How to File a Lawsuit for Emotional Distress | Five Things You Should Know

When an accident occurs, it is common knowledge that victims who suffered injuries due to another person’s negligence can take legal action to obtain compensation for their damages. However, physical injury is not the only type of damages that warrants a lawsuit.

If you have suffered emotional trauma, you can pursue the person at fault to receive compensation. However, unlike physical injuries, emotional distress can be hard to quantify. Should you wish to sue for emotional distress, here are five things you should know.

Understanding Emotional Distress

Emotional distress involves mental anguish or emotional trauma brought on by a negligent or intentional act. The truth is that emotional pain can lead to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which often require medical treatment.

Others experiencing emotional distress can feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and powerless. They often have trouble falling asleep or may sleep excessively. Additionally, emotional distress can lead to difficulty recalling information and withdrawing from society and normal day-to-day activities. Symptoms of emotional distress are different for each individual.

It can take the form of a constant state of despair and isolation in some instances or abrupt, aggressive outbursts in others. You can recover damages for emotional distress by filing a civil lawsuit. However, victims must provide sufficient evidence to file an emotional distress claim.

Do Victims Have to Have Suffered Physical Injury To Claim for Emotional Distress?

Most claims for mental suffering demand that the victim has experienced a physical injury during the accident. However, recent changes to these rulings have enabled sufferers to obtain damages for emotional distress without proving physical injuries.

Typically, emotional distress caused by defamation of character or as an act of sexual abuse qualifies for emotional distress claims.

How to File Emotional Distress Claims

Because suing for emotional distress isn’t the most straightforward claim to pursue, there are steps that victims can follow to ensure that they receive the compensation they deserve for their emotional distress damages.

If you have suffered emotional harm because of intentional or negligent infliction, here are five steps you can follow to take legal action.

1. Assess the Ways That the Incident Has Affected You Emotionally

When filing an emotional distress claim, your injury attorney will ask you what emotional distress damages you have incurred due to the incident. Therefore, you must assess how the mental anguish has affected your day-to-day life.


Evaluate your sleep patterns to find out whether they have been affected. Speak to family and friends to find out if they have noticed any changes in your behavior since the incident.

When you sue for emotional distress, you can use their testimonies to prove your emotional and mental suffering. Before making a legal claim, be sure to review the laws in play in your state to at least have an idea of whether your case stands a chance. An attorney can help you do this.

2. Be Sure to Keep a Record of Your Emotional Suffering

Because all successful lawsuits involve sound evidence, you can help to strengthen your claim and ensure that you receive a fair emotional distress lawsuit settlement by ensuring that you have enough proof to back up your claims.

You can do this by keeping a record of your emotional distress by writing in a personal journal or obtaining your medical records documenting your physical and emotional trauma. In addition, you can get further proof of your emotional and mental suffering by using a health tracker or app to report and track your heart rate and sleeping patterns.

Additionally, the severity of the initial incident that caused emotional repercussions can also help to strengthen your case, so be sure to keep video and photographic evidence as proof of why you suffered emotional distress.

3. Determine Whether the Emotional Distress Was Caused Intentionally or Negligently

Once you have enough evidence to prove that you experienced emotional distress, you must determine whether the defendant acted intentionally or negligently.

Negligent Infliction

Negligent infliction emotional distress claims arise when an accident is caused accidentally or unintentionally. In these cases, you must prove emotional distress by establishing the defendant’s duty of care and showing that their actions breached that duty of care, which led to physical harm or emotional distress.

However, there has to be a causative link between the defendant’s conduct and the complainant’s mental anguish. An example of this is someone who witnessed the death of a loved one or disability due to a drunk driver may sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Intentional Infliction

This type of infliction of emotional distress occurs when a victim suffers emotional damages due to someone’s reckless actions. Verbal abuse and bullying are the most common forms of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

3. File an Emotional Distress Claim

Once you have collected evidence of your emotional distress and have determined what type of case you have, you can claim emotional distress damages. The best way to do this is to hire an attorney who can help you navigate the laws in your state. Your lawyer will help you prepare your case, submitting the claim on your behalf.

4. If Necessary, File an Emotional Distress Lawsuit

The truth is that most cases are settled out of court, but if both parties cannot come to an agreement and reach a fair settlement, your attorney will help you sue for emotional distress by filing a lawsuit.

When you file a lawsuit, your case is presented to a jury who decides whether you should receive compensation for your emotional or physical harm.

5. Present Your Case in Court

Your attorney will present your case in court, displaying evidence such as medical records and witness testimonies to prove to the judge and jury that the defendant’s actions were negligent or act of intent and that their actions led to physical injuries and emotional distress.

Suing for emotional distress is incredibly difficult, so we recommend always enlisting the help of an attorney who has extensive experience with emotional distress lawsuits.

Cases That Typically Result in Emotional Trauma

Typically, events that lead to severe emotional distress are incredibly traumatizing. If you wonder what may warrant a claim, here are a few common emotional distress examples.

  • Witnessing the wrongful death of someone you love
  • Medical malpractice
  • Traffic accidents
  • Wrongful arrests
  • Personal injuries
  • Abuse at nursing homes

Is Suing for Emotional Distress a Tricky Process?

While it is possible to sue for mental anguish, it might be complicated. Symptoms of mental distress, unlike physical injuries, might not be obvious. This emphasizes the need for documenting your suffering.

Furthermore, you must guarantee that your testimony and the testimony of friends and family are consistent. Finally, your case may warrant the depositions of expert witnesses such as psychologists to prove emotional distress, which might take a long time and cost a lot of money.

Establishing a link between negligence or intentional harm and the losses you incurred can take a lot of legal investigation, so it is advisable to get help from an experienced attorney.

The Bottom Line

According to U.S. law, you can sue for pain and suffering due to an incident caused by carelessness or intent. This includes fear, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and embarrassment, among other mental illnesses. Regrettably, an emotional distress case can be challenging to prove due to a lack of solid physical proof.

Any compensation for mental anguish typically involves bodily harm, and a successful case requires well-documented proof and convincing witness testimony. As a result, the first step for anyone suffering from mental pain should be to hire a skilled legal professional to give them the best chance of receiving compensation.