Emotional distress claims are among the most difficult injuries to prove in a court case. Unlike a broken bone, or a spinal disk injury, there is no test or X-ray to show the jury. As the defense lawyers always like to say there is no “objective” proof of the injury. Like the suffering part of “pain and suffering” damages, emotional distress is an internal, psychological, thing. Even though the impacts on you can often be far greater than a mere physical injury, and take longer to heal, experience shows Idaho juries are skeptical of emotional distress claims and providing monetary damage awards to compensate for such claims.
Types of Emotional Distress Claims
There are two types of emotional distress claims recognized in Idaho courtrooms: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.
The Idaho courts have identified four elements necessary to establish a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress:
(1) the conduct must be intentional or reckless;
(2) the conduct must be extreme and outrageous;
(3) there must be a causal connection between the wrongful conduct and the emotional distress; and
(4) the emotional distress must be severe.
As a general rule the Idaho courts have required very extreme conduct before allowing damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. As the cort has said even if a defendant’s conduct can not be otherwise justified it is does not necessarily rise to the level of ‘beyond all possible bounds of decency’ that would cause an average member of the community to believe it was ‘outrageous.’”
Negligent infliction of emotional distress, on the other hand, requires five thing be established:
(1) a legal duty recognized by law;
(2) a breach of that duty;
(3) a causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury;
(4) actual loss or damage, and
(5) a “physical manifestation” of the plaintiff’s emotional injury.
The first four of those are the standard elements of any claim for damages arising on a negligence theory. The fifth one–“physical manifestation”–is an additional component that supposed to provide a degree of genuineness that claims of mental harm are not conjured up from whole cloth. The physical manifestation just means that these is an actual physical component above and beyond just mental anguish.
Five Things That Can Help Prove Your Emotional Distress Claim
If you are considering pursuing a claim based on emotional distress, here are five things to consider in proving the harms and losses you have incurred based on your claim.
- Medical Evaluation: Are your claims documented in your medical records? Have you seen a mental health professional or primary care physician nd documented the problems at issue?
- Intensity/Severity: As noted above, Idaho requires emotional distress to be “severe” before any compensation is available. What is the intensity of your distress? Why is it that intense?
- Duration: Persistent, ongoing or recurring emotional pain such as a formal diagnosis of post traumatic stress, can help prove the emotional distress.
- Associated Bodily Harm: A jury will be able to see and understand actual physical injury more easily than isolated emotional injury. Experience shows that emotional distress damages are often more accepted by fact-finders when there is bodily injury involved. And for a negligent infliction claim you MUST show the physical manifestation like night sweats, ulcers, headaches, nervous tics or and other physical signs of distress.
- Severity of Cause: The more extreme the underlying cause of the emotional distress, the more likely a fact-finder will understand and provide compensation for an emotional distress claim. If you were attacked by a knife wielding rapists or went through a terrorist bombing you are more likely to recover on a claim than if you were in an “ordinary” auto collision that resulted in no physical injuries.
As experienced attorneys, we can help you evaluating an emotional distress claim and decide whether the claim is worth pursuing. We understand that proof in these cases is very difficult and not all cases where emotional distress exists are actually worth pursuing.