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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

Does Emotional Distress Count as Personal Injury? – What Experienced Lawyers Say

People can file personal injury claims when they are harmed by someone else's negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing. Victims often take legal action to hold at-fault parties accountable for their conduct and recover compensation.

However, not all personal injury claims revolve around property damage, accidents that cause physical pain, or attacks. In many cases, emotional distress is another type of damage that can be considered, evaluated, and recovered in a claim.

Overall, emotional distress is often considered a personal injury. However, it's important to go over other aspects to get a better idea of ​​how to file a lawsuit to claim this type of damage. Here's everything victims need to know about it.

What Is Emotional Distress?

What Is Emotional Distress?

Before delving into the legal process and other definitions, it's crucial to understand what emotional distress is.

Essentially, this term defines mental suffering. However, the definition can be slightly more complex in the legal field.

While the legal definition of emotional distress varies from state to state, it's often described as mental suffering caused by someone else's actions, whether accidental, negligent, or on purpose.

However, emotional distress is considered a type of subjective harm. Therefore, it's different from person to person. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can advise on questions such as, "How do you prove mesothelioma?"

In this regard, a person suffering emotional distress may experience different symptoms, including the following:

  • Depression

  • Insomnia

  • Nightmares

  • Shame or guilt

  • Fatigue

  • Flashbacks

  • Chronic headaches

  • Uncontrollable crying

  • Weight loss or weight gain

Although many people recover compensation for emotional distress in cases involving physical injuries, they don't always have to be tied.

In a car accident, for example, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PRSD), and other types of mental illness are significant medical diagnoses that can lead to a lawsuit even if there are no physical injuries.

When Is Emotional Distress Considered a Personal Injury?

As mentioned, emotional distress affects the mind. Plus, it doesn't have to be tied to physical harm in all states. However, there's still an important question to answer: when is it considered a personal injury?

Emotional Distress and Physical Injuries

Most personal injury claims involve physical harm. In these cases, emotional distress is described as the non-physical harm victims experience in connection with the accident or injuries.

In other words, victims filing personal injury claims may pursue compensation for emotional distress due to stress, anxiety, or mental anguish caused by the accident or injuries sustained.

Emotional Distress Without Physical Injury

Essentially, a person can claim emotional distress in a personal injury case even if there is no physical harm involved. However, this process is often difficult.

In most states, local laws only favor these claims under specific circumstances. Cases involving emotional damage for injuries caused to a loved one may fall into this category.

What Happens When Emotional Distress Is Inflicted Intentionally?

Besides accompanying personal injury lawsuits, emotional distress claims can be filed alone if there's intentional infliction.

While it isn't common for victims to claim intentionally inflicted emotional distress, many states allow people to file a separate claim for emotional damage during a personal injury case.

However, claimants must prove that the at-fault party was negligent or caused mental harm on purpose. In simple terms, victims can sue for emotional distress when there was clear intent, as in cases involving defamation, sexual abuse, or harassment.

Negligent Infliction vs. Intentional Infliction

It's also important to know the differences between negligent and intentional infliction. Here's more information on each one.

Negligent Infliction

If the party that caused the accident was grossly negligent, victims may claim emotional distress. However, claimants would need to have a physical reaction in order to win the lawsuit and recover damages.

Even if there was no physical contact, victims must prove that it had a physical impact to successfully claim negligent infliction. A person who was so scared that they developed tremors in their hands or broke out in hives from the accident might be a good example, as they may be able to seek damages from the liable driver.

The physical injury requirements to file these claims vary from state to state. In Texas, it's almost impossible to file an emotional distress claim alone if mental harm is the only complaint.

Instead, this state allows victims to claim emotional distress as non-economic damage within a personal injury lawsuit.

Intentional Infliction

When emotional distress is caused intentionally, the legal proceeding is completely different. Courts often handle these cases with the utmost care. Otherwise, anyone could sue someone else if their behavior upsets them.

