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Challenges Faced When Proving Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Claims

by Kimi

In the realm of personal injury law, proving physical injuries often seems straightforward compared to establishing emotional distress. Diagnostic tests and medical data can be used to document fractures, bruises, and other physical disorders.

However, emotional distress tends to be more subjective, making it challenging to quantify and validate.

For instance, road accidents are increasing in St. Louis due to bad driving. According to a Consumer Affairs study, one-third of all fatal crashes are due to speeding. It was listed as the top fifth city with the worst driver, with a crash score of 47.4.

These collisions not only cause physical injuries but also lead to mental and emotional distress, which cannot be assessed quantifiably.

This article explores the intricate landscape of proving emotional distress in personal injury claims, delving into the hurdles claimants face.

Defining Emotional Distress

Before delving into the challenges of proving emotional distress, it’s crucial to understand what it entails. Emotional distress refers to the psychological harm suffered by an individual due to a traumatic event or series of events.

Anxiety, depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and emotional trauma are just a few ways that this harm can appear. Unlike physical injuries, emotional distress is intangible, making it harder to quantify and prove.

A Chiron report states that Missouri was ranked 44 out of 50 states for people suffering from mental illnesses in 2022. This shows that Missouri has comparatively low mental illness rates when compared to other states. The rates can be lowered by ensuring the victims of personal injury cases receive appropriate compensation.

You can be entitled to medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and mental distress. Getting the proper compensation can offer financial aid and a sense of justice that can help lower the chances of mental illnesses.

Therefore, hiring local personal injury attorneys is crucial to increase success rates. For instance, let’s consider the example of St. Louis, where road accidents are high.

If a crash injures a pedestrian, St. Louis personal injury lawyers can represent the person throughout the case. They can assess emotional distress along with physical injuries and damages to get the best possible settlement amount for you.

Subjectivity and Lack of Tangible Evidence

The subjective nature of emotional distress makes it one of the main obstacles to proving. In contrast to physical injuries, which can be measured objectively using imaging scans and medical tests, emotional distress is determined by the individual’s experiences and feelings.

Due to this subjectivity, juries, insurance companies, defense lawyers, and judges frequently become skeptical and may doubt the claim’s veracity.

Moreover, the lack of tangible evidence exacerbates the challenge. While physical injuries leave visible marks and can be corroborated with medical records, emotional distress often leaves no physical traces. This absence of concrete evidence can make it challenging to convince skeptics of the genuine suffering experienced by the claimant.

Correlation vs. Causation

Establishing a causal link between the traumatic event and the emotional distress suffered by the claimant is another significant hurdle. It may seem evident that a car accident, workplace injury, or medical malpractice could lead to emotional trauma. However, proving that the distress directly results from the incident can be complex.

Claimants must show that the defendant’s careless or deliberate actions are the cause of their emotional distress. This requires thorough documentation of the events leading up to the distress, including any pre-existing psychological conditions or trauma.

However, defendants often argue that the emotional distress was caused by other factors unrelated to the incident. They may say that there were pre-existing mental health issues or life circumstances that had nothing to do with the accident.

Stigma and Perception

Another challenge in proving emotional distress stems from societal attitudes towards mental health. The stigma associated with mental illness and emotional distress persists despite growing awareness and advocacy efforts.

This stigma can influence how emotional distress claims are perceived by judges, juries, and even the general public.

As an NCBI study claims, stigma around mental health diminishes the quality of life. The plaintiff may also be deterred from receiving medical help, resulting in delayed treatment for their condition.

They may fear being labeled as “weak” or “overly sensitive” if they disclose their emotional struggles openly. This reluctance to discuss mental health issues can hinder their ability to effectively communicate the extent of their suffering in court.

Additionally, defense attorneys may exploit these stereotypes to undermine the claimant’s credibility and diminish the value of their claim.

Expert Testimony and Documentation

To bolster their emotional distress claim, claimants often rely on expert testimony from psychologists, psychiatrists, or mental health professionals. These experts can provide invaluable insight into the psychological impact of the traumatic event and its long-term effects on the claimant’s well-being.

Nevertheless, it can be expensive and time-consuming to obtain expert testimony. Furthermore, defense attorneys may challenge the qualifications or impartiality of the experts, casting doubt on the validity of their assessments.

Additionally, the court may require extensive documentation of the claimant’s mental health history, further complicating the legal proceedings.

Statutory Limitations and Damage Caps

In some jurisdictions, statutory limitations or damage caps may restrict the compensation awarded for emotional distress claims. These restrictions differ from state to state and can significantly influence the outcome of a personal injury case.

Certain states, for instance, have caps on non-economic damages, such as recompense for emotional distress, pain, and suffering. These caps may limit the compensation that claimants can receive for their emotional distress, regardless of the severity of their suffering.

Furthermore, statutory limitations, known as statutes of limitations, may impose deadlines for filing emotional distress claims. If the claim is not filed within the allotted time, it may be barred, preventing the claimant from pursuing compensation.

You generally have five years to file a lawsuit from the time you get injured. This deadline covers cases involving automobile accidents, product liability lawsuits, premises liability, and dog bites.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Claim Emotional Distress Even if I Haven’t Been Hurt?

Yes, emotional distress may be awarded as separate damages in cases involving personal injuries. However, the lack of concrete evidence makes it more challenging to demonstrate emotional distress in the absence of accompanying physical injuries.

How Much Money Can I Get to Make Up for My Emotional Distress?

The severity of the emotional distress, how it affects the claimant’s life, and the jurisdiction’s laws all influence the compensation. Consulting with a personal injury attorney can assist you in determining the potential amount of compensation for which you may qualify.

How Much Time Do I Have to Submit an Emotional Distress Claim?

Jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction: there are differences in the statute of limitations for bringing emotional distress and personal injury claims. You must speak with an attorney about the local claim filing deadlines.

In conclusion, it can be difficult to prove emotional distress in personal injury cases. However, with the right legal representation, evidence, and advocacy, claimants can overcome these hurdles and obtain the compensation they deserve.

By shedding light on the intricacies of emotional distress claims, we can strive to ensure that victims receive the recognition and support they need.

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