Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?

There are sometimes moments in our lives that cause profound stress, and these moments can turn into long term issues.

Likewise, the stress can turn into distress and leave you feeling completely hopeless and in turmoil. Emotional distress is also known as mental anguish and is a non-physical reaction to a situation that has caused hurt and upset, whether physical or otherwise.

Courts often recognize emotional distress as a cause for a case that can be recovered in the form of a lawsuit. As long as you can provide evidence for your claims, you can indeed sue someone for emotional distress.

The ways in which you go about this can vary, and there are other factors that should be considered too.

This article aims to explore the considerations that must be taken into account before deciding to sue for emotional distress, as well as exploring situations that might cause this, and as a result, can be taken to court.

We will also be exploring the types of emotional distress claims and what is meant by each of them.

So if you have been out through emotional distress by someone (or a group of people) and you have been considering whether suing them is an option, we highly suggest that you keep on reading this article. 

Can you sue for emotional distress

So, what exactly is meant by emotional distress? 

There are two types of emotional distress claims that can be made in court. The first is negligent infliction of emotional distress and the second is the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Each of these must be dealt with separately for an adequate understanding of both.

Negligent infliction of emotional distress - This is a situation in which someone has caused another person emotional distress through their own negligence. It is not usually done purposely, and the actual harm does not need to have been actioned to the person suing.

An example of this is a witness to a car crash. If you were walking along with a family member and a dangerous driver was to hit them over, you will likely feel very distressed after witnessing this.

You could then sue the driver for causing you this distress. To qualify for this you need to have been within the ‘zone of danger’, which is to say that you must have been near enough to the car accident (or any other distressing situation) to have experienced the harm yourself, or at least near enough that harm could have or might have been inflicted on you, too.

Again, with the example of a family member getting hit by a car, if you were both walking together it is likely that you may have gotten hit too.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress - This type of emotional distress is caused by someone’s purposeful actions and intentions. They intended to cause harm that would lead to emotional distress.

A great example to help you understand it better would be that of workplace harassment or bullying. If you have experienced repeated harassment that has not been dealt with by your boss (or perhaps it is your boss who is doing it) despite you reporting it, this could very well be grounds for a lawsuit.

You can sue for the intentional infliction of emotional distress that they have caused you. The emphasis is on repeated harassment because it is not likely that one or two incidents of name calling would be sufficient for a lawsuit, whereas recurring bullying is, especially if it involves constant torment and verbal attacks.

Now that you understand the differences between the two types of emotional distress, we can explore the process of suing on these grounds.

Suing for Emotional Distress

Evidence is Key 

Generally, suing for emotional distress is very difficult because there is not often physical proof that it happened. Emotional distress is psychological, and so it can be hard to prove that it actually happened.

As with any legal battles, the evidence is key, and if you want to sue for emotional distress then you should try to gather as much evidence as you possibly can.

This evidence could come in many forms such as reports from a therapist, doctor, or psychologist. Getting evidence in this form can prove very costly, and so it is advised that you ensure you have a competent personal injury attorney working on your case.

They will ensure that you get everything you need from your specialist witnesses and will assist you with your case to make sure that everything works in your favor as it is supposed to.

Other evidence that can help to support an emotional distress claim includes:

physical injuries - for example, headaches, ulcers, muscle tension, and cognitive impairment could all signify emotional distress;

testimonies - your friends, family, work colleagues, boss, teachers, or even a doctor could all give a testimony to tell the court how you have dealt with the distress and provide support for your claims;

time - the duration of time you have been experiencing the distress can also make a difference; and lastly,

severity - how severe the event that caused the distress is also likely to be considered. The more severe it was the more likely you will win your case.

It is also extremely important that all aspects of your distress are documented. We cannot stress enough just how important it is to keep accurate and detailed records.

The more detailed the documents of the distress are, the more chance you have of A) an attorney wanting to take on your case, and B) succeeding in the case. 

Document your feelings, work progress, any medical appointments and therapy sessions, as well as your general health such as heart rate and sleep (including any nightmares). If you suffer from flashbacks and PTSD symptoms it is very important that you also keep a document of these too. 

Do you need a lawyer?

As we discussed in the previous section, you may find it helpful to enlist a personal injury attorney for your case as they will be the most experienced and qualified professional who will know exactly how to deal with your case.

You will need to document all of the distress that has been caused to you and give it to your personal injury attorney, as well as providing them with all details of the event that caused the distress and any people who you wish to use as witnesses and for testimonies.

Final Verdict

As you can see, you definitely can sue for emotional distress, and whilst it is not an easy process, if you have a good attorney and excellent evidence, it is certainly possible.

Remember, there are two types of emotional distress claims - negligent and intentional - so ensure that you identify which of the two your own situation falls into. 

We hope this article has been informative to you and provided you with the advice you need. We wish you the best of luck!


Thank you for visiting. This website is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided is intended to constitute, nor does it constitute, legal advice, and none of the information necessarily reflects the opinions of Misty Rock Capital LLC dba or anyone associated, employed or affiliated with Misty Rock Capital LLC dba