How to Prove Emotional Distress Caused by a Physical Injury

If you have sustained physical injuries, knowing how to prove emotional distress can help you build your personal injury claim. Filing a lawsuit that includes emotional distress as damages will require you to prove that you have experienced emotional distress because of your physical injuries. Knowing the types of emotional distress damages you can recover from your lawsuit will help you get the most out of your personal injury claim.

Symptoms of emotional distress include PTSD, depression, anxiety, a lack of focus, and physical issues like lethargy, stress-related headaches and body pain, and hair loss. The type of evidence that is required to prove emotional distress caused by a physical injury includes documentations of the physical injuries, your own testimony reflecting on your emotional distress, medical records, employment records, the length of your emotional distress, the opinions of experts, the severity of your physical injuries or the circumstances that resulted in those injuries, and testimonies of witnesses that can attest to your emotional distress. The type of emotional distress damages that you can recover in a lawsuit include financial compensation for lost wages due to unemployment or missed workdays, and compensation based on the severity of your emotional distress.

Symptoms of Emotional Distress

The symptoms of emotional distress can manifest in a variety of ways, both mentally and physically. Some common mental symptoms include PTSD, clinical depression, anxiety, a persistent lack of focus and clarity, and voluntary social isolation. Additionally, common physical symptoms of emotional distress include lethargy, bodily pain, stress-related headaches, and hair loss. Physical injuries can cause people to develop both mental and physical emotional distress as a reaction to the severe and traumatic nature of their injuries and the impact on their lives.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition, temporary or chronic, that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event. Clinical depression is another common symptom many people face after experiencing physical injuries. Clinical depression is a chronic mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, heartbreak, and worthlessness. Symptoms of chronic clinical depression can also include changes in appetite, sleep, energy levels, and concentration. 

Anxiety, depending on the type and how severe it is, can cause feelings of panic, nervousness, or unease. Symptoms of anxiety can include an uncontrollable racing heartbeat, persistent sweating, trembling, and difficulty breathing or standing properly or speaking. Mental symptoms of emotional distress can include the inability for a person to concentrate normally on daily tasks. An ongoing lack of focus can disrupt a person’s life, making it difficult to complete tasks at work or school, or to enjoy hobbies or activities.

Symptoms of emotional distress can likewise be found through physical manifestations. People can feel lethargic, or overly tired, exhausted, and fatigued, because of living with their injuries. A lethargic body can make it difficult to get through the day, or to exercise, or to have normal motivation to do anything. Headaches that are caused by stress can occur as well, and these headaches can be mild or severe. Stress-related headaches can manifest chronically or happen in a short term. Body pain because of stress or other harmful reactions to the physical injuries can cause ongoing pain in muscles, joints, or other parts of the body. This chronic bodily pain can be caused by stress or tension. Stress and anxiety from emotional distress can cause hair loss. Hair loss can be long term or short term, but it may depend on how severe your emotional distress is as you reflect on your physical injuries.

It’s important to get help if you’re experiencing any signs of emotional distress. Talking to a therapist or counselor can be a great way to start the healing process, and there are numerous effective treatments available. It may also be helpful to reach out to a personal injury lawyer who can help you how you can start an emotional distress lawsuit.

What Evidence Is Required to Prove Emotional Distress?

There are a variety of types of evidence that may be required to demonstrate emotional distress brought on by a physical injury, including the injury itself, your personal testimony, medical records, employment records, the length of your emotional distress, expert opinions, and testimonies of witnesses. Collecting these types of evidence can assist you in your lawsuit.

The type of evidence you may need in your emotional distress lawsuit include:

  • The injury itself (and the severity of it): The severity of the physical injuries can be an indicator of the severity of the emotional distress that may have been caused. For example, a person who is seriously injured in a car accident is more likely to experience emotional distress than someone who is only slightly injured.
  • Your personal testimony: This is perhaps the most important piece of evidence in a claim for emotional distress. You will need to describe in detail the emotional symptoms that you have experienced, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. You will also need to explain how these symptoms have affected your life, such as your ability to work, your relationships, and your overall quality of life.
  • Medical or employment records: Medical records can provide valuable evidence of your emotional distress. These records may include documentation of your symptoms, treatment, and progress. Employment records can also be helpful in proving emotional distress. These records may show how your injuries have affected your ability to work, such as missed days of work, reduced productivity, or job loss. It may be helpful to know how to calculate lost earning potential after an injury.
  • Length of time you experienced symptoms: The length of time that you have experienced physical distress can also be relevant to a claim. The longer you have been suffering, the more likely it is that your emotional distress is a result of physical injury.
  • Expert opinion: Experts may be able to testify about the symptoms of emotional distress, the impact of emotional distress on a person’s life, and the relationship between physical injury and emotional distress.
  • Testimony of witnesses: These witnesses may be friends, family members, or co-workers who have observed your emotional symptoms and the impact that they have had on your life.

These are the types of evidence that are typically used to prove emotional distress claims. The evidence that is needed may depend on the personal circumstances in your life and your physical injuries.

Types of Emotional Distress Damages

You may be able to recover emotional distress damages after a physical injury. These damages are intended to compensate you for the mental and physical harm that you have suffered as a result of the physical injuries you sustained and the impact it has had on your life. The type of damages you can recover include compensation for lost wages and compensation based on the severity of your physical injuries. 

You may be eligible for financial compensation for lost wages if your emotional distress prevented you from working. Sometimes, physical or mental distress can make a person unable to fully perform his or her normal job duties. Recovering compensation for lost wages can help people with mental or physical distress symptoms get back on their feet and meet their daily needs. 

Based on how severe your physical injuries are, hospital visits and doctor appointments may be a regular occurrence for treatment, which can come with high medical costs. If you have incurred additional medical expenses as a result of your emotional distress, you may be able to recover those expenses. You may also be able to recover compensation for the pain and suffering that you have experienced as a result of your injuries, though this may be harder to prove. Pain and suffering compensation may depend on the seriousness of the physical injuries.

The amount of emotional distress damages that you can recover will vary depending on the specific facts of your case. However, the severity of your physical injuries, the impact that it has had on your life, and the circumstances of your situation will all be factors that the court will consider when determining the damages to award.

If you believe that you have suffered emotional distress as a result of the physical injuries you sustained, you should speak with a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. A personal injury attorney can help you to understand your rights and to file a lawsuit to recover compensation.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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