Being in an accident can cause a person to experience intense emotional distress, even if the person only sustains minor injuries or no injuries at all. Texas personal injury laws permit accident victims to seek compensation for emotional distress. Accident victims may seek damages for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
What is Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress is a non-economic damage (also referred to as “pain and suffering” damages). It refers to the psychological suffering caused by an accident and injury. Emotional distress can be caused by a traumatic event, including a car accident, assault, nursing home abuse, slip and fall accident, and other personal injury situations.
Examples of emotional distress include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Having no energy or low energy
- Eating disorders
- Panic attacks
- Sleeping too much
- Elevated blood pressure
- Constant worry
- Substance abuse
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or committing suicide
The symptoms of emotional distress can range from mild to debilitating. Additionally, children can experience emotional distress after an accident or traumatic event. As a result, children may lose interest in favorite activities, become withdrawn, and begin doing poorly in school.
Individuals suffering from emotional distress after an accident or injury should seek mental health treatment. Counseling, medication, and other treatment options can help relieve the symptoms and manage conditions.
Accident victims can also discuss recovering compensation for intentional infliction of emotional distress with a personal injury lawyer.
Seeking Compensation for Emotional Distress After an Accident or Injury
Texas recognizes two causes of action to recover compensation for emotional distress. The first is negligent infliction of emotional distress. This refers to a situation where someone caused you emotional distress because of their negligent acts.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress is related to personal injury cases based on negligence claims. For example, a car accident case, slip and fall accident, or dog bite case is based on negligence:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care
- The party breached the duty of care
- The breach of duty was the direct cause of your injuries
- You sustained damages because of the injury
The at-fault party did not intend to cause you emotional distress. However, because of the at-fault party’s negligence, you experienced emotional distress.
Accident and injury victims in Texas can recover compensation for emotional distress ONLY IF they sustain a physical injury because of the at-fault party’s negligent acts. In other words, if you do not sustain injuries, you cannot recover compensation for emotional distress.
What is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?
Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a cause of action claiming that the at-fault party intended to cause you harm. You may sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress in some cases. However, you have the burden of proving that the claim involves deliberate conduct by the at-fault party.
Typically, courts only allow damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress without physical injuries if you can prove:
- The at-fault party’s conduct was reckless or intentional;
- The person’s conduct was outrageous or extreme;
- The intentional conduct caused the victim to experience emotional distress; and,
- The emotional distress was severe.
Furthermore, the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is only used in specific situations. Courts have held it is only available when no other cause of action can provide recovery for the victim.
Examples of cases involving intentional infliction of emotional distress might include:
- Sexual assault
- Nursing home abuse
- Physical assault
- Cases involving road rage
Proving a Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
It is more challenging to prove you experienced emotional distress when you did not sustain injuries. Evidence that might be used to prove your claim could include:
- Medical records showing that you are diagnosed with conditions associated with extreme emotional distress. Examples would be high blood pressure, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic acid reflux, etc.
- Mental health records diagnosing you with PTSD, chronic anxiety, severe depression, etc.
- Medical bills and receipts for doctor’s visits, medications, counseling, and other forms of treatment
- Journals documenting your daily struggles with emotional disorders
You must document your symptoms and treatment to prove you are suffering from extreme emotional distress.
Most insurance companies include clauses in their insurance policies that exclude intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. Therefore, you might need to file a lawsuit against the person who caused your emotional distress.
The best way to know if you have a claim for emotional distress is to meet with a personal injury attorney for a free consultation. You can weigh your options and decide how to proceed.