Is Emotional Distress Considered a Personal Injury?

Post by: Eric Jones | Posted Date: April 5th, 2017 | Categories: Columbus Personal Injury Lawyer


Many plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits seek compensatory damages for emotional distress. Sometimes, as with harassment cases, intentional infliction of emotional distress is a plaintiff’s primary claim. But as a matter of law, emotional suffering is not an injury. Technically, it is a tort, which means harm. And when a person suffers a harm caused by someone else, they have legal rights to seek monetary compensation and damages.

Consulting with a personal injury attorney in Columbus, Ohio, will help you understand how emotional distress may factor into an insurance claim or lawsuit you want to pursue. Here, personal injury lawyers with the Jones Law Group answer a few basic questions on the subject.

How is ’emotional distress’ defined?

In simplest terms, emotional distress is the suffering part of “pain and suffering,” It also goes by the names of mental distress and mental suffering. Recognized forms of emotional distress as a tort range from humiliation to depression, social withdrawal, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ohio law classifies emotional distress as a noneconomic loss. Other noneconomic losses listed in section 2315.18 of the state code are “loss of society, consortium, companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, or education.” Translated from the statutory language, “society, consortium, and companionship” principally mean friendship and sex within a marriage. “Counsel” through “education” usually relate to a parent-child relationship.

What makes emotional distress noneconomic is that it has no fixed dollar value. Unlike the economic losses of medical bills and lost wages, feeling fearful or sinking into mental illness cannot be exactly quantified. To again quote the Ohio statute, emotional distress is “intangible.”

What counts as proof of suffering emotional distress?

To merit compensation, emotional distress must result from a negligent, reckless, or intentional action by another person or organization. Car crashes, sexual harassment, and physical assaults often give rise to claims for emotional distress. So do instances of fraud, invasion of privacy, and nursing home abuse and neglect.

Diagnoses from mental health care providers, treatment records from therapists, and testimony from friends, co-workers, and family members can all constitute proof of emotional distress. Convincing an insurance company, judge, or jury that damages are due for such documented suffering, though, also requires showing that the emotional distress resulted from a specific incident. Proving that a physical injury or death also resulted may not be necessary.

How much can a plaintiff recover for emotional distress in Ohio?

Ohio caps most awards for noneconomic losses at the higher of either $250,000 or three times the total award for economic losses. That is, a person who receives $50,000 in economic compensation and damages could theoretically also receive $150,000 in noneconomic compensation and damages. Another person receiving $100,000 for economic losses, however, would be limited to no more than $250,000 for noneconomic losses.

Individuals who suffer a permanent disfigurement or a permanent disability can legally seek noneconomic damages in excess of the cap.

You can learn more about emotional distress claims by scheduling a free consultation with an Ohio personal injury lawyer with the Jones Law Group. Call us at (614) 545-9998 or reach out to us online.



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