Portland injury attorney

What Qualifies as Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Claim?

Every day, Oregon residents become seriously injured in personal injury accidents that were entirely preventable. If you or your loved one has been seriously injured, you are probably suffering emotional health conditions as well as physical injuries. When people experience painful physical injuries, coping with the injuries can cause significant mental anguish. What recourse do personal injury victims have when it comes to recovering compensation for emotional distress? We will discuss what qualifies as emotional distress in a personal injury claim below.

Personal Injury Victims are Entitled to Compensation for Emotional Distress

Under Oregon law, personal injury victims may be entitled to compensation for their emotional distress. Victims will need to prove that their physical injuries caused emotional distress. Unfortunately, even though the symptoms you are experiencing due to your emotional distress are intense and can affect your day-to-day life, proving emotional distress can be challenging when you take your claim to court.

Specifically, Section 31.710 of the Oregon Revised Code provides personal injury victims with a right to seek compensation for their emotional distress. Personal injury victims can file a lawsuit against the defendant and seek non-economic damages that cover the effects of their emotional distress. Plaintiffs will need to prove the existence and severity of their emotional distress. 

They will also need to prove that their emotional distress is directly related to the personal injury accident that caused their injuries. Proving emotional distress is typically more challenging than proving physical injuries. An X-ray can show a broken bone, but establishing depression or anxiety is less concrete and direct. Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can gather evidence and prove your emotional distress is crucial to your claim’s success.

The Impact of Emotional Distress

Researchers and doctors are becoming more aware of the effect emotional distress can have on a person’s ability to cope with life situations. Victims of personal injury accidents who experience intense emotional distress may not be able to engage with the world around them as they did before their accident. Emotional distress is not a medical condition, but emotional distress can cause various symptoms that have a significant impact on a person’s daily life, including the following:

  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia
  • Problems with weight loss or gain an appetite
  • Social isolation and anxiety
  • Increased fits of rage, anger, and irritability
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal Thoughts

Proving Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Stating that you have experienced emotional distress is not enough to prove emotional distress in a courtroom setting. You and your lawyer will work together to gather evidence showing that you have experienced serious emotional distress due to your personal injury. There are several different ways you can prove that you have experienced emotional distress to recover the compensation you deserve for non-economic damages, including the following.

Your Testimony About Your Emotional Distress

Statements from a personal injury victim can be incredibly effective. You can describe all of the symptoms you suffer from and how they impact your day-to-day activities. Suppose you used to be an avid outdoor adventurer and skier. Now that you have suffered a spinal cord injury, you can no longer go outside or exercise outdoors at all. You can describe how not being able to engage in day-to-day activities that you once loved affects your life. Hearing from the victim about his or her emotional distress can be a powerful tool when it comes to obtaining compensation.

Details Related to Your Injury

In many personal injury cases, there needs to be some sort of bodily injury the victim has suffered before the victim can recover compensation for emotional distress. Typically, the more devastating the physical injury, the more compensation the plaintiff can obtain for emotional distress related to that injury. For example, spinal cord injuries, brain trauma, amputations, and other life-threatening injuries will typically receive the highest amounts of non-economic damages. In these types of cases, it is easier for the jury or judge to see how the victim suffered emotional distress.

Facts Related to the Personal Injury Accident

Personal injury accidents are traumatic because of how unexpected they are and how traumatic they are. One day, the plaintiff is going about his or her day, and within seconds life changes dramatically. For example, when a victim uses a defective product that explodes and causes severe burns, it is easy to understand how the victim will be traumatized. Likewise, if the victim was involved in a near-death experience, the facts surrounding the case will help prove how the victim is suffering from long-term emotional distress.

Testimony From Doctors and Therapists

Providing statements from therapists, doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists can also help a plaintiff prove emotional distress. Similarly, corroborating statements from friends and family can also establish the impact that the personal injury accident has had on the victim’s life. Friends and family can discuss the victim’s life before the accident and how the accident has caused emotional pain.