Mark W. Mathys | October 27, 2023 | Personal Injury
You deserve compensation for a physical injury that someone else caused you to suffer, as well as its direct consequences—medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. But do you deserve compensation for your emotional distress? The answer is yes, but the facts and circumstances of your case will dictate your legal options.
Emotional Distress as a Component of an Ordinary Personal Injury Claim
In any personal injury claim, you have the right to seek both economic and non-economic damages to the extent that you actually suffered them. Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible harms such as physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
Emotional distress, as the basis for a claim for compensation under Illinois law, is the psychological suffering that manifests itself as some form of medically diagnosable condition such as:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);
- Anxiety; or
- Similar conditions.
Illinois, unlike some states, does not place a statutory limit on the amount of non-economic damages a court can award the victim.
Emotional Distress as a Component of a Wrongful Death Claim
If someone dies from a personal injury, the victim’s estate executor can sue the at-fault party for the survivors’ grief, sorrow, and mental suffering (all forms of emotional distress).
Emotional Distress as a Component of a Sexual Assault Claim
The essence of the offense of sexual assault is the emotional distress it causes. Other components of liability for sexual assault include (to the extent relevant) medical bills, therapy, counseling, and lost income. Accordingly, emotional distress is one component of a sexual assault claim.
Emotional Distress as a Component of a Defamation Claim
A person defames you when they publicize a false statement that damages your reputation by exposing you to hatred, ridicule, or contempt. To publicize a statement means to communicate it to at least one other person.
Illinois recognizes two forms of definition—slander and libel. Slander is defamation in spoken form, while libel is defamation in written form.
You can certainly claim economic damages incident to a defamation claim. You might have lost your job because of the false statement, for example. Nevertheless, it is the ”hatred, ridicule, or contempt” aspect of defamation that provides the basis for claiming emotional distress damages as one component of your overall defamation claim.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress As a Stand-Alone Claim
To win an intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim, you must prove the following facts:
- The defendant’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous.”
- You did in fact suffer severe emotional distress.
- The defendant’s misconduct caused the emotional distress you suffered.
- The defendant intended to cause you severe emotional distress or with reckless disregard to whether their conduct would cause you emotional distress.
You do not need to prove that you suffered physical injury to win an IIED claim.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress As a Stand-Alone Claim
Negligence is a legal term that means something like “carelessness.” Every mentally competent adult owes a duty to everyone else to take reasonable care not to inflict unnecessary emotional distress on them. Breach of this duty can result in liability for money damages if the breach did in fact cause the victim severe emotional distress.
To win a negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) claim, you need to prove the following:
- The defendant’s conduct was extreme, outrageous, and likely to cause emotional distress.
- The victim in fact suffered emotional distress.
- The defendant’s conduct caused the victim’s emotional distress.
The victim must claim NIED as either a bystander or as a direct victim.
The ‘bystander’ and ‘impact’ rules
Even if you prove the foregoing to win your NIED claim, you are going to have to qualify under either the bystander rule or the impact rule.
- The bystander rule: A bystander can win an NIED claim if they witness an event, caused by the defendant, that resulted in their emotional distress. In this case, they must prove that they were physically located in the “zone of danger” where the defendant’s conduct placed them at risk of physical harm.
- The impact rule: The victim can claim emotional distress damages by proving that they suffered their emotional distress incident to the actual physical impact that harmed them physically.
These two rules are judge-made law and subject to revision by the courts.
Why You Might Need a Napierville, IL Personal Injury Attorney
A Napierville, IL personal injury lawyer can provide you with three difficult-to-come-by advantages. They can offer you legal advice, provide you with emotional support, and take an objective look at your case. Almost any personal injury lawyer will schedule you for a free initial consultation.