After an accident, people often expect to experience some aches and pains, so having to go to the doctor isn’t a surprise. But many accident victims do not expect the emotional distress that can follow a collision.

When the dust settles, you may have lost your vehicle, or perhaps are unable to work due to your injuries, and suddenly your entire life changes. Perhaps you are now scared to drive, or you can’t get the disturbing scene of the accident out of your head. You begin to be irritable for no reason and can’t fall asleep at night. Unable to understand why you’re feeling this way, you find yourself asking “What are signs of emotional distress?”

emotional distress woman holding her head in anger

Emotional trauma is very common following an accident. Many people are surprised to find how the emotional aspects of a collision affect them, and few people realize that these negative consequences can be a part of your personal injury claim. Read on the learn everything you need to know about compensation for emotional distress following an automobile accident.

What is emotional distress in legal terms?

So, what is emotional distress and how is this term different from the regular emotions people experience daily? In a legal context, emotional distress encompasses the negative mental consequences a person experiences after an accident. This can include pain from your injuries, anxiety related to driving or dealing with problems related to the accident, and many other symptoms.

While the law may make minor distinctions between pain and suffering, mental anguish, and mental injuries, all of these effects can be loosely grouped together as emotional distress.

What are the 5 signs of emotional suffering?

Emotional distress can present itself in an infinite number of ways depending on each person. Five of the most common symptoms of emotional distress include:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Inability sleep
  3. Panic attacks
  4. Headaches
  5. Irritability

Can you sue for emotional distress?

Laws vary from state to state, but no matter where you are the law will allow you to recover in some way for your emotional suffering. In auto accident cases, emotional distress makes up part of your personal injury claim, in addition to physical injuries.

Because emotional distress is more difficult to identify and diagnose, suing for emotional distress will require an accident victim to prove several things. Here’s a short list on what to expect to prove in an emotional distress claim:


The amount of time you have suffered from emotional distress is important if you decide to sue for mental anguish. You cannot make a claim for emotional distress if your suffering is only contemporaneous with the accident. Fear or nervousness at the time of an accident or immediately after is one thing, but if you are experiencing symptoms for a period of time long after the accident, this could be considered emotional distress.


In addition to the length of time you have suffered from emotional distress, the severity of your symptoms is just as important. If your emotional distress is manifesting itself through physical symptoms, this can be an important factor in proving your claim.


The severity of the accident is another factor that is taken into consideration. Severe accidents are more likely to cause emotional distress than a fender bender.


Whether the symptoms are a result of the accident or not also factor in. Are your symptoms actually the fault of the adverse party? This is something that must be determined if you are trying to get a recovery for emotional distress.


One of the most important ways to prove emotional distress is through the testimony or evidence from a doctor or health care professional. Not only that, but showing that you received treatment because of this distress is also strong evidence for your case.

How is emotional distress different from IIED and NIED?

Emotional distress after an accident is usually claimed in connection with a physical injury, whereas intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) and negligent infliction of emotional distress are separate claims a person makes when he or she is not physically injured by the liable party. These claims have specific proof requirements depending on the circumstances and usually require extremely egregious conduct.

Have you or someone you love been injured in an accident?

If you were injured in an accident, contact us for a free case evaluation. We will work with you on a contingency-fee basis to gather this evidence and prove your case. If you are wondering whether you could file an emotional distress lawsuit, these laws vary from state to state so it is important you understand your rights. You may be eligible to file a claim for medical costs, emotional distress and further damages.

Fill out our free case evaluation form to see if you are eligible for a claim. An experienced accident attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. We have office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today.

May 13, 2019 | Categories: Auto Accidents, Legal Tips |