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Does Emotional Distress Count as a Personal Injury?

Being involved in an accident and sustaining an injury is a traumatic experience for victims. Whether an injury occurs due to a car accident, a workplace accident, due to a defective product, a dog bite, or some other traumatic incident, victims can suffer from a wide range of economic and non-economic damages. This includes emotional distress. Even relatively minor injuries can result in a person suffering from emotional distress in the aftermath. In some cases, just witnesses a traumatic incident can cause emotional distress to occur.

Emotional distress damages can occur in a variety of ways, and victims may be able to recover compensation as part of their pain and suffering damages in a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party.

Defining Emotional Distress

Emotional distress can be inflicted on a person, whether they sustained a physical injury or not. In some cases, injury victims sustain emotional distress caused by the injury itself. In other cases, a person can suffer from emotional distress even if they are witnesses to an accident in which another person is injured or killed.

Emotional stress typically falls under the umbrella of pain and suffering damages that a person can suffer after an incident. These damages will typically occur when the negligent actions of another person cause the victim to suffer from some form of mental harm, which can include anxiety, depression, humiliation, insomnia, fear, torment, etc.

The Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

In some cases, it may be possible for an injury victim to prove that the other party intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them. In order for this to be the case, the following elements need to be present:

  • The actions of the liable party (the defendant) were outrageous in nature
  • The defendant had the intention to cause harm to the victim (the plaintiff)
  • The plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the defendant’s conduct

The defendant’s conduct will be considered outrageous under California law if their behavior led to conduct that was so extreme that it exceeded all possible bounds of decency.

The Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Unexpected accidents can lead to life-threatening injuries and can also cause the infliction of emotional distress that may not necessarily be intentional. However, defendants can still be held liable for emotional distress injuries if the following elements are present:

  • The defendant acted negligently
  • The plaintiff suffered serious emotional distress due to the negligence

Negligence in these cases will be established by determining whether or not there was a duty of care between the plaintiff and the defendant and if the defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff.

The Emotional Distress Suffered by a Bystander

Under California law, bystanders who witness an accident in which another person is injured or killed may also be entitled to receive emotional distress damages. In these cases, the bystander will need to prove various elements in order for their claim to be successful. This includes:

  • That the defendant acted negligently in causing the death or injury to a victim
  • The bystander was present when the accident occurred
  • The bystander was aware that the accident was causing an injury or death to the victim
  • The bystander suffered from serious emotional distress as a result of witnessing the victim’s injury or death

There are various ways in which emotional distress cases arise, including car accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, workplace accidents, defective product incidents, and more. If you or somebody you care about has suffered from an emotional distress injury, you should seek assistance from a Sacramento personal injury attorney for help proceeding forward with your case.