, as almost anyone who has been in an accident can attest, personal injury can also cause emotional stress.

Under Missouri law, you are entitled to seek and receive compensation for emotional suffering so long as there is sufficient evidence to support your claim. Unlike physical harm, however, it is much tougher to prove such claims because emotional pain cannot be seen. This is why it is important to seek the help of a top trial lawyer experienced and skilled in handling claims of emotional distress and suffering.

Symptoms Characterizing Emotional Suffering

So what symptoms might a jury take into consideration to determine the existence and monetary value of emotional harm? Below is a partial list:

  • Moderate to severe depression and/or prolonged grief over the death or debilitating injury of a loved one as a result of the accident
  • Depression and anxiety resulting from chronic pain and/or physical or cognitive disabilities and loss of ability to participate in activities once enjoyed due to accident-related impairments
  • Post-traumatic stress as evidenced by such symptoms as flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia related to the traumatic event

Making a Claim on the Sole Basis of an Emotional Injury

Historically, claims of emotional suffering had to stem from the physical injuries incurred in an accident; however, courts are increasingly recognizing that emotional distress and suffering absent physical injury can be the primary or onlyharmful result of an accident. Consider this scenario: A mother and her child are crossing a street. Mother sees an oncoming car, driving recklessly at a high speed, coming towards them. Mother tries to get herself and her child out of harm’s way. The mother is not hit, but the child is clipped by the car and suffers fatal injuries. As a result, the mother grieves the loss of her child for a prolonged period of time. She sinks into a deep depression, blaming herself for not having saved her child when she was able to escape without injury. The mother has to seek extended counseling and is prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications by a psychiatrist to ease her depressive symptoms.

The Need for Proof

While this may be an extreme example, it is meant to graphically illustrate how emotional suffering—even when there is no physical injury—can constitute a major injurious loss.  Unfortunately, emotional distress and suffering can be difficult to prove, and juries often find it challenging to evaluate its monetary value. If you are considering a claim for emotional distress and suffering, your case will be much stronger if you can produce such items as:

  • Medical records of psychiatric and counseling visits
  • Notes from other medical providers—your primary care physician or a specialist(s) whom you are seeing for physical injuries—documenting your emotional distress
  • Prescription receipts for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications
  • A personal journal documenting your daily thoughts, feelings and struggles

Sometimes juries will award damages for emotional distress and suffering in the cases of outrageous and particularly intense events, such as a bombing or the lockdown of a school when a gunman is thought to be on the loose, as happened recently at a high school in Kirkwood, Missouri. The more intense and prolonged the emotional suffering, the greater the chances are for receiving a higher award.

Choosing a Skilled and Experienced Trial Lawyer for Pursuing a Claim of Emotional Suffering

Unlike physical injuries, there is no standard rule for calculating the monetary value of emotional distress and suffering. As such, if you are considering a claim involving emotional distress, it pays to consult with a personal injury lawyer who has solid trial experience in handling these types of cases. Choose a trial lawyer who is compassionate and can convey a compelling picture of your emotional pain and suffering to a jury.  Call one of our Top 100 Trial lawyers at: 314-409-7060 or 855-40-CRASH (toll free).

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Reach out to Chris Dixon for personal injury, workers compensation, product liability, and other legal services for experienced, reliable counsel and representation in St. Louis.

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