What Constitutes Emotional Distress?

13 April

In a personal injury claim, it is sometimes possible to collect damages for infliction of emotional distress as a component of recovery. And while these awards are not uncommon, the keyword here is sometimes, since what constitutes emotional distress from a legal standpoint may be at odds with what the average person considers to be emotional distress. Emotional distress in Hawaii is an independent tort claim that arises when a defendant causes distress to the plaintiff, and that emotional distress manifests in a physical injury. We sometimes see this claim in medical malpractice lawsuits.

If you or someone you love has experienced emotional distress due to the actions of a medical professional, contact Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A. to speak to our experienced medical malpractice attorney in Hawaii now.

Threshold for Recovery of Emotional Distress Damages

The threshold to recover damages due to emotional distress is quite high and generally hard to meet. In civil court, emotional distress is loosely defined as “highly unpleasant” mental reactions to an event. These may include reactions such as shock, worry, grief, fright, mortification, nervousness, and humiliation in addition to physical pain. In the state of Hawaii, when a plaintiff alleges infliction of emotional distress, it must be demonstrated that there was a physical manifestation of emotional harm.

What Emotional Stress Is Not

The courts have found that liability for emotional distress does not extend to mere indignities, petty oppressions, threats or other trivialities. The courts are not expected to intervene for a case of hurt feelings. In other words, suffering emotional hurt or momentary shock does not constitute emotional distress to the level where someone should pay damages as a result. It is expected in our society to deal with certain levels of offensiveness and rudeness. The actions causing the stress must be truly reprehensible.

“Outrageous Behavior”

Behavior that is considered outrageous and that may be seen as actionable in civil court when seeking damages for emotional distress include cases where the defendant acts with extreme or outrageous conduct. This is the type of conduct that goes beyond offensive, harmful or malicious.

Emotional Distress Damages

The role of damages for emotional distress in a personal injury case is to compensate the plaintiff for the psychological impact the injury has brought to the plaintiff’s daily life. Emotional distress can manifest as sleep loss and insomnia, fear, anxiety, panic and depression, and other types of neuroses or phobia. The damage is subjective and varies between plaintiffs, but in general, must be ongoing and affect the plaintiff’s day-to-day life.

Documenting Your Emotional Distress

Because there is a high benchmark for proving intentional infliction of emotional distress, it is important to document your case thoroughly. Speak with your doctor about any psychological problems you are having post-incident and keep a daily journal to make a record of your feelings. Seek out professional psychiatric help if you feel that you need it.

We Can Help

We know how very real emotional stress can be for our injured clients. We can help you stand up to the at-fault party in your case and seek the damages to which you are entitled. Contact Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A. to speak to our Hawaii medical malpractice attorney now at 808-800-2445.

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While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please contact us.

1003 Bishop Street, Suite 1600
Pauahi Tower
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

808-800-2445 305-444-3503

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