The short answer is yes, emotional distress is a form of personal injury. As a type of mental suffering, emotional distress can result from a traumatic event or a series of events. Emotional distress can include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other psychological conditions. These mental injuries can be just as significant and debilitating as a physical injury, and can affect a person’s quality of life in similarly significant ways. Under the right conditions, emotional distress can account for the entirety of the personal injury in your claim.

As an example, a person may come to me who has been bullied at work, resulting in anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and is interesting in suing the bully because their emotional distress negatively impacts their performance at work, their quality of life, and their ability to function more broadly. Even if the person was never physically harmed, bullying and any threat of physical violence are actions we can sue over. If the company was informed of the harassment and failed to act appropriately, or if the bully was in a supervising role, the company may also be held legally responsible for the harassment. In the lawsuit, we would prove that the bullying occurred, that it resulted in these diagnoses, and we’d make plain to the court how significant the negative impacts have been on the person’s life.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Personal jury cases are lawsuits against individual people or companies whose negligence or deliberate actions result in someone’s preventable injuries. Compensation for these types of lawsuits can range widely and is calculated based on the damages a person endured as a result of the incident or series of incidents. Generally, the more severe an injury and the longer the injury will last, the more money you are entitled to as compensation. And the injuries don’t have to be physical to have a significant negative impact on your life.

The statute of limitations on a personal injury case is two years, meaning we must file the suit within two years of the incident or at least one of the incidents that resulted in the emotional distress.

What Are Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Damages are losses in money, property, and quality of life that directly result from someone else’s negligence or deliberate actions. If you have experienced any of the following, you can sue for compensation for these damages.

  • Property damage
  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of support
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Emotional distress falls under the category of pain and suffering.

What is Pain and Suffering?

According to Food Lion, Inc. v. Williams, pain and suffering in Georgia includes the following:

  • loss of capacity to work and earn money
  • impairment of bodily health and vigor
  • shock
  • fear of the extent of the injury
  • actual pain and suffering, past and future
  • mental anguish, past and future, if it limits a person’s activities
  • interference with normal living
  • interference with enjoyment of life

You can probably see how emotional distress of many different kinds is covered in this list. But I always find it helpful to use examples, so let’s suppose a person’s negligence while driving their vehicle resulted in a wreck that left you with an injury that causes you to limp, likely for the rest of your life. In this case, you would be entitled to sue for monetary compensation for all the ways you have been affected by that injury, including your medical bills, the damage to your vehicle, the pain you endured during your surgeries, the wages you lost while out of work, the medicine you’ll have to buy for the rest of your life to manage your pain, the promotions you now won’t receive because you don’t meet the necessary physical requirements, and the fact that you are not longer able to participate in the weekend hiking group you helped found several years ago.

If the car wreck left you with debilitating PTSD that prevents you from being able to drive yourself, even if you aren’t physically injured, you are also entitled to compensation. In addition to the your damaged vehicle, you lost the wages from having to quit your job and find work that can do from home. Damages would also include your therapy bills, the costs and expected future costs of having to pay for drivers and bus passes to get to your doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, and on other necessary errands. If the loss or your autonomy and freedom from having to depend on others for rides resulted in depression, this is also a direct result of the original wreck and is another example of emotional distress. If you aren’t able to attend your kids’ baseball games anymore or visit your elderly parents regularly, this too causes emotional distress.

I encourage everyone who is considering a personal injury lawsuit to gather all their related bills and medical information and carefully consider all the costs and future costs resulting from this incident. Then, I strongly urge them to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can help them discern what compensation is fair for all they’ve endured. This is especially true if an insurance company is involved.

How Do You Prove Emotional Distress?

The main way to prove emotional distress—or any sort of pain and suffering—is through documentation. It’s very important to thoroughly document the injury at the center of a personal injury case, as we must prove that the injury really exists, that it directly resulted from the incident, and that it was the result of negligence or a deliberate action. Fluke events and accidents aren’t enough on their own, but person a policy at your workplace created an environment that allowed your injury to occur. It’s also important to make clear to the court how these injuries have negatively impacted your life and how long-term the effects may be, as these factors are critical in calculating fair compensation. For non-physical injuries, I rely on all the following forms for documentation:

  • Medical records, including psychiatrist and therapy records regarding my client’s symptoms and diagnoses
  • Receipts for prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that are now necessary because of the incident
  • Bills for therapy appointments
  • Testimony from medical, vocational, and economic experts about the effects of the person’s distress on their life and work
  • Testimony from family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors about how the incident has affected the client’s mental health and overall wellbeing
  • A journal dedicated to recording the frequency and severity of the person’s symptoms

If you’re considering a personal injury lawsuit, I encourage you to set up a free consultation with me as soon as possible, then take some time to gather your evidence. Find every receipt and take screenshots of all the texts and emails that relate to the incident, your injuries, and your emotional state.

I first heard this from a therapist who was testifying on behalf of a patient, but I encourage people who are suffering emotional distress to keep a journal of their symptoms and how they are affecting their life. Normally I don’t submit my client’s calendars or diaries as evidence because anything in the entire document can be used as evidence, and by either side of the conflict, not just the page that’s relevant to our case. But by keeping a journal focused on the injury and how it impacts your life and relationships and health, you are limiting the type of information available and protecting yourself while also providing truthful day-by-day updates of what your life is like now. While we hope to secure a fair settlement for our clients out of court, I have seen the impact of a client reading their own words from their pain or mental health journal in the courtroom. The journal is also a great way for people to track their progress and put things in order in their minds before they need to explain them in a setting that may make them nervous, such as a courtroom or even to me in our consultation.

How Do I Know If I’m Being Offered a Fair Settlement?

It can be difficult to put a price on your emotional distress, and in the case of an accident at work or a car accident, it’s even harder to know if a settlement offer is fair. That’s why I offer free consultations to individuals and families seeking guidance for their unique situation. As an RN, I understand your injuries and their lasting effects so I can skip the Googling and jump right to the most important questions, putting my nearly 30 years of experience to work to give you an idea of what would be fair in your case. This helps us maximize our time together and helps me give you the best possible advice about your legal options. If you’re being offered a settlement or are considering a lawsuit for an incident that occurred within the last two years, please call my office right away to set up your free consultation.

What Should I Bring to a Meeting with You?

I do my best to make every person feel comfortable in my office, but I understand that the entire scenario can be nerve-wracking. You may actively be in pain, and you’ve probably overcome significant emotional hurtles just to make through the door.

To help us have the best meeting possible with the best outcomes for you, I recommend bringing 3 things.

  1. Bring copies (not the originals) of all your documentation
  2. Make a timeline of what happened, including the incident, when you sought treatment, and when symptoms began to interfere with your life
  3. Make a list of your questions and points you definitely want to convey

I want to do everything I can to help you in that first free consultation so, whether you choose to sue or not and whether you choose to hire me or not, you can make the best choices for you and your future. Your list of questions and outline will help ensure I have the complete picture, allowing me to give you the best possible advice.

There are a lot of things you won’t have to explain to me because of my medical background, and I’ll be able to ask you questions other attorneys won’t know enough to ask at a first meeting. I can read medical records and have a lot of experience spotting the inconsistencies and tricks companies use to try to avoid blame.

I don’t want you to be driving home from our meeting and remember something you forgot to tell me, and be left wondering if it might be important. Writing it down ahead of time, please writing out your questions, will help us both make the best use of our time.

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We feel she made our future brighter despite what had happened. We cannot thank Tracey enough for representing us during this life changing ordeal. WE would highly recommend her to anyone. She and her staff are not just our lawyers, but they are our friends.
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