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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

Can You Settle Personal Injury and Mental Distress Cases in Small Claims Court?

One of the first questions that may come up when a victim considers taking legal action for mental anguish and physical harm is whether such matters can be resolved in small claims court. This article aims to shed light on the matter to help claimants better understand their options when filing emotional distress claims.

Handling Personal Injury and Mental Distress Cases in Small Claims Court

Handling Personal Injury and Mental Distress Cases in Small Claims Court

Cases involving relatively minor financial issues are often handled by small claims courts, and these courts typically impose jurisdictional restrictions on the highest amount of damages that may be granted. These caps range from a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the jurisdiction.

In contrast to what is normally permitted in small claims court, personal injury cases involving pain and suffering and mental anguish can be more complicated and incur greater damages. As a result, small claims courts might not be the best place to resolve these disputes, particularly if the damages demanded exceed the jurisdictional thresholds.

Victims often ask for compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage, and other associated damages in personal injury claims.

Cases involving mental suffering may include allegations of emotional distress, psychological harm, or other non-physical damages. The truth is that damages claimed for personal injuries might be significant, and navigating them can be challenging.

In order to choose the best legal forum for a personal injury or mental anguish lawsuit, victims will need to speak with an attorney. These issues are generally handled in civil courts in many jurisdictions because courts' rules and processes are better suited to dealing with complicated situations and significant damages.

Factors That Determine Whether a Case May Be Handled in Small Claims Court

If an accident causes a victim to suffer severe emotional distress, a claim may be filed. However, whether the matter is dealt with in civil court or small claims court will depend on a number of factors, such as:

The Type of Physical Injury Suffered

In a personal injury case, the amount awarded for emotional distress is often dependent on the physical injuries that the victim suffered. A permanent disability, for example, would incur significantly more medical expenses, lost wages, and more, which is why the value of the claim would be higher.

Since claimants cannot file a separate emotional distress lawsuit and will need to include damages for mental suffering as part of their personal injury claim, they may not be able to take the claim to small claims court, as there are limitations on the amounts that may be claimed in such cases.

The Complexity of the Case

Suppose the case is complex and requires significant time and resources to conclude. In that case, it's best handled in a civil court. The truth is that most cases involving emotional distress aren't straightforward, which is why they are settled in civil court.

Moreover, if the claim involves more than just obtaining damages, such as a court order to stop certain actions, then a small claims court may not be suitable.

Legal Representation

Negligent infliction of emotional distress is often hard to prove, which is why legal representation is necessary in these cases. However, in small claims court, individuals typically represent themselves, so if a victim believes that it is going to be hard to prove fault, then they will need the help of a personal injury lawyer, who will represent them in civil court.

A Case Where a Victim Suffered Severe Emotional Distress Doesn't Have to Be Settled in Court

The truth is that most emotional distress claims are handled outside court. By hiring an experienced team of personal and aggressive injury lawyers, victims can negotiate with the defendant to reach a settlement.

A personal injury case involving mental distress that is resolved outside of court offers various advantages. Injury claims can be stressful and add to the emotional suffering that a victim is already enduring. By choosing to settle the matter out of court, claimants can expect the case to be concluded faster, cutting down on the time and emotional consequences of litigation.

Parties can negotiate arrangements that best suit their needs, and they will have more influence over the outcome. As there are no drawn-out court hearings, settling out of court also typically results in decreased legal costs. Furthermore, confidentiality is upheld, preventing the release of private information to the public.

An out-of-court settlement can also offer closure and peace of mind, releasing the wounded party from the burden of an ongoing legal dispute and enabling them to move on and concentrate on their recovery.

If the defendant has insurance that covers personal injury claims, the plaintiff may be able to file an insurance claim for emotional distress and physical injury.

A dependable lawyer can help victims during the process by ensuring that their legal rights are protected at all times. Personal injury attorneys are also skilled negotiators and can help to ensure that claimants receive a fair settlement.

What Is Considered Mental Suffering in a Personal Injury Claim?

Damages that may be claimed in a personal injury lawsuit include emotional distress, commonly referred to as mental pain or psychological suffering. It speaks of the trauma or emotional and psychological anguish a person has gone through as a result of the wrongdoing or negligence of the defendant.

Anxiety, despair, dread, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep difficulties, and other emotional or psychological symptoms are only a few of the many ways that emotional distress can show up. It may also include distress brought on by a decline in quality of life or a loss of enjoyment of life.

The plaintiff usually needs to show that the defendant's conduct or carelessness directly contributed to their emotional suffering in order to establish an emotional distress claim. In order to demonstrate the extent and effects of the distress, they would need to provide documents from therapy or counseling sessions, expert witness testimonies, or medical records.

Proving Fault in an Emotional Distress Claim

It is difficult to establish that the defendant's acts or carelessness contributed to the emotional distress in a personal injury case. This is why it's important for victims to turn to a reliable personal injury attorney for expert advice and guidance.

There are four elements that a plaintiff must prove to successfully obtain compensation for mental distress:

Duty of Care

It will be up to the victim's lawyer to prove that the person being sued owed the victim a duty of care. This entails proving that the defendant was required by law to act in a manner that didn't cause harm to the plaintiff. Depending on the type of case (such as a car accident, premises liability, or medical malpractice), the duty of care will vary.

Breach of Duty

The next element that a plaintiff will need to prove is a breach of duty. "Breach of duty" simply means that the defendant failed to provide this duty of care, resulting in the accident that caused the victim severe emotional distress.


Next, the victim must prove that it was this breach of duty that ultimately led to the accident. This will require presenting evidence in the form of witness statements, surveillance footage, photographs, and more.

The Accident Led to Physical Injuries and Emotional Distress

Finally, a plaintiff will need to demonstrate that their mental illness or emotional distress is the direct result of the accident. A lawyer will submit medical records, notes from a counselor or psychologist, expert witness statements, and more to prove this.

Personal injury cases involving mental suffering caused by someone else's actions can be incredibly complex. Fortunately, victims can find expert assistance to improve their chances of securing compensation, either in court or through negotiations. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also explain how settlement negotiation works in an injury case.

Damage Caps on Emotional and Mental Distress

Damage Caps on Emotional and Mental Distress

When filing a lawsuit that involves emotional distress, it's important for victims to remember that certain states have damage caps on the amount that may be covered for non-economic damages. Currently, the following states have limitations on these damages:

  • Maryland

  • Colorado

  • Oklahoma

  • Idaho

  • Tennessee

  • Alaska

  • Hawaii

  • Ohio

  • Kansas

  • Oregon

  • Mississippi

Legal Expertise for Cases Involving Emotional Pain and Suffering

The negligent or intentional infliction of emotional harm on another can have a significant effect on their quality of life. Those who have suffered depression, anxiety, shame, or fear because of someone else's negligence or wrongdoing can seek restitution with the help of a reliable personal injury law firm that can also help with questions such as do I have a case if I do not feel hurt?

Consulting a legal expert is crucial when filing a personal injury lawsuit, as lawyers understand the relevant laws and can help ensure that victims are not taken advantage of when reaching a settlement with the at-fault party.

They will also gather enough evidence to support the emotional distress claim and represent the plaintiff in court if the matter cannot be resolved through negotiation.

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys are here to help victims recover emotional distress damages. They will do whatever it takes to secure a favorable outcome and provide sound legal advice on how to proceed.

Victims can call for expert legal assistance.


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