Complaining about Emotional Distress: Reasons & Examples | Lavrina (2023)

When someone suffers physical harm as a result of another person's negligence or willful misconduct, it is common to sue them in court. However, some incidents may result in mental distress in addition to or instead of physical injury or physical harm.

Can you sue someone for mental distress? Emotional trauma can severely affect the victim's life, and courts take emotional pain and suffering seriously. It can be more difficult to prove and quantify your damage, but it is still possible to sue for emotional distress.

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Complaining about Emotional Distress: Reasons & Examples | Lavrina (1)Complaining about Emotional Distress: Reasons & Examples | Lavrina (2)

In the following we answer all your questions about the lawsuit due to mental stress and mental damage. We'll start by defining what we mean by emotional distress, the reasons for filing an emotional distress lawsuit, and how to proceed.

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What is Emotional Stress?

We have all experienced emotional stress at some point after challenging situations and strained relationships. It's a broad term that covers any psychological pain, often associated with feelings of depression and anxiety.

People suffering from emotional stress may feel overwhelmed and helpless, have trouble sleeping or sleep too much, have trouble remembering information, and isolate themselves from people or activities. The symptoms of emotional stress are varied. In some people, it can manifest as an ongoing state of depression and loneliness, while others can show emotional distress through sudden, angry outbursts.

Under US law 2023, emotional distress is any mental distress caused by a specific event of negligence or intentional harm, including all of the above symptoms.

In the courts, this may also be referred to as mental torment. Like physical injuries, the courts recognize this emotional pain as damage with full legal effects. As such, it is possible to receive a civil suit for mental distressfinancial compensationfor the damage caused.

Types of common emotional distress

If you're wondering, "Can I sue for emotional distress?" There are a few things to consider. The two main types of emotional stress are:

Intentional addition

In cases where the intentional actions of the defendant are aimed at causing emotional distress to the victim, the victim may bring an action for intentional infliction. An example is constant bullying and verbal attacks beyond all possible bounds of decency. Emotional trauma caused by reckless behavior is also classified as intentional infliction.

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Negligent Addition

Conversely, the US legal system classifies negligent infliction of mental distress as an act of negligent infliction of mental distress when the defendant, through accident or negligence, unintentionally causes mental distress. The family left behind after a drunk car crash would suffer emotional distress and face a civil lawsuit if a drunk driver kills a child.

Some cases may lend themselves to the willful infliction of emotional distress claims. There are some personal injury cases (especially car accident cases) where you can show that either the defendant acted with "gross" negligence or intended to cause emotional distress as well as physical harm.

Reasons to sue for emotional distress

The main reason for the emotional distress lawsuit is to obtain economic damages. Although this will not eliminate the mental suffering, it can give the victim some sense of justice and satisfaction that the accused paid for what they did.

Additionally, depending on the level of emotional distress, the victim's suffering may have prevented them from going to work while they recover. This can result in a loss of income that can be offset. Additionally, the victim may be able to reclaim the cost of expensive medical bills or the cost of hiring a therapist they need to deal with the incident.

A mental distress lawsuit is possible, but in most states your emotional distress lawsuit will only be successful if the incident causing the emotional harm also caused physical harm. This can either be direct material harm to yourself, sexual abuse, or the real threat of physical harm. However, in cases of sexual harassment or defamation, some courts have recognized emotional distress as recoverable damages.

How to sue for emotional distress?

If you are suffering or have suffered mental distress as a direct result of negligence or malicious intent, you can sue for emotional distress. You can take legal action by following these steps:

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Document your emotional state

To win the claim, the victim must prove the emotional damage caused by someone else's actions. So start by documenting how you're feeling each day and make sure your work, legal forms, and medical records reflect your current condition. This can help substantiate your case and make it easier to obtain some form of compensation.

Contact a lawyer

It is very beneficial for you to rent oneAttorney specializing in US civil lawto help you navigate the complicated legal system. They review your documents, ask questions about the incident, anticipate appeals, and create a case based on the evidence you provide.

File a lawsuit for emotional distress

Depending on the statute of limitations, you may be able to file a civil suit against the defendant once your attorney and staff are brought up to speed.

Pre-trial preparations

During this phase of the proceedings, the opposing attorneys present all the documents and information of the victim and the accused. Based on this information, it is often possible to settle the case and avoid a case. It is the attorney's job to advise the victim whether to accept a settlement payment or go to court. This is often preferable as going to court can be a stressful experience and can worsen the victim's mental health during an already unstable time. It is impossible to predict the outcome of a process.

Go to court

After both parties have argued, the courts, or sometimes a jury, decide the outcome of the case. If the plaintiff opts for the trial, the court sets a hearing date. Both parties will provide further information on the issue and submit testimonies to the courts.