As a result, cases involving intentional infliction of emotional distress are limited to those where the at-fault parties' conduct is outrageous or extreme.

However, it's important to understand that each claim depends on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the case and whether victims can convince a jury that the conduct has been extreme enough.

What Do Victims Need to Prove Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Claim?

Since emotional distress is mostly psychological unless it involves physical harm caused by mental suffering, how can victims prove these damages in court?

Unlike physical injuries, people cannot see emotional damages. Therefore, these cases may be even more difficult.

However, claimants may consider the following documents to prove that they have suffered emotional distress:

  • Detailed evaluation from a mental health professional

  • Evidence of physical harm caused by emotional suffering, such as medical records of hives or tremors

  • Testimony of loved ones about victims' emotional behavior after the accident

  • Journals, diaries, and other first-hand accounts that victims use to record their lives and feelings

In addition, claimants must prove the following to demonstrate that they experienced emotional distress due to someone else's actions:

  • The defendant or at-fault party had the duty to behave reasonably, avoiding outrageous or extreme behaviors that could cause emotional distress to others.

  • The defendant breached that duty to behave well due to negligence, recklessness, or outrage.

  • The defendant's actions resulted in emotional distress and emotional harm caused to the victims.

The documentation mentioned above can help victims prove the third element and win the case to recover the compensation they deserve, especially if there is a diagnosis by a seasoned mental health expert.

How Much Compensation Can Victims Receive for Emotional Distress?

The monetary amount claimants can recover for emotional distress if they win the case depends on several factors. Here's what often affects compensation:


Victims who can build strong cases with solid evidence to support their claims are more likely to receive a fair compensation amount.

The Severity of the Injuries

People who sustain severe or long-term injuries often receive higher compensation if they win a personal injury case.

The Personal Injury Lawyer

Attorneys know all the tricks and understand the legal system well enough to help victims recover a fair compensation amount. If they work with an experienced lawyer, claimants can earn a higher sum.

As mentioned, in Texas, emotional distress damages are claimed as part of a personal injury lawsuit. They're also known as pain and suffering damages. Therefore, it's nearly impossible to recover compensation for mental harm alone.

This fact may also influence the compensation amount since Texas doesn't cap non-economic damages for most cases involving personal injuries unless they're medical malpractice lawsuits.

In this state, non-economic damages by medical malpractice are capped at $250,000, which means the compensation sum for emotional distress cannot exceed this amount.

How a Professional Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

How a Professional Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

People planning to file an emotional distress lawsuit or add pain and suffering damages to their personal injury claim needs help from an experienced lawyer.

A seasoned attorney with extensive knowledge of personal injury law and extensive experience handling these cases can help victims build a strong case to recover the compensation they deserve.

Whether victims have sustained physical injuries or just want to recover compensation for mental anguish, these cases are complex. Claimants must collect solid evidence and multiple documents to prove emotional distress and show that it was caused by someone else's actions.

Fortunately, a person who is struggling with these injuries doesn't have to go through this process alone. Instead, victims should seek help from an experienced lawyer to receive the legal guidance they need.

A reliable personal injury attorney in Houston can help victims collect evidence or all necessary documents, handle negotiations with at-fault parties to reach a fair settlement, prove emotional distress damages, and fight for their rights.

Call Schuerger Shunnarah Attorneys Today and Get a Free Consultation!

Texas victims who plan to take legal action against another party and need legal counsel can trust Schuerger Shunnarah Attorneys. They can answer questions like, "What is a contingency fee for personal injury claim?"

Our law firm has an experienced, empathetic, and knowledgeable team of attorneys willing to fight for victims' legal rights. In addition, we're committed to building solid personal injury cases to help our clients win their claims and recover the compensation they deserve.

At Schuerger Shunnarah Attorneys, those experiencing emotional distress due to an accident caused by someone else's actions can count on us. We go the extra mile to get favorable results for our clients.

Call us today and get a free case consultation! We go to war for our clients.


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