Emotional Distress: Whether Or Not To Include In Your Lawsuit

If you are in the midst of preparing a case to sue the person who caused an auto accident in which you were hit, the topic of emotional distress is likely showing up. Emotional distress can be a difficult problem to prove, especially in light of how the cause of the distress has not always been considered admissible evidence. However, while proving emotional distress is not always easy, it can be done. Here are three things to consider when deciding whether or not to include emotional distress in your lawsuit.

Psychological Records

Anyone can tell the court that they've experienced emotional distress, so you need something to back up your claim. Be prepared to present records from psychologists or counselors who can verify that you have been experiencing symptoms of distress, such as hypervigilance or an inability to sleep. Stress can also show up as physical symptoms, ranging from abdominal pain to headaches, and you may want to record all of the instances after the accident in which you had these symptoms. Everything that you claim to be a result of emotional distress needs to be documented, preferably by a professional who can vouch that you were not suffering these problems before the accident.

Note that the extent of the record-keeping needed varies by court. It is always possible that a court could deny you compensation for emotional distress despite good records. However, this emphasizes the need for professional verification. The more doctors and psychologists who say, yes, you have been suffering emotional distress as a result of the accident, the better your chances of having your claim accepted by the court.

Physical Injury

If your emotional distress is due to an accident, you may find that you also have to prove you had a physical injury as well, especially if the person who caused the accident was not trying to inflict emotional distress on you. In addition to psychological records, then, you may also have to present medical records showing that you suffered a definite physical injury. Again, the specific circumstances of the accident will influence what the court considers an appropriate level of injury and distress, so be meticulous in your record-keeping. If you have no physical injuries, it may become very difficult to win a distress claim.

Actions and Timing

For many people who suffer emotional distress from an accident, it's the accident itself that produces the trauma that results in distress. However, some plaintiffs in the past have tried to claim that their distress resulted from an action that occurred just after the actual accident. Courts have not always accepted these distress claims. For example, a 2013 article on the JDSupra website noted that in one case, the plaintiff claimed she suffered emotional distress when the person who hit her car fled the scene, doubled back, and laughed as he passed her again. However, the court denied the distress claim because the defendant admitted to causing the accident. The court decided the distress was not a result of the accident but of an action after the accident.

It is best to take all of your evidence to an experienced car accident attorney instead of trying to piece together a case yourself. While representing yourself in court can save you money initially, it can result in you not having a complete case that could sway the court. Contact car accident attorneys in your area, such as ones from a firm like Speers Reuland & Cibulskis, P.C., for an evaluation of your claim now, before going further with any court paperwork.