It's important to realize that suing for defamation and emotional distress is notoriously difficult. Invisible damage is difficult to prove. It's much harder to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any other mental illness than a concussion or a broken leg. Because of this, they often require a formal diagnosis from a doctor or mental health professional when they complain of emotional distress. That person would then be the witness standing in court and giving testimony to prove the plaintiff's emotional trauma.

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In addition to proving the mental distress itself, attorneys conducting legal investigative work into emotional distress claims must demonstrate that the incident in question caused the damage. The attorney must prove that the incident was either intentional or negligent, which was the sole and direct cause of all subsequent mental suffering.

There is also a fine line between the incidents that can be used in a claim. In order to successfully sue, the incident must be considered rude conduct, which means that petty threats or petty harassment will not stand up in court.

What is Evidence of Emotional Stress?

During the discovery phase, your mental anxiety attorney will collect evidence of the incident, including documents and reports, to build your case.

You can also prove that you were emotionally distressed by providing a copy of the psychiatric treatment bills. If you don't have psychiatric treatment bills, it's helpful to have an expert willing to speak on the record, e.g. B. a therapist or doctor who has diagnosed your mental illness.

Your attorney will also suggest that you keep a diary of your daily activities and use a health tracker to document how the incident affected your daily life.

Is it hard to sue for emotional distress?

To determine whether or not you can make an emotional distress claim, you may need to do socontact an attorney for compensation. An injury attorney will gather the information needed to determine if you are eligible to file an emotional distress claim.

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If a case is viable, you can submit it as soon as possible. If a jury awards you a verdict, or you and the defendant settle out of court, you will be awarded damages. Your lawyer will accompany you throughout the civil procedure.


The lawsuit for pain and emotional consequences of an event caused by negligence or intent is possible under US law in 2023. This includes all mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress and humiliation. Physical harm is often necessary for any reparation for mental distress, and a successful case requires well-documented evidence and strong testimony.

Unfortunately, the lack of hard physical evidence can make a lawsuit of emotional distress difficult to prove. Therefore, the first step for anyone suffering from mental anguish caused by another person is to hire an experienced attorney to give them the best chance of winning.


How do you prove emotional distress? ›

To prove a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress in California, you must prove that:
  1. The defendant's conduct was outrageous,
  2. The conduct was either reckless or intended to cause emotional distress; and.
  3. As a result of the defendant's conduct you suffered severe emotional distress.

How do you prove emotional distress at work? ›

Generally, you must prove that your employer acted intentionally or recklessly; your employer's conduct was extreme and outrageous; your employer's actions directly caused your emotional distress and your emotional stress was severe.

What are some examples of how we emotionally respond to stress? ›

Irritability or anger. Restlessness. Sadness, moodiness, grief or depression.
  • Memory problems/forgetfulness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Confusion.
  • Slowness in thinking, analyzing, or comprehending.
  • Difficulty calculating, setting priorities or making decisions.
  • Difficulty Concentrating.
  • Limited attention span.
  • Loss of objectivity.

What is distress and examples? ›

Emotional, social, spiritual, or physical pain or suffering that may cause a person to feel sad, afraid, depressed, anxious, or lonely. People in distress may also feel that they are not able to manage or cope with changes caused by normal life activities or by having a disease, such as cancer.

How do you use emotional distress in a sentence? ›

This emotional distress often lasts for weeks or months. Apparently, a lack of symptoms of emotional distress early in middle school is associated with higher actual achievement at the end of middle school. They are the ones who will have to shoulder the majority of the burden of care and deal with emotional distress.

How hard is it to prove emotional distress? ›

Emotional distress may be one of the most difficult injuries to prove. Unlike a broken arm or leg, there are no X-rays someone can point to, or even a scar you can display to prove your injuries. Instead, emotional distress is largely psychological.

How do you prove mental pain and suffering? ›

How Do You Prove That You've Suffered From Emotional Distress?
  1. See a professional about the problem.
  2. Keep a journal of your symptoms and stress levels.
  3. Expert witnesses.
  4. Family and friends testimony.
  5. Evidence of physical injuries.

What are 4 signs of distress? ›

Signs of distress
  • Unrelenting sadness, hopelessness, or apathy.
  • Loss of interest in socializing.
  • Deterioration in academic functioning, included falling behind and missing classes.
  • Verbal or written threats of suicide, or expressions of hopelessness or a wish to die.
Sep 9, 2021

What causes emotional distress at work? ›

Emotional distress is the mental anguish employees experience as a result of workplace discrimination, harassment, or a hostile work environment. Lawsuits for wrongful termination, retaliation, and sexual harassment often award emotional distress damages.

