How Can I Prove Emotional Distress?

Personal Injury Attorneys » Personal Injury Claims » How Can I Prove Emotional Distress?

If you’ve been in an accident, you know it can affect you in more ways than one. In a split second, your life changes from the regular day-to-day routine to one filled with doctor’s appointments, financial stress, and physical pain from your injuries. All of these things can cause mental and emotional hardships for victims and family members.

However, emotional distress is a type of damage for which you can claim compensation when an accident occurs. But how do you prove emotional trauma was a result of the accident? Here’s what you need to know, explained by our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys.


    According to Medical News Today1, emotional distress is a state of mental anguish. It happens when you experience intensely negative feelings, such as worry, fear, sadness, or other mental health episodes that are so severe that they interfere with daily life. This type of stress can happen to anyone, particularly following an accident like a car accident or motorcycle crash.

    Some warning signs of emotional distress include:

    • Ongoing anxiety or depression
    • Overwhelming fear or panic attacks
    • Feeling guilty with no apparent reason
    • Chronic headaches and body aches
    • Insomnia
    • Isolation
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Relying on substances to alter moods, including alcohol
    • Uncontrollable crying and worrying
    • Sudden weight loss or weight gain

    These are not the only signs of suffering emotionally after a traumatic event. If you decide to file an emotional distress lawsuit, your doctors will provide your attorney with the correct diagnosis based on their professional analysis of your symptoms.

    Yes. When you file a lawsuit for compensation after an accident, you can recover non-economic damages, including emotional distress, in addition to economic damages, such as:

    • Medical bills
    • Rehabilitation costs
    • Property damage
    • Lost wages

    However, proving non-economic damages and claiming a fair amount that represents those damages can be complex. Working with experienced personal injury lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve for your emotional trauma.

    Here are some examples of emotional distress following an accident:

    • Depression – A pedestrian was crossing the street when she was suddenly struck by a vehicle that ran a red light. In addition to physical injuries, the victim suffered depression after the accident due to the stress of not being able to earn wages or pay medical bills.
    • PTSD – While driving on the highway, a semi-truck driver failed to see a car while merging into the next lane. The driver of the car was struck and forced into a barricade on the side of the road, sustaining neck injuries. As a result, the victim experiences severe anxiety attacks from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)2.
    • Behavioral Changes – A man was the victim of medical malpractice when his doctor negligently misdiagnosed his condition. After the incident, he has become intensely fearful and distrusting of others, affecting his ability to work and enjoy activities with his family.

    In these cases, the victims may bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages, including emotional distress, within the statute of limitations.

    Because distress is not something physical (although it can manifest physical symptoms), you will have to show that you’re experiencing severe emotional damage in other ways. You must also prove that it is a direct result of the accident.

    Your attorney may recommend the following steps to help prove emotional distress in your case:

    • See a professional about the problem. The best way to get help and have documentation of emotional distress is to seek medical treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, from a trained professional.
    • Keep a journal of your symptoms and stress levels. This can also help you document the physical pain and suffering you endure after an accident.
    • Expert witnesses. Medical professionals or other experts can show how emotional trauma can negatively impact a person’s life.
    • Family and friends testimony. Your spouse, close family members, or friends helping you through this crisis can testify to the emotional impact of the accident.
    • Evidence of physical injuries. Generally, the more severe the accident, the greater your emotional trauma is likely to be. Physical injuries can help show how distressing the accident was.

    Your attorney will work with you and your doctors to establish the intensity of your injuries and how it is affecting your mental health and routine. These professionals have the experience necessary to understand emotional trauma from an accident and how much it can impact an individual.

    Emotional distress is generally awarded as part of a victim’s non-economic losses from an accident. Your attorney will weigh the severity of your distress and how it has affected your life to determine the compensation amount for this type of damage.

    Here are some methods a lawyer can use when calculating pain or emotional distress damages:

    1. The Multiplier Method. This method takes the total of economic damages in your case and multiplies it by a number between 1 and 5. That multiplier number depends on the severity of your injuries.
    2. Per Diem Method. Using this method, your attorney will designate a specific dollar amount to every day that passes from when the accident occurred to when you fully recovered or are expected to make a full recovery.

    Every accident and outcome is different. Because of this, there is no set amount for emotional distress compensation. An experienced attorney will use the method that is most appropriate in your case and fairly represents your losses.

    An emotional distress claim requires a physical injury or some other type of actual harm. There is no legal claim for near misses. For example, if another vehicle comes very close to striking you but manages to avoid the collision, there’s no right to compensation.

    However, not all injuries are physical. An example of emotional distress cases won is the Shoen v. Amerco, Inc.3 case. The plaintiff brought a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit stated that the plaintiff suffered because of an employment contract termination.

    Whether the damage is a physical injury or another type of injury like intentional infliction of emotional distress, there must be actual harm associated with the events for the victim to have a claim.

    If an accident emotionally damages you, you may deserve financial compensation. Emotional distress is one category of damages you can claim.

    However, to win your claim, you must:

    • Include the demand for compensation in your legal filings
    • Prepare the evidence to show that you’ve suffered emotionally
    • Prove the severity of your injuries

    If you were in an accident in Las Vegas, call our team of personal injury attorneys for a free consultation to see if you can claim compensation for emotional distress and other damages. We will make sure the insurance companies treat you fairly and you get the support you need now.


    1Kandola, A. (26 November 2020). What are the causes and symptoms of emotional distress? Medical News Today. Retrieved 8 March 2020.

    2Mayo Clinic. (6 July 2018). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Retrieved 8 March 2020.

    3Shoen v. AMERCO, Inc., 885 F. Supp. 1332 (D. Nev. 1994)

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