Understanding the Concept of Emotional Distress

According to one of many legal dictionaries in Canada and the US, the basic definition of the term “emotional distress” is:

“a basis for damages claimed in a personal injury lawsuit

and based on the intentional or negligent acts of another.”

If you have recently sustained injures and have filed a personal injury lawsuit in the cities of Barrie, Orillia, or Stouffville, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering.  These damages may be are awarded in addition to economic or pecuniary damages such as lost wages, medical expenses, etc. that are directly attributed to the injuries you’ve sustained.

Components of an Emotional Distress Claim for Damages

An emotional distress claim may come in a number of different forms.  The term may be commonly referred to as:

  • emotional upset
  • intentional infliction of mental distress
  • negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • negligent infliction of psychiatric damage

Under Canadian personal injury law, the common element among these claims is that the complainant or plaintiff must establish the following two components in order for the claim to be valid:

    • First, the plaintiff suffered foreseeable psychological injury due to the negligent behavior or conduct of the defendant.
    • Second, the psychological injuries of the plaintiff were of such a serious nature that he or she succumbed to a well-documented psychiatric illness.Emotional distress can be very difficult to prove since there are no CT scans or X-rays that a professional can point to.  Conversely, physical injuries such as broken bones or head trauma can easily be identified with these medical technologies.

      Proving Emotional Distress

      If you and your Barrie, Orillia, or Stouffville personal injury lawyer intend to pursue an emotional distress claim, there are 5 ways in which proof can be established:

    • Duration – as with most cases involving traumatic stress, if your pain has persisted and occurred over a lengthy amount of time, it may be easier for you to prove emotional distress.
    • Intensity – the more intense your level of mental anguish is, the better your chances of proving emotional distress and being compensated for damages.
    • Physician’s note – make sure that your claims are supported by a physician’s or psychologist’s documentation of your condition. Your reports are a testament of the level and amount of injuries you sustained.
    • Related bodily injury – although proving emotional distress can oftentimes be difficult, you can usually provide proof of physical symptoms that are attributed to it such as headaches, ulcers, etc.
    • Underlying causes – the court will be more likely to find for emotional distress if the underlying cause is extreme such as surviving a bombing compared to a motor vehicle collision.

In order to prove your claim, you may have to incorporate several of these factors.  Just keep in mind that you should be working with an experienced personal injury lawyer as well as a physician and/or psychologist. This will help you get a better representation in court.