How Much Can I Sue For Emotional Distress? What You Need To Know

Everyone who undergoes a personal injury from an accident, experienced emotional distress, often leading them to wonder, “how much can I sue for emotional distress?”

Suing someone for emotional distress can be vary in different state laws and their statue of limitations. This not only includes financial losses like medical bills and lost income, but also non-economic losses. This article will explain common symptoms and types of emotional distress, how to file a case to sue someone on emotional distress and some successful verdicts.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress can be the psychological harm caused by experiencing a variety of factors, including accidents, injuries, harassment, discrimination, and other forms of events that were upsetting, traumatic or distressing. Emotional distress can show wide range of symptoms including anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that impact the personal and professional life of an individual, leading to effect the quality of life. 

It can be basis for legal claims in some situations and you can get compensation for emotional distress and mental anguish and the amount you ask is depends on the severity of your suffering. 

Common Symptoms of Emotional Distress

Common Symptoms of Emotional Distress

Common Symptoms of Emotional Distress

Some of the most common symptoms of emotional distress that appears in someone after a traumatic accident includes:

Anxiety: It can be an excessive, persistent feeling of worry, fear or apprehension that follows someone throughout their daily life.

Insomnia: It is a sleep disorder that is due to difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. People often experience feelings of fatigue, low energy, irritability, and difficulty concentrating during the day. It will negatively impact a person’s health and daily life by making it difficult to recover and rest.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Depression: It is a persistent feeling of an overwhelming sense of sadness and hopelessness. It is mostly common in emotional distress.

Panic Attacks: A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear or discomfort. These feelings are often by heart palpitations, sweating, and shortness of breath. 

Phobias: Phobias are intense, irrational fears of specific objects, situations, or activities. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is a disorder, intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviors that interfere with daily life. Victims with OCD have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety or preventing a dreaded event.

Eating Disorders: Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating habits that can negatively impact physical and mental health. 

Substance Abuse: Substance abuse is a harmful use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs that causes physical, psychological, and social harm to the user. Substance abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and a range of health problems. 

Common Types of Emotional Distress Lawsuits

In civil lawsuits, there are some commonly recognized types of emotional destress cases that brought without any physical injury.

1. General Distress

General emotional distress is overall emotional suffering experienced by an injured person. It may include feelings of anguish, sorrow, or mental anguish resulting from the incident.

2. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

This is due to negligence of another person; thus, the effected person files a traditional personal injury lawsuit to seek damage for emotional pain and suffering. But if no physical injury happens but the accident causes major psychological trauma, a question comes weather you file a negligence infliction of emotional distress without physical injury? The answer is “NO”. A successful case to sue on negligence infliction of emotional distress is with a physical injury or damage to a plaintiff. 

3. Bystander / Zone of Danger Exception 

In most stats, the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim not permitted in an exception, when the plaintiff is within a zone of danger during the accident. The bystander rule applied without any physical injury if the witness or a friend get physically harmed during the accident close to plaintiff.

4. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress 

Many states recognize and allow lawsuits based on intentional infliction of emotional distress even when the plaintiff has not suffered physical harm. To establish a successful claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove the following elements:

Extreme and Outrageous Conduct: Definition of extreme and outrageous actions varies in various states. Generally, it is a defendant’s action which is more offensive, insulting, or even malicious. 

Intentional or Reckless: Intentionally causing emotional distress and actions of performing series of distress to plaintiffs lies in intentional or reckless emotional distress.

Severe Emotion Distress: The plaintiff needs to show that the level and severity of the emotional distress that they suffered was well beyond what a normal person would be expected to endure. Duration, intensity, and any physical symptoms connected to the emotional distress can be used to help establish this element.

Loss of Consortium: While not emotional distress experienced directly by the injured party, loss of consortium claims involves the emotional harm suffered by a spouse or family member due to the injuries inflicted on the injured party.

How Do You Sue for Emotional Distress?

how much can i sue my landlord for emotional distress

How Do You Sue for Emotional Distress?

If you’re considering filing a claim, you should know that each state has its own statute of limitations on when an emotional distress claim must be filed. Statutes of limitations may be as long as six years, but most states allow two to three years. In some states, such as Kentucky, you only have one year to file.

1. Hire An Emotional Distress Lawyer

It is important to find an attorney you trust and feel comfortable with. Many personal injury attorneys have some experience with emotional distress. You can also get a referral from your local bar association. Once you have found an attorney, they will guide you through the legal process of filing a claim for emotional distress.

2. Set Up a Consultation

It is recommended to talk to the attorney that will give you an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the incident and to know whether one has reason to sue. The attorney will usually begin by scheduling a first interview to obtain details of the case in question, the cause and degree of the caused emotional distress, any papers concerning the persons’ health and any financial losses incurred.

3. Document Your Emotional Distress

Give the attorney any evidence that you have for instance, receipts for medical charges, statements from witnesses, and any paperwork linking you to the emotional trauma you endured. They will then be able to assess how strong your case is and whether it is advisable to proceed with a lawsuit. As mentioned above, you have tangible symptoms to prove that you are a victim of mental suffering, which makes your case very strong.

4. Filing The Claim

File a complaint with the appropriate court, and serve the defendant with copies of the complaint and summons. The complaint will provide information about your case, your allegations in the case and the amount of money that you want to recover. Next comes the practice after the defendant has been served with the case, and the trial preparation period is initiated. 

5. Trials and Settlements in an Emotional Distress Case

However, trail will happen on a set date by the court. The attorney representing your side will present evidence to support your allegations and should seek to negate any arguments by the other party. Sometimes settlement happens, before a judge with the defendant’s legal counsel to talk out the case. An agreement take place with the defendant and his legal representatives with an aim to avoid further lengthy case proceedings. If negotiations are fruitful, the settlement agreement is provided and a release form is signed and the money for compensation is given.

