How Is Emotional Distress Valued in a Personal Injury Claim?

by Staff Blogger | February 27th, 2023

Many personal injury claims are centered around compensation for the cost of treating physical injuries. However, if someone’s negligence or deliberately harmful actions caused significant mental damage, you have the right to file a claim for emotional distress.

Emotional distress is a subjective claim, making it challenging to calculate a fair settlement. Learn how damages for emotional distress are awarded and how a California personal injury lawyer from Berg Injury Lawyers can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

What Is Emotional Distress in a Legal Sense?

Emotional distress is the mental and emotional suffering inflicted on a personal injury victim. The term encompasses a wide range of negative emotions, including:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shock
  • Grief
  • Anguish
  • Suffering
  • Humiliation

Under California law, the infliction of emotional distress is classified as negligent or intentional. In negligent infliction of emotional distress, the other party’s conduct was unreasonably careless and resulted in your emotional distress.

When you suffer severe or long-lasting emotional distress due to someone else’s actions, filing a claim for emotional distress allows you to recover financial compensation for your psychological injuries. You can use this compensation for any resulting expenses, such as therapy or medication, to treat a mental health condition.

The Process of Valuing Emotional Distress

In California, there is no predetermined procedure for valuing emotional distress. However, most attorneys and courts use the multiplier method to value emotional distress to estimate and award compensatory damages.

This method determines your compensatory damages by multiplying your economic damage award by a number between 1.5 and 5. The judge or jury will decide the multiplier and calculate your compensation based on the facts of your case and the evidence you provide.

Factors that influence the value of an emotional distress claim include:

  • Seriousness of any physical injuries you sustained
  • Length and severity of emotional distress
  • The other party’s actions, behavior, and intent
  • Evidence provided

Awarding damages for emotional distress is a subjective process. An experienced personal injury attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can help you estimate your compensatory damages based on the seriousness of your injuries and the evidence for your case.

They will use proof of your emotional distress, such as behavioral health treatment records, medical records, and testimony from friends and family, to win you fair compensation for your suffering.

Tips for Making a Strong Claim

Due to the subjective nature of emotional distress and non-economic damages, it can be challenging to make a strong claim. Thoroughly documenting your damages and working with a skilled personal injury attorney can help you maximize your compensation.

  • Seek Psychological Treatment

If you are suffering emotional distress after another person’s negligent actions, seek psychological treatment as soon as possible. Depending on your needs, obtain treatment from a therapist, psychiatrist, intensive outpatient program, or inpatient clinic.

Seeking treatment helps establish the existence and severity of emotional distress, as your treatment records can be provided to the court. It will also provide support and resources to cope with your emotions.

  • Establish the Cause of Distress

To successfully claim emotional distress, you must show that your distress resulted from the other party’s actions. Your attorney can investigate your case to find evidence of the cause of your distress. For example, they can use witness testimony or videos showing your behavior before the injury and compare it to your mood, outlook, and enjoyment of life after the accident.

Medical experts such as therapists and psychologists can help establish that the other party is responsible for your distress. For example, if you developed post-traumatic stress disorder after a car accident, a medical expert can testify that your condition only developed after the traumatic experience.

  •  Document Your Symptoms

In addition to treatment records, provide subjective evidence of your emotional distress. Journal or record your symptoms of emotional distress in a notebook or digital format, including your daily anxiety levels, the shame you feel, or the impact of your injuries on your personal relationships. Your attorney will provide this documentation to the court or help you use it to strengthen your testimony.

For example, you were attacked on your property by a neighbor’s dog. You could journal about your fear of leaving the house or film yourself talking about your fear when you see an unknown dog.

Consult with Berg Injury Lawyers Today

The best way to maximize your financial recovery from emotional distress is by hiring a qualified attorney to represent you. A skilled personal injury lawyer can prove your nonphysical loss and the gravity of your pain and suffering, ensuring you receive the settlement you deserve.  

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We represent clients on a contingency fee arrangement, so we only get paid if you win your case. There’s no risk in finding out what an experienced attorney at Berg Injury Lawyers can do for you.