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When you are injured in an accident, you are usually able to receive compensation for your medical bills and for pain and suffering. In these cases, the court may be willing to consider the emotional pain that you have suffered as well as the physical. But can you sue for emotional distress if you do not have a physical injury? Yes. While this is much harder to do, it is not impossible.

What Is Emotional Distress?

The legal definition of emotional distress is anything that causes you to have a negative emotional reaction. Your reaction may include fright, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, and anything else that causes mental or emotional pain.

When you suffer emotional distress at the hands of another person, it’s called infliction of emotional distress. There are two basic types of infliction of emotional distress: negligent and intentional (NIED and IIED, respectively). While similar in some ways, they require you to prove different elements.

What Is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

To show that you have experienced negligent infliction of emotional distress, you must be able to show that you have been injured by the negligent conduct of someone else. Typically you must be able to show:

  • The person was negligent in their conduct or committed a willful violation of their statutory duty
  • You suffered serious emotional distress as a result of their actions
  • Their actions were the direct cause of your emotional distress
For example, if your employer fails to take care of a piece of equipment that catches fire in your work area which causes you and your co-workers to evacuate, you may be able to file a claim for emotional distress. Although your chances of winning may be better if you suffer an injury as a result, this is required to prove your case. The simple fact that you were at risk of serious harm may be enough to sway the court.

What Is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

This if often referred to as the tort of outrage. In order to sue for international infliction of emotional distress, you must be able to show the following:

  • The person who was the source of the emotional distress acted recklessly or intentionally. For example, a physician who gives you a misdiagnosis of cancer based on the misreading of your medical testing, may not only be guilty of medical malpractice, but could be guilty of invoking emotional distress.
  • Their behavior was extreme and outrageous. This may be due to the person taking advantage of their position of power over you when you were vulnerable, the pattern of their behavior, the use of racial epithets, or that fact that they hold a legal or ethical relationship of trust over you.
  • Their behavior was the direct cause of your emotional pain. This behavior could be through words or deeds. While this is generally easy to show when there is an accident, physical injuries, or tragic events attached to your case, it is much more difficult to show when these factors may not be present.
  • You have suffered severe emotional pain as a result of the person’s actions. To determine this the court may consider the intensity and duration of your pain, as well as any related physical manifestation of it such as ulcers or headaches.
Emotional distress is very difficult to prove, but the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Law Offices of Wells and McElwee, P.C. can help you to prove your case. We have years of experience working on complex cases. We will happy to review your individual case and provide you with advice you need to pursue your claim. Give us a call today for an appointment.