Recovering Compensation for Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Cases

Dec 7, 2023

Personal injuries extend beyond the physical realm, often causing significant emotional distress that can impact a victim’s quality of life. While physical injuries are more tangible, emotional suffering is a valid element of many personal injury cases. In this article, we’ll explore the complexities of recovering compensation for emotional distress in personal injury cases and shed light on the legal avenues available to those who have experienced mental anguish due to someone else’s negligence.

Defining Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Cases:

Emotional distress, also known as mental anguish or psychological trauma, refers to the emotional and psychological impact that an injury or traumatic event can have on an individual. This can manifest in various ways, including anxiety, depression, fear, sleep disturbances, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Types of Emotional Distress Claims:

  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED): This claim arises when a plaintiff witnesses a traumatic event, such as a severe accident, and suffers emotional harm as a result.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED): This claim involves deliberate and outrageous conduct by the defendant that causes severe emotional distress to the plaintiff.
  • Loss of Consortium: In some cases, the spouse or family members of an injured person may also be able to recover damages for the emotional distress resulting from the impact on their relationship.

Proving Emotional Distress in Court:

Proving emotional distress in a personal injury case can be challenging, as it involves demonstrating the severity and legitimacy of the emotional harm. Here are key considerations:

  • Documented Psychological Impact: Seek professional help and document any diagnosed mental health conditions resulting from the incident, as this can serve as crucial evidence.
  • Expert Testimony: Mental health professionals can provide expert testimony to establish the link between the incident and the emotional distress suffered.
  • Consistency in Behavior: Consistent changes in behavior, sleep patterns, or daily activities can be indicative of emotional distress. Keep a record of these changes.

Compensation for Emotional Distress:

Compensation for emotional distress can be pursued as part of general damages in a personal injury claim. These damages may include:

  • Pain and Suffering: General damages often encompass both physical and emotional pain and suffering endured as a result of the injury.
  • Medical Expenses: If mental health treatment is necessary, the associated medical expenses can be included in the claim.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Emotional distress can significantly impact one’s ability to enjoy life. Compensation may be sought for the loss of quality of life.

Challenges in Recovering Compensation for Emotional Distress:

  • Subjectivity: Emotional distress is subjective, and it can be challenging to quantify and prove its extent objectively.
  • Pre-Existing Conditions: Defendants may argue that the emotional distress suffered was a result of pre-existing conditions rather than the incident in question.
  • Statute of Limitations: There are time limits for filing personal injury claims, and adhering to these deadlines is crucial.

Consulting with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney:

Navigating the complexities of emotional distress claims requires legal expertise. If you believe you are entitled to compensation for the emotional distress resulting from a personal injury, consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is essential. They can assess the unique aspects of your case, guide you through the legal process, and work to secure the compensation you deserve.


Recovering compensation for emotional distress is a valid pursuit in personal injury cases. By understanding the types of emotional distress claims, providing solid evidence, and seeking legal representation, victims can stand a better chance of obtaining the compensation necessary to address the emotional toll of their injuries. Emotional well-being is a crucial aspect of overall recovery, and the legal system acknowledges its importance in the realm of personal injury law.



About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is Chicago’s leading personal injury law firm and is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is results-driven law firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate compensation for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain compensation for their injuries.