6 Ways To Prove Emotional Distress In A Personal Injury Case

When injuries are physical and can be seen with the naked eye, proving their existence—and how they negatively impact your life—isn't all that difficult. But when you're suffering from emotional distress or mental anguish, seeking compensation can be a little more challenging. If you've been injured and have suffered from anxiety, depression, frustration, bitterness, or even guilt, these symptoms should not be dismissed, especially if the accident was a direct cause of your suffering. Here are six different ways your attorney can try to prove emotional distress in your personal injury case.

Primary Cause

One of the first things the court will look at when examining a case for emotional distress is the underlying cause of your mental anguish. For example, suppose you were attacked by a dog while walking through your neighborhood. You suffered physical injuries from bite wounds and also fell and broke your arm. You may claim that since the attack you've have nightmares of the dog finding you and biting you again, and as a result, you can't sleep. The court may want evidence that you haven't always been afraid of dogs. This usually entails looking at your medical records and history.


Some victims may not know right away that their injuries go beyond the physical. They will try to pick up the pieces and move on, hoping that "time heals all wounds." But as the weeks and months pass, they find that they're not recovering the way they had hoped. In fact, they feel traumatized by the events surrounding the accident.

If you've been experiencing emotional distress for a long period of time following the accident, this will help prove your case. In other words, proving emotional distress one year after an injury is more likely to show that recovery has been challenging rather than attempting to prove it one month following an accident.


The intensity with which you suffer will undoubtedly come up in your case. So someone who has trouble sleeping, cannot focus at work, has lost the ability to drive, and has lost weight because they can't eat will stand a better chance of winning than someone who just suffers the occasional panic attack once a week.

Physical Signs

If your emotional distress manifests itself in physical symptoms, your lawyer will definitely use this information to help your case. Physical signs include stomach ulcers, headaches, weight loss or gain, cessation of menstrual cycle, diarrhea or constipation, and chronic pain. These are things that can be examined and measured by a physician, showing a direct link between your mental and physical health.

Physician Support

If your doctor or therapist can write a note saying you've been suffering since the accident, this will go a long way in supporting your claim. Most victims have had multiple visits to their doctor or psychologist in order to seek treatment and get help for their symptoms, so medical records will often be used. But a personal letter from your physician can carry more weight in the courtroom.

Negligence vs Intent

In cases involving negligence, no one intended for you to get hurt. You were injured as a result of carelessness. These are common in auto accidents and slip and fall cases. However, there are situations in which illegal acts are committed on purpose in order to injure, intimidate, or to right a perceived wrong. Examples include assault and battery, false imprisonment (like detaining an innocent suspect), and trespassing.

If your injuries are the result of someone else's intention to hurt you, as opposed to negligence, you may not need to have any physical injuries at all in order to prove emotional distress. Contact a lawyer from a place like Hoffman, Hamer & Associates, PLLC for more information.