There are many things in life that can cause emotional distress. From work to divorce to financial struggles, emotional distress can be costly. It can also directly affect physical health, leading to long-term medical problems. This presents a serious question: Is suing for emotional distress the right choice? Can financial compensation make a difference and ease some of the emotional burdens?
When it comes to legal liability, it depends on who caused the stress and if there is proof that they were responsible for it. There are a lot of factors to consider when a person decides if they should sue for emotional distress. One of the most important parts of the decision is recognizing who caused the issue.
When Is Suing for Emotional Distress a Good Legal Choice?
Some emotional distress is unintentionally inflicted, while other types may be accidental. If the person causing the distress does not realize they are doing it, a legal case may be difficult. The word “intentional” is crucial when it comes to assigning responsibility. Each case is unique, but there are important terms to understand when someone considers suing for emotional distress.
Intentional Infliction of Distress
It is not feasible for an individual to go to court every time someone’s behavior upsets them. In a personal injury lawsuit, many courts restrict cases of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
When it comes to suing for emotional distress, the rules for lawsuits are different in every state. In the state of Arizona, to prove someone intentionally meant to cause harm, the case must meet the following conditions:
- The person’s conduct is outrageous and extreme.
- The person recklessly ignored the idea that their behavior could inflict emotional distress.
- The person intended to cause emotional distress.
- The person’s conduct resulted in severe distress.
The state views emotional distress as a noneconomic loss. This can include anxiety, disability, depression or loss of companionship.
Documentation is important when it comes to proving that someone meant to cause harm. Some extreme cases can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety that can affect a person for a lifetime. Symptoms that appear physically are generally a key consideration.
Suing for Emotional Distress as a Bystander
There are times when someone is a bystander and observes an event that causes emotional distress. Possible examples of this are:
- A car accident where someone dies
- The abuse of someone else at work
- A drive-by shooting
In these situations, the person suing was not directly involved in the incident, but it affected them. Whether the incident itself caused the distress or it was the effects of the incident or a long-term case of PTSD, bystanders may have a claim when it comes to suing for emotional distress for events they were not directly involved in.
These situations are difficult to prove. Most often, the person must have a physical reaction to the event to prove a case. One example is a car accident where the individual was not directly injured. However, the stress may cause them to develop tremors, which could be a negligent infliction of emotional distress.
What Is the Benefit of a Lawsuit?
Because of the intangible nature of emotional distress, it is difficult to prove in court. Documentation and physical evidence are crucial when suing for emotional distress, including accounts from a medical doctor, psychiatrist, counselor or therapist. While it is not likely that a jury would award compensation to someone solely for having their feelings hurt by a bullying comment, a lawsuit can flesh out the details enough to prove that they were emotionally and physically affected by the distress of the incident.
Those who file a lawsuit also have the benefit of working with an attorney who understands if the case is viable or not. Personal injury lawyers have the resources to consult with experts and recreate experiences to highlight emotional distress and how it affects someone’s life.
While money may not cure emotional distress, it can help with mental health treatment and loss of income if the effects are so bad that the person could not function properly. People may sue an employer, a spouse, a landlord, an abuser or someone they do not even know. A lawsuit is not just about obtaining compensation but also discouraging the behavior of the defendant.
What Are the Signs of Emotional Distress?
It is easy to slip into a deep state of emotional distress without realizing it. Because it is not always caused by a specific incident, many people do not notice or address it for months or even years. Some signs of emotional distress include:
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Feeling guilty for no reason
- Constant worrying
- Changes in appetite or mood
- Fatigue that makes it difficult to keep up with daily tasks
- Unexplained new physical pain
The symptoms often vary based not only on the person but on the situation. Distress at work may manifest differently than distress from a traumatic incident, so suing for emotional distress can be a balancing act. Because there is no clinical diagnosis for the term, it can be hard to identify.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for These Lawsuits?
An emotional distress lawsuit in Arizona would fall under the category of a personal injury claim. In the state, there is a two-year statute of limitations for a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit after the statute is up is almost impossible, as the defendant is likely to ask for a dismissal. There are a few exceptions in the state, though, including:
- If the injured person was of unsound mind
- If the injured party was under 18 when the incident occurred
- If the person who caused the incident leaves the state, a judge may extend the statute
What Are the Next Steps in Suing for Emotional Distress?
Time is of the essence when it comes to suing for emotional distress, as evidence and documentation are vital for proof that a defendant caused harm. Anyone hurt by the actions of another may benefit from contacting a personal injury attorney in Arizona who can determine if they have grounds for a lawsuit. At MDK Law Group, we offer a free consultation to anyone who needs it.