Lawsuits concerning physical contact, abuse, and injury have been the talk of the town as of late. Numerous people have stepped up to discuss the legality of suing someone for personal injury, but many are left to wonder, “What about the emotional side of these issues?” The goal of this blog is to share pertinent and relevant information about filing for emotional damages in the state of Pennsylvania.
What Qualifies as Emotional Damages?
Emotional damages are situations in which a person suffers physiological harm due to an entity’s negligent or intentional actions. Emotional damages can be the mental repercussions of physical wounds such as a brain trauma that leads to forgetfulness, or insecurities caused by permanent scars, or physical reactions that stem from emotionally charged scenarios.
Other examples of emotional damages include:
- PTSD from witnessing a loved one’s premature death
- Anxiety from witnessing a family member’s medical malpractice
Types of Emotional Damages
The first thing to note about emotional damages is that they are split into different categories: “pain and suffering” and “infliction of emotional distress.” In a scenario where the plaintiff received physical harm and wants to pursue financial recovery for emotional damages, this is entitlement stemming from “general damages” or “pain and suffering” under a personal injury case.
However, in a scenario where the plaintiff is not injured in the incident but receives emotional trauma, he or she may pursue a case for “infliction of emotional distress.” These cases are rare, as few people receive recovery-worthy emotional trauma while witnessing an experience.
In regards to successful claims, emotional damages without injury are much harder to prove than emotional damages that stem from physical wounds. Physical damages leave a mark, and the correlation between the emotional trauma and the physical trauma is typically apparent to the court; however, purely emotional damages (or emotional distress cases) are not as straightforward, leaving juries and judges to doubt the legitimacy of a claim. Therefore, to be successful, court cases that stem from strictly emotional trauma without physical contact must prove the following:
- That the plaintiff was within the “zone of danger” when the traumatic experience occurred.
To recover from an emotional event, the person trying to recover for their mental distress must have been a witness to the action in question. For example, if a father witnesses his son’s death at the hands of someone else’s negligence, he may be a candidate for a successful emotional distress case. However, if the father was not present at the scene of the death when it occurred, he would likely not qualify for a successful emotional distress case.
2. That the emotional distress was a direct result of observing the incident in question.
To recover from an emotional event, the plaintiff must establish that the emotional distress he or she is suing for was a result of the incident in question. For example, someone who has a history of depression may have a hard time winning a case of emotional distress that claims that they were depressed due to the incident in question.
3. That the person in question and the victim of the incident are closely related.
Many decisions on pure emotional distress cases in Pennsylvania civil courts have declared that the two parties (the plaintiff and the victim) must be family members.
The Differences Between “Pain & Suffering” & “Emotional Distress”
As previously stated, emotional distress situations stem from scenarios where the plaintiff was not injured but received severe mental trauma from a specific incident. However, pain and suffering damages are typically recovered in scenarios where the plaintiff was physically injured and is suing for personal injury.
Pain and Suffering Damages
- Easier to recover than emotional distress
- Is a recovery option in personal injury suits
- Mental suffering that stems from a physical injury
Emotional Distress Damages
- Difficult to recover when compared to personal injury
- Is a claim in and of itself
- Physical suffering that stems from mental anguish
Negligent & Intentional Emotional Distress Cases
There are two types of emotional distress cases, negligent and intentional. Cases that are classified as negligent emotional distress are scenarios where someone injures or kills a plaintiff’s loved one by mistake. Negligent emotional distress cases could stem from:
- Automobile accidents;
- Medical malpractice;
- Catastrophic failure (amusement park, premises liability).
These situations are scenarios where the person who caused the accident (and subsequently, the emotional distress) had no intention to harm the victim. However, a person’s intentions are not justifiable when the consequences of their actions incidentally harm others. Intentional emotional distress cases are situations where someone purposefully harms a person’s loved one in his or her presence. Intentional emotional distress scenarios could stem from:
- Witnessed murder
- Witnessed rape
- Witnessed abuse
- Personal emotional abuse
These scenarios are rare, but Pennsylvania continues to uphold the possibility that someone can recover damages for intentional emotional distress.
Talking to a Philadelphia Lawyer About Emotional Damages
If you or a loved one suffered an accident and are dealing with emotional side effects like acute anxiety, PTSD, and other mental complications, you should talk to an experienced attorney. Our firm believes that our client’s emotional damages are just as significant as their physical injuries.
When we work with our clients, we do our best to ensure that they are always comfortable throughout their legal experience. We offer free consultations to all prospective clients to allow them to gauge our practice and make the right steps towards recovery. We stand for justice, and we are here for you.
Injured and dealing with emotional distress? Call (267) 457-5570 or complete an online form for a free consultation concerning your case!