If the settlement does not happen, then the next step is to prepare for trial and the case will be continue before the court. In a trial of the case, the attorney representing your side will make the arguments and submit evidential proof of the emotional distress as part of the case to be heard by the judge and jury. There comes a time that both parties have presented their respective cases and the case goes to the jury for them to make a decision or the presiding judge himself makes the decision.

Calculating Compensation for Emotional Distress

Calculating Compensation for Emotional Distress

Calculating Compensation for Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is a noneconomic damage, meaning it doesn’t come with documentation like receipts and invoices. It’s still compensable and a vital part of your injury claim. There are two types of damages you can claim noneconomical damages and economic damages. 

Noneconomical Damages

Financial recovery for pain, suffering, and other noneconomic damages includes physical pain and emotional suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, mental distress, permanent disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, loss of function. Just like with emotional distress, how much you can recover depends on your situation. 

Economic Damages

Pain, suffering, and emotional distress are just some types of damages you can include in your personal injury case’s value. You can also recover the cost of your economic losses, these financial losses include medical treatment, including treatment expenses, lost income, tips, bonuses, and benefits, property damage costs, out-of-pocket costs, including childcare costs and lawncare, compensation intends to make you “financially whole” after suffering a physical injury, whether you were hurt in an auto accident, slip and fall, or another incident.

How Much Can You Recover if You Sue for Emotional Distress?

Claims for negligent infliction of mental distress are hard and highly individual, meeting both physical and mental damages, amounting up to two to five total medical, wage, and therapy costs. These damages include out of pocket expenses and the level of distress depending on the situation incurred. Post-traumatic stress disorder liability claims range from a patient claiming $50, 000 – $100, 000, however, in most cases the element of PTSD needs a psychologist or a psychiatrist. To prove the emotional distress, the victim needs to demonstrate that the distress has affected his life, which is evidently a complicated process best handled by an attorney specializing in personal injury cases. 

Emotional Distress in Birth Injury Lawsuits

Most specially in cases of medical malpractice, particularly in cases of birth injuries, emotional distress is being acknowledged by the courts. In 2023 also the Connecticut Supreme Court granted the mother permission to sue for emotional disturbance after her son was severally injured at birth. The court supported the idea that a mother and fetus are one before birth since they are joined before birth the mother is a joint, victim of any birth-related harm; therefore, supporting the mother’s claim of their emotional distress.

Emotional Distress Verdicts and Settlements

$247,500 Settlement (New Jersey 2023): A little three-year-old girl crashed into by a car while on her tricycle, in the presence of her mother and two siblings, for which their lawsuit claimed emotional damages.

$2,417,523 Verdict (Oregon 2023): In an employment discrimination case, two plaintiffs were awarded 1.6 million for economic damage and $850, 000 for emotional distress when they were demoted for their whistle blowing for legal wrongs done. 

$3,500,000 Verdict (Virginia 2023): A 54-year-old woman claimed compensations for emotional suffering stating that her traumatic brain injury and PTSD were as a result of the truck accident.

$32,500 Verdict (North Dakota 2022): A woman brought an action for $32,500 in mental distress caused by threats and attacks by her ex-husband.

$150,000 Settlement (Idaho 2022): It involved a transgender, a member of LGBTQ community, who was let go from the job at a library after being harassed and then received a monetary award for emotional damages only.

$665,000 Verdict (Arizona 2021): A mother together with her two sons were awarded compensation for emotional distress when they demanded the child protection agency to return their son back home because of unlawful and unreasonable removal of their son for four months without any jurisdiction.

$411,459 Verdict (Georgia 2020): Plaintiff obtained damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress for false accusation of fraud.

$6,012,158 Verdict (California 2018): An employee took mental health leave from work and then sued the employer for harassment and wrongful dismissal.

$37,925 Verdict (California 2017): A woman successfully sued her ex-boyfriend for posting sexually explicit videos and photos of her on the internet after they broke up.


Emotional distress claims are generally tort and involve difficulties in measurement of both special and general damages that form part of the compensable losses. It is important to figure out your level of damage and its effects of your upcoming lawsuit according to legation of different states. In the event of a car accident, a physical or sexual assault or any other event that has caused emotional injury talk to a personal injury attorney who understands the laws governing such cases is essential.


What qualifies as emotional distress?

Emotional distress can result from accidents, injuries, harassment, discrimination, or other traumatic events, manifesting in symptoms like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

How much can I sue for emotional distress?

The amount varies based on the severity of the distress, with potential compensation ranging from two to five times the total costs of medical bills, lost wages, and therapy.

Can I sue for emotional distress without physical injury?

Yes, in some cases, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress or certain bystander situations, you can sue without a physical injury.

How do I prove emotional distress in court?

Proving emotional distress typically requires documentation, witness statements, and expert testimony from mental health professionals.

What is the statute of limitations for filing an emotional distress claim?

Statutes of limitations vary by state, typically ranging from one to six years from the date of the incident.

Do I need a lawyer to file an emotional distress claim?

While not legally required, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney greatly improves your chances of successfully navigating the legal process and obtaining fair compensation.

Can I receive compensation for emotional distress in a birth injury case?

Yes, courts increasingly recognize emotional distress in birth injury cases, allowing parents to claim compensation for the psychological impact of their child’s injuries.

I am Sher A, the person behind this idea. With education in Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree from the University of Karachi, Pakistan,, like 5 years of experience as a lawyer.

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