how much can i sue for emotional distress

How Much Can I Sue for Emotional Distress After an Accident?

Have you ever experienced a traumatic event that left you feeling shaken, anxious, or depressed? If someone else’s intentional or negligent actions caused you significant emotional suffering, you may be entitled to compensation for your emotional distress.

At Miley Legal, we understand the profound impact emotional turmoil can have on your life. As seasoned personal injury attorneys, we’ve witnessed firsthand how emotional wounds can run just as deep as physical ones. That’s why we’re committed to fighting for the justice and fair compensation you deserve.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the complex realm of emotional distress claims and what it takes to recover damages for your emotional suffering.

What is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is a legal term that encompasses a wide range of emotional and mental anguish, from anxiety and depression to fear, grief, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a natural human response to profoundly distressing or traumatic experiences, and it can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social withdrawal or isolation

While we all experience emotional ups and downs, emotional distress rises to a legally actionable level when it’s severe, long-lasting, and directly attributable to someone else’s conduct.

Emotional distress can stem from two distinct legal theories: intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – This is the result of someone’s intentional, outrageous, and extreme conduct. For example, if someone deliberately harassed, stalked, or threatened you, causing you severe emotional trauma.
  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress – This occurs when someone’s careless or reckless actions result in significant emotional suffering. A common example is being involved in a traumatic event like a car crash or a violent crime.

Legal Grounds for Suing for Emotional Distress

In West Virginia, the legal standards for pursuing an emotional distress claim vary depending on whether the distress was intentionally or negligently inflicted.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

To succeed in an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim in West Virginia, you must prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant’s conduct was atrocious, intolerable, and so extreme and outrageous as to exceed the bounds of decency.
  2. The defendant acted with the intention of inflicting emotional distress or with reckless disregard of the probability of causing emotional distress.
  3. The defendant’s conduct did, in fact, cause you severe emotional distress.
  4. The emotional distress was so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.

The West Virginia Supreme Court has emphasized that the conduct in question must be “atrocious” and “utterly intolerable in a civilized community” to meet the high threshold for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mere insults, indignities, or annoyances are generally insufficient.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

In cases of negligent infliction of emotional distress, the legal standards are slightly different. According to West Virginia law, you must establish the following:

  1. The defendant owed you a legal duty of care.
  2. The defendant breached that duty through negligent conduct.
  3. The defendant’s negligence caused you to experience emotional distress.
  4. The emotional distress was severe enough to warrant compensatory damages.

Importantly, West Virginia courts have recognized two distinct scenarios where a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress may arise:

  1. When the plaintiff has sustained a physical impact, no matter how slight.
  2. When the plaintiff is closely related to the victim of the negligent conduct and present at the time of the incident.

These legal standards underscore the importance of working with an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate the strength of your emotional distress claim and guide you through the complex legal process.

How to Prove Emotional Distress in Court

To substantiate your emotional distress claim and maximize your chances of obtaining fair compensation, you’ll need to provide compelling evidence. This may include:

  • Medical records and documentation from mental health professionals
  • Testimony from friends, family members, or coworkers who observed changes in your behavior or demeanor
  • Personal journals, diaries, or calendars that detail your emotional struggles
  • Evidence of lost wages, diminished earning capacity, or other economic losses resulting from your emotional distress

Working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure that you gather and present the best possible evidence to build a strong case.

Getting Compensated for Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is incredibly subjective compared to calculable costs like medical bills. Because of this, there is no “average settlement” or blanket number that you should ask for when pursuing damages.

However, when calculating these damages, legal experts tend to consider:

  • Documented medical evidence from therapists/psychologists
  • Testimony from witnesses about changes in the plaintiff’s demeanor
  • The duration and intensity of emotional symptoms like anxiety or depression
  • The disruption to the plaintiff’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being

Based on this information, many attorneys use one of these three common methods of calculation:

  1. The Multiplier Approach: Economic damages are multiplied by a factor (e.g., 2x, 5x) based on the severity of emotional suffering.
  2. Per Diem Method: A daily rate is assigned to compensate for each day the plaintiff endured emotional distress.
  3. Comparative Analysis: Compensation is determined by analyzing payouts in similar past cases involving emotional distress.

Remember — insurance companies are incentivized to minimize compensation for non-economic damages like emotional distress.

This is where our experienced personal injury lawyers become invaluable advocates for victims. We gather compelling evidence of emotional trauma and leverage negotiation strategies to maximize compensation. With the right legal team, you can get the justice and compensation you deserve.

Trust Miley Legal to Maximize Damages in Your Injury Claim

At Miley Legal, we realize that the trauma you’ve experienced goes far beyond just physical pain. The emotional distress and mental anguish can be debilitating – disrupting your life, relationships, and overall well-being in profound ways. While money can’t undo that damage, it can help provide a sense of accountability and closure.

When you’ve endured trauma, you need a partner completely invested in your recovery and emotional well-being. Reach out to Miley Legal, and let’s pursue the justice you deserve together.

Author Bio

Tim Miley is the Founder of Miley Legal Accident Injury Lawyers, a West Virginia personal injury law firm he formed in 2006. With more than 30 years of experience in personal injury law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, brain injuries, wrongful death, and other personal injury matters.

Tim received his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University and is a member of the West Virginia State Bar and the Harrison County Bar Association. He has helped his clients win more than $10 million in personal injury verdicts and settlements and has further served the people of West Virginia by filling legislative roles in the state’s government since 2004.

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