In school, the bully gets sent to the principal’s office. They might even get a suspension. For the rest of society, bullying, threatening and emotional torture can result in a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. In fact, it’s a legal wrong to act in an extreme or outrageous manner that causes emotional distress.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress is the civil wrong of committing an action that purposefully harms someone emotionally. To win the case, the plaintiff must prove the following:
- The defendant committed specific acts that were reckless or intentional
- Their actions were extreme or outrageous
- Because of the defendant’s conduct, the victim suffered mental distress
- The victim’s distress is extreme or severe
Intentional infliction of emotional distress is more than just calling someone a name. Instead, it’s extreme and outrageous conduct. The conduct is intended to upset the victim and is successful in doing so.
What Evidence Can You Use to Prove Emotional Distress?
Evidence that you can use to prove emotional distress includes medical records, documentation of changed behavior and your own testimony of personal life changes.
Here are some ways that you might prove emotional distress for intentional infliction of emotional distress claim:
- Medical records that you sought physical, medical health care for stress, anxiety or panic attacks
- Documents and testimony from a counselor that you went to counseling for stress and anxiety
- Documentation that you missed work
- Weight loss or weight gain
- A diary of your personal habits, such as inability to sleep or forgetfulness
- Documented development of a substance abuse problem
- Evidence of depression or other mental illness
- Changes in blood pressure
- Nervous system disorders
- Panic attacks
These examples of evidence to prove emotional distress are indicative of just how serious your emotional upset has to be to win a legal claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, medical records are not necessarily mandatory to establish intentional infliction of emotional distress if the defendant’s acts are sufficiently severe.
Related: How Can I Prove Emotional Distress?
What Is Extreme and Outrageous Conduct?
For the purposes of an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, extreme and outrageous conduct is behavior that is so inappropriate that it’s outside of the bounds of what’s tolerated by society. It must be so outside the bounds of what’s acceptable that it’s not okay by society’s standards. Insults are not extreme conduct, nor are annoyances or indignity. The behavior must be considered truly egregious by society’s standards in order to meet the level of extreme and outrageous conduct.
Examples of Outrageous Conduct for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Here are some examples of what may be considered outrageous conduct:
- Your supervisor calls you into the office to ask you out on a date. You decline. Shortly after that, rumors are going around the workplace that you slept with several different coworkers. It’s the supervisor that started the rumors.
- It’s not a big secret that you hate spiders. Your coworker traps several dangerous spiders and sets them loose in your office. The coworker thinks it’s funny. However, you suffer multiple bites and need medical attention.
- A coworker leaves notes on your locker that people of your gender or race are not welcome in the workplace. The letters threaten physical harm if you continue to do your job. Then, the perpetrator damages property in your locker. They also refuse to work with you on the job. They encourage others to ostracize you, too. As a result, you suffer panic attacks.
- Someone rushes into your office. They tell you that your spouse has just been killed in a car accident. It isn’t true, but your coworker just wanted to upset you. You’re severely emotionally distressed.
- A debt collector threatens serious, physical harm to you or your family. As a result, you have anxiety and trouble sleeping.
Knowing that the victim has special needs or is unusually vulnerable may change the standard of what counts as outrageous conduct.
Intentional vs. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress may both be valid tort claims in some jurisdictions. In a claim based on negligence, the defendant doesn’t have to necessarily act to cause emotional harm on purpose. Instead, they have to negligently take actions that could lead to harm. For example, if someone dies in an accident, due to the defendant’s negligence, the victim may have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant may not have intended the harm, but they may be responsible for causing the accident.
To be intentional infliction of emotional distress, the harm must be the intended or natural outcome of the person’s actions. With negligent infliction of emotional distress, the defendant acts negligently in a way that inflicts emotional distress on the victim. Pleading the right cause of action is vital to winning an intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. It’s essential to identify your type of claim before you prepare legal documents.
Do I Qualify to Bring a Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?
You qualify to bring a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress if your jurisdiction recognizes the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress and if you can prove the elements of the tort. The defendant must have committed extreme and outrageous conduct. Although a physical battery is not required, the victim must show evidence of harm that includes physical and mental signs of extreme distress.
You qualify to bring a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress if you can show that severe distress resulted from the defendant’s outrageous conduct. Nevada law recognizes the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Can You Bring a Claim if There’s No Physical Injury?
The rule for most kinds of torts is that you can’t bring a claim if there’s no physical injury. For example, if another car almost hits you, but ultimately, it’s a close call and you’re not hit, there’s no legal claim that you can bring against the other driver. Generally, the phrase “no harm, no foul” is true in tort law.
However, for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the rule is a bit different. You have to absolutely prove harm; however, it doesn’t necessarily have to be open and outward physical harm. You don’t need blood or broken bones to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress. Proof that you’re very mentally and emotionally distressed may be enough.
Mental health problems, headaches, and anxiety-related physical ailments can prove the case. An acute, physical sign of trauma isn’t necessary. Your attorney may work closely with you to identify the kind of evidence that you need. They can help you understand what you need to prove in order to win your case.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and First Amendment Issues
Keep in mind that intentional infliction of emotional distress laws may intertwine with First Amendment questions. Someone who is accused of intentional infliction of emotional distress may raise questions about their First Amendment rights. While it’s true that the First Amendment guarantees an American’s right to free speech, there are limits.
The government can limit the expression of ideas that are offensive or harmful to others. In the context of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the harm is to the person who is seriously disturbed by the defendant’s conduct. Be prepared to respond to assertions of First Amendment privileges in an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. However, if the behavior is sufficient to cause severe distress, it should not fall under the protection of free speech.
How Can I Win a Claim for Emotional Distress?
To win a claim for emotional distress, you must gather evidence of each element of the claim. It’s important to gather evidence that proves what the defendant did. Don’t overlook the step of establishing the defendant’s actions and responding to any factual discrepancies that they might allege. Next, you must show what harm you suffer as a result.
While your own testimony is a good start, it’s usually critical to back up your testimony with evidence like medical records and testimony from your treatment providers. Finally, you must show what you deserve in compensation and why. By proving all of these elements, you can prove your claim for emotional distress.
Work With an Attorney for Emotional Distress Claims
To learn more about claims for emotional distress and what is considered outrageous conduct, contact our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys today. We can schedule a free consultation on your case and get started right away to maximize your compensation.