Can You Sue for Emotional Distress in New York? Understanding the Legal Basis

Being involved in any kind of accident can be a very traumatic experience. When we think about the consequences caused by an accident, we normally think about physical injuries. Nonetheless, many accidents can also leave victims with emotional trauma.

Fortunately, the law has evolved and now courts recognize emotional distress.

In the state of New York, it is possible to sue someone for emotional distress. Keep in mind that emotional distress lawsuits are often more complex than claims that only involve physical harm. Therefore, it is important to review your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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Understanding Emotional Distress Claims in New York

Emotional distress claims are usually not easy to navigate and they are very controversial. It is important to note that not all emotional distress claims involve physical injuries. 

What Qualifies as Emotional Distress in New York?

In New York, emotional distress generally refers to a type of harm or injury caused by the intentional or negligent conduct of another person that results in severe emotional suffering or mental anguish.

Emotional trauma can manifest in many ways.

To qualify as emotional distress under New York law, the following elements must generally be established:

  • The defendant engaged in conduct that was intentional or negligent.
  • The plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the defendant’s conduct.
  • The emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff was foreseeable by the defendant.
  • The emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff was not a normal or expected response to the defendant’s conduct.

What Are the Symptoms of Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress can manifest in a variety of ways, and the symptoms can vary from person to person.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety: feelings of worry, nervousness, and apprehension that can be mild or severe.
  • Depression: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in once enjoyable activities.
  • Mood swings: sudden and extreme changes in mood, such as feeling very happy one moment and very sad the next.
  • Insomnia: difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up frequently during the night.
  • Fatigue: unusual tiredness even if the person had enough sleep.
  • Irritability: feeling easily annoyed, frustrated, or angered.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.
  • Physical symptoms: headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, and other physical symptoms that are not caused by a physical illness.
  • Social withdrawal: avoiding social situations, feeling isolated or disconnected from others.
  • Suicidal thoughts: thoughts of ending one’s life, feeling hopeless or helpless.
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What is Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York?

Infliction of emotional distress, also known as intentional infliction of emotional distress, is a legal claim that allows a person to recover damages for severe emotional harm caused by the intentional or reckless conduct of another person.

To be able to recover compensation for intentional infliction of emotional distress the plaintiff must prove that the conduct of the defendant was extreme and outrageous. This means that it must go beyond what is normally considered acceptable behavior in society.

Examples of extreme and outrageous conduct may include threats of physical harm, extreme bullying, sexual harassment, racial insults, and intentional infliction of physical harm.

What is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in NY?

Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) is a legal claim that allows a person to recover damages for emotional harm caused by someone else’s negligent conduct.

The plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant had a duty to act reasonably to avoid causing emotional harm to the plaintiff but their carelessness led to an incident that left the plaintiff with emotional trauma.

Most negligent infliction of emotional distress cases includes some kind of physical injury. For example, car accidents can leave the plaintiff with physical injuries as well as emotional trauma.

Nevertheless, it is possible that a NIED claim does not involve any kind of physical injury. 

For example, suppose that a therapist accidentally sends an email containing sensitive personal information about their patient to the wrong person. As a result, the patient suffers severe emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, and embarrassment.

In this case, the therapist had a duty to protect the patient’s confidentiality, and their failure to do so was negligent. The patient suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the therapist’s negligence, and the emotional distress was not a normal or expected response to the disclosure of confidential information.

Therefore, the patient may be able to bring a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress against the therapist.

Defenses to Emotional Distress Claims

Winning an emotional distress case is not simple. There must be solid evidence that can prove that the defendant somehow caused severe emotional trauma to the plaintiff.

Naturally, the defendant’s attorney will do everything they can to prove that their client is innocent. Therefore, the evidence shown by the plaintiff and their attorney must be contundent. 

What Qualifies for Emotional Distress Evidence in a Lawsuit?

To qualify as evidence of emotional distress in a lawsuit, the evidence must be relevant and admissible under the rules of evidence in the jurisdiction where the case is being heard.

Generally, the following types of evidence may be used to support a claim of emotional distress:

  • Medical records and expert testimony: The medical documents that record the plaintiff’s therapy for mental anguish can serve as proof in a legal case, just as the testimony of mental health experts who have provided treatment to the plaintiff can be used as evidence.
  • Witness testimony: Witnesses who observed the plaintiff’s emotional distress, such as family members or friends, can provide testimony to support the plaintiff’s claims.
  • Psychological evaluations: A psychological evaluation can be used to diagnose the plaintiff’s emotional distress and provide evidence of the severity of the distress.
  • Personal journal or diary entries: If the plaintiff has documented their emotional distress in a personal journal or diary, these entries may be admissible as evidence in a lawsuit.
  • Photographs or video recordings: Photographs or video recordings of the plaintiff’s physical manifestations of emotional distress, such as crying or shaking, may be admissible as evidence.
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What Compensation Can I Recover for Infliction of Emotional Distress?

The amount of compensation you can recover for emotional distress will depend on a variety of factors, including the severity of your distress, the impact it has had on your life, and the extent of your financial losses.

It’s important to work with an experienced Personal Injury attorney who can help you evaluate your case, determine your damages, and advocate for your rights throughout the legal process.

The Importance of Working with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Emotional distress cases are exceptionally intricate.

To be able to recover fair compensation for emotional trauma, you must have as much evidence as possible and it must be relevant. Additionally, accurately estimating the worth of emotional distress cases is not easy.

Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can improve your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.

Greenberg & Stein P.C. is a prestigious personal injury law firm in New York with very experienced attorneys. Our legal team will go above and beyond to make sure you are fairly compensated. Contact us at 888-716-3843 to schedule a free consultation to review your case.