What is intentionally causing emotional distress? ›

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is a tort that occurs when one acts in a manner that intentionally or recklessly causes another to suffer severe emotional distress, such as issuing the threat of future harm.

What qualifies distress? ›

Identifying Emotional Distress – Signs and Symptoms

Feelings of isolation and disconnection from friends, family, work, community, etc. Overwhelmed or hopeless feelings. Inability to focus (sometimes to the extent that you are unable to perform daily tasks) Changes in mood, such as uncharacteristic irritability or ...

How do you respond to stress and pressure answer? ›

Common stress management strategies include:
  1. Staying positive.
  2. Using stress as a motivator.
  3. Accepting what you can't control.
  4. Practicing relaxation methods, like yoga or meditation.
  5. Choosing healthy habits.
  6. Learning how to manage time better.
  7. Making time for your personal life.
Jun 29, 2021

What are the 5 stress responses? ›

The freeze, flop, friend, fight or flight reactions are immediate, automatic and instinctive responses to fear. Understanding them a little might help you make sense of your experiences and feelings.

What is a good sentence for distress? ›

Her mouth grew stiff with pain and distress. He expressed concern that the ship might be in distress. The constable received a distress call, and saw two youths attacking his colleague. The idea of Toni being in danger distresses him enormously.

Which is an example of distress from a personal behavior? ›

Examples of negative personal stressors include: The death of a spouse. Filing for divorce. Losing contact with loved ones.

How do you express emotional pain? ›

Below are eight creative ways for coping effectively with painful emotions.
  1. Create a safe space. ...
  2. Imagine a comforting image. ...
  3. Scribble. ...
  4. Rip up paper. ...
  5. Practice a symbolic release. ...
  6. Create a soundtrack for your feelings. ...
  7. Create a dreamcatcher. ...
  8. Create a collage of your feelings.

How do you describe emotional damage? ›

Emotional damages can be the mental repercussions of physical wounds such as a brain trauma that leads to forgetfulness, or insecurities caused by permanent scars, or physical reactions that stem from emotionally charged scenarios.

What is an example of emotion in a sentence? ›

Example Sentences

a display of raw emotion The defendant showed no emotion when the verdict was read. She was overcome with emotion at the news of her friend's death.

What is emotional distress worth? ›

Generally, these claims are worth $30,000-$50,000. The second type of emotional distress claim is one that is worth more than $50,000 up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the factual circumstances.

What is the difference between emotional distress and mental anguish? ›

As a part of pain and suffering damages, emotional distress (also called mental anguish) is when someone's actions cause you to suffer mental harm, such as anguish, humiliation, torment, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Pain like headache or body ache is not considered emotional distress.

Is emotional distress the same as stress? ›

Stress responses are normal reactions to environmental or internal perturbations and can be considered adaptive in nature. Distress occurs when stress is severe, prolonged, or both.

What is the difference between mental and emotional pain? ›

Mental health involves processing all the information we encounter, but emotional health is more about the feelings provoked by the data processed. Emotional and mental health are related but markedly different. Everyone gets anxious at times, but “anxiety” is a diagnosable disorder.

What's the difference between pain and suffering and emotional distress? ›

Pain and suffering includes mental damage resulting from an injury. It is separate from emotional distress, which refers to emotional trauma separate from physical damage.

What are 3 behavioral warning signs of stress? ›

If you are stressed, you might feel:
  • Irritable, angry, impatient or wound up.
  • Over-burdened or overwhelmed.
  • Anxious, nervous or afraid.
  • Like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off.
  • Unable to enjoy yourself.
  • Depressed.
  • Uninterested in life.
  • Like you've lost your sense of humour.

What are the three types of distress? ›

The 3 types of stress
  • Acute stress.
  • Episodic acute stress.
  • Chronic stress.

What are the main causes of distress? ›

What kind of situations can cause stress?
  • Illness or injury.
  • Pregnancy and becoming a parent.
  • Infertility and problems having children.
  • Bereavement.
  • Experiencing abuse.
  • Experiencing crime and the justice system, such as being arrested, going to court or being a witness.
  • Organising a complicated event, like a holiday.

What are 3 warning signs of emotional distress? ›

What are the warning signs and symptoms of emotional stress?
  • Heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate or chest pain.
  • Shoulder, neck or back pain; general body aches and pains.
  • Headaches.
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness.
  • Feeling tired, anxious, depressed.
Dec 29, 2020

What are five common signs of distress? ›

How stress can make you feel
  • Irritable, angry, impatient or wound up.
  • Over-burdened or overwhelmed.
  • Anxious, nervous or afraid.
  • Like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off.
  • Unable to enjoy yourself.
  • Depressed.
  • Uninterested in life.
  • Like you've lost your sense of humour.


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