There are a few different kinds of damages to which someone might be entitled to a personal injury, and this compensation is intended to help them heal. Naturally, that may include covering the costs of treatment for the injury itself: the bills for hospital treatment, physical therapy, and so forth. However, injuries sustained to one’s body do not just affect physical health. An injured person’s mental health may be significantly affected, even if they were not physically hurt at all, and may require treatment as well. Here is some information to answer the question, “What exactly are emotional distress damages?”
Emotional Distress Definition
In New Jersey Statutes 2C:12-10, emotional distress is defined as “significant mental suffering or distress.” While that specific definition is simply the one used for the purposes of that specific act, this should at least give you an idea of how the term is used in New Jersey law. This definition can encompass a range of heightened emotions, including fear, anxiety, nervousness, humiliation, grief, and shock.
These claims come in two different types. Intentional infliction of emotional distress is, at the name sounds, when someone suffers severe emotional pain as a result of repeated harassment by another. A simple insult or indignity alone may not be enough on which to build a case. Duhaime’s Legal Dictionary quotes the law textbook Restatement (Second of Torts) as saying, “Liability has been found only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” New Jersey intentional infliction of emotional distress cases have cited this definition in the past.
There is also negligent infliction of emotional distress, in which emotional distress was not intended by the actions of the defendant but was still allegedly the result. The philosophy here is that people have some duty not to make people feel at risk of harm – emotional or otherwise. If someone behaves in a way that directly causes another person to feel severe enough distress, the victim could successfully file an emotional distress lawsuit against them.
Some Factors For Determining Emotional Distress Damages
The court considers a few factors when determining whether to award emotional distress damages to the plaintiff. One is how much their daily life is altered by the injury they received. If the impact is significant and life is much more difficult to deal with because of what happened, the injured party may be entitled to compensation. Examples may include someone having trouble sleeping out of paralyzing fear, or someone finding themselves unable to return to a once-frequented location after being attacked there.
Another important factor is the extent of the anguish itself. The prosecution can build a stronger case for this if they can provide testimony from psychiatrists and other experts who have spoken at length with and examined the plaintiff not long after they received the injury. Expert opinion along these lines is not the only way to prove the depth of the distress: Cuevas v. Wentworth Group established that personal testimony, and testimony from friends and family, may be sufficient. With that said, testimony from mental health professionals can go a long way in convincing a jury.
If you or a loved one have any questions regarding emotional distress damages, do not hesitate to contact the NJ personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A. today. Our law firm can assist you in receiving all the damages to which you are entitled. Whether it is for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, we fight aggressively for our clients, and we only get paid when we win the case. Call us now at (973) 358-6134 for more information and a free consultation.