When Can You Sue for Emotional Distress in Illinois

Are you wondering, “When can you sue for emotional distress?” You can sue for emotional distress in Chicago and the rest of Illinois if you have proof of experiencing mental anguish, and the mental anguish was caused by another person’s intentional or negligent actions. Emotional distress damages are only awarded in specific situations. Therefore, you should learn as much as you can about them to enhance your chances of a favorable outcome.

sad woman after a fight with her husband behind her. can you sue for emotional distress

If you believe someone else’s actions caused you to suffer emotional distress in Illinois, contact the Chicago personal injury attorneys with Ankin Law at 312-600-0000 for a free evaluation of your case.

Types of Emotional Distress Claims in Illinois

Emotional distress, also known as mental anguish, can involve a range of psychological injuries and mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression. According to KFF, 28.7% of adult Illinoisans reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder from February 1 to 13, 2023. Common symptoms of emotional distress include:

  • Feelings of deep sorrow, guilt, anger, frustration, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Unexplained pains and aches
  • Isolating from people and things
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns

The characteristics of emotional distress can vary from one person to another. Emotional distress can lead to other health problems over time.

Incidents like motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites, fires, and acts of war or violence can cause emotional distress. Illinois law allows injury victims to sue for emotional distress to recover compensation for the harm suffered. Under Illinois law, there are two types of claims you can file for emotional distress:

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims

You can file this type of claim when another party’s unintentional or accidental actions cause you to experience emotional distress. Even though the defendant didn’t intend to harm you emotionally, you could still hold him or her liable for your damages.

You can file this claim if you are a direct victim of the defendant’s negligence. For example, suppose you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver’s negligence. You could claim emotional injuries for a car accident resulting from the driver’s negligent act of inflicting emotional distress.

You could still sue for emotional distress if you weren’t harmed directly, but were in the zone of danger that placed you at risk of harm. For example, you could recover emotional distress damages if you witnessed a loved one’s death or severe injury resulting from the defendant’s negligence, even though you weren’t harmed.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims

This type of claim occurs in cases where one party’s intentional or reckless actions cause another person to experience emotional distress. For example, it could apply to a case where harassment or abuse causes an individual to develop PTSD.

When Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?

Suing an individual or entity for emotional distress requires meeting certain criteria:

Negligence or Intentional Infliction

For you to sue for emotional distress, the mental anguish must result from someone else’s actions. The actions in question may be intentional or unintentional.

Actual Harm

You must have suffered actual harm for you to bring an emotional distress claim. Emotional distress is typically linked to physical injuries. Emotional distress damages are commonly awarded in cases where there’s some form of physical trauma or reaction. Knowing how to prove emotional distress caused by a physical injury is essential.

However, some psychological injuries, such as depression and PTSD, may lack related physical injuries. You may still have a valid emotional distress case, even without physical injuries. The emotional injuries must have noticeably and significantly impacted your well-being. While cases involving psychological or emotional injuries without actual physical injuries tend to be more complicated, victims shouldn’t dismiss them without talking to an Illinois personal injury lawyer.

Supporting Evidence

Filing a claim for emotional distress requires that you provide evidence that supports your claim. You’ll need evidence that proves you experienced mental anguish, which may include a clinical diagnosis of a mental health condition and other documents related to the mental health treatment received.

You’ll also need evidence that links your condition to the accident or injuries you suffered. That may include photographs and surveillance video of the incident that caused your injuries, eyewitness statements, testimonies of people who have witnessed changes in your behavior or performance at work, and detailed medical documentation. Evidence of the losses suffered due to emotional distress will also be needed. This may include medical bills, work records showing your absence from work, and any other documentation showing how your emotional distress has affected your finances.

Steps to Take When Filing an Emotional Distress Lawsuit in Chicago

When you decide to sue an individual or entity for emotional distress in Chicago or anywhere else in Illinois, there are critical steps you should take. Taking the right steps early on helps you create a strong claim and increase the likelihood of winning your case.

Seek Treatment

It’s important to seek medical help from a qualified professional as soon as possible for emotional distress. A healthcare provider can professionally diagnose and treat your psychological condition. Treatment may include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, rehabilitative care, and medication.

Mental health treatment helps you manage your symptoms and reduce their impact on your life. Additionally, the records generated can serve as crucial evidence for your case.

Document Your Distress

Document everything related to your distress. First, you should report the incident that caused you emotional distress. Take detailed notes of the incident and contact details of witnesses. Take pictures of the scene if possible. List down the antidepressants or medications you’ve had to take to help treat your condition.

Keep a daily journal in which you document your physical symptoms, feelings, and changes to your life, such as sleeping patterns. You could even use sleep trackers and heart rate monitors to help document distress.

These pieces of documentation back up your emotional distress claim and come in handy when you meet with Chicago personal injury attorneys for one-on-one consultations about your case.

Consult With a Lawyer

Pursuing emotional distress damages independently is challenging. It’s typically one of the hardest types of personal injury damages to prove and link to another party’s intentional or negligent actions. Consequently, insurance companies can easily and aggressively fight liability for an injury victim’s emotional distress damages.

It’s important to talk to a lawyer before suing for emotional distress. Personal injury lawyers will answer the question, “When can you sue for emotional distress?” and explain how to sue someone for emotional distress. A lawyer will review documents, evidence, and other details of your case to determine its viability. He or she will then let you know what to do next, including helping you build a strong case that successfully establishes emotional distress and start a lawsuit on your behalf.

Gather Evidence

Proving emotional distress requires the presentation of substantial evidence. Once a personal injury attorney determines you have a case, he or she will help you gather additional evidence that proves the emotional distress you experienced and how it impacted your life. This may include police reports, witness statements, and CCTV recordings showing the liable party’s negligence, counseling or medical records showing you experienced emotional distress, and your personal testimony, as well as the testimonies of loved ones, your employer, doctors, and therapists.

Copies of bills of mental health treatments can provide evidence that supports your claim. A personal injury attorney can coordinate appointments with qualified mental health professionals who’ll document your emotional distress and other injuries and provide expert testimony.

File a Timely Lawsuit

After adequate preparation, your personal injury attorney will help you file an emotional distress lawsuit against the liable party. The lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires. The statute of limitations for these types of lawsuits in Illinois is two years from the date you knew or reasonably should’ve known about your injury. You can’t sue the other party more than four years from when the event that caused your injury occurred. Your attorney will ensure your lawsuit is filed within the state’s statute of limitations.

Your lawsuit could be resolved through a settlement or going to trial. Your personal injury lawyer will be by your side to provide guidance and advocate for you during the various stages of your emotional distress case, including settlement negotiations and representation in court if necessary.

The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Ankin Law have the necessary experience to understand emotional distress from traumatic incidents and how it can affect your life. We’re available to discuss your case, protect your right to sue for emotional distress, and fight for compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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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