Does Emotional Distress Count as a Personal Injury?
Injuries happen unexpectedly, and they can result in tremendous setbacks for victims. Not only will a person who sustains an injury have to deal with the initial emergency and recovery, but they will also have to contend with medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses. When most people think of personal injury compensation, they think of coverage of medical expenses and lost wages. However, an injury victim may also be able to recover compensation for their emotional distress as well. It is important to understand what emotional distress damages are and how they apply to personal injury cases.
Types of Emotional Distress Damages
You may also hear emotional distress damages referred to as “general damages” or “non-economic damages.” These damages are different than those that an injury victim will receive for expenses they incur for medical bills, lost ways, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred after an injury occurs.
Lost enjoyment of life
Cognitive changes after a head injury
Embarrassment or humiliation
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Diminished quality of life
Distress over a disability
Anger or frustration
How to Prove Emotional Distress Damages
There are a few ways to prove emotional distress damages in the aftermath of an injury.
You will be encouraged to keep a journal documenting how you feel in the aftermath of your injury. This includes your mood, any sleeplessness, as well as feelings of anxiety, stress, fear, anger, and more.
An attorney may ask your friends and family to testify about how the injury has affected your personality.
It may be necessary to use expert witnesses who can evaluate you and determine whether you are suffering from a diagnosable medical condition (such as depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder).
How Are Emotional Distress Damages Calculated?
There are various ways that emotional distress damages may be calculated. Unlike economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.), these damages are not as easy to calculate. There are no bills or receipts that an attorney can bring out to show a jury.
Emotional distress damages may be calculated by totaling the economic damages and multiplying them by a certain number (usually 1 to 4) to arrive at an appropriate amount.
A daily dollar amount may be assigned for a person’s pain and suffering, and then that number will be multiplied by the total amount of days a person is expected to experience the emotional distress. For example, if a dollar amount of $200 per day is assigned, and the injury victim is expected to experience emotional distress for two years, the calculation would be $200 x 730 days = $146,000.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for These Claims?
In California, there is a two-year statute of limitations in place for personal injury cases. This means that injury victims need to file a lawsuit against an alleged negligent party within two years from the date of the injury, or they will lose the ability to recover any compensation.
Is There a Limit to Emotional Distress Damages?
In general, California does not place a cap, or limitation, on how much a personal injury victim can recover in emotional distress damages. However, for those who are injured due to medical negligence, there is a cap of $250,000 in place for emotional distress damages.