Why is emotional distress important to the legal system? 13 Answers as of June 13, 2013

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Lapin Law Offices
Lapin Law Offices | Jeffrey Lapin
This is a very broad question with a number of different answers depending on what part of the legal system you are referencing. For personal injury and other "injury" cases, which is the area of law I handle, "emotional distress" can either (1) be a part of a person's "damages" stemming from an accident/incident or (2) a separate claim against someone for inflicting emotional distress. Basically, people are entitled to money for the emotional distress caused by another person, company or entity. As a part of a person's damages stemming from an accident/ incident rather than using "emotional distress" the phrase "mental suffering" is more commonly used. A person is entitled to money for their "mental suffering" for their injuries. In some cases, the amount of money a person gets for their pain and "mental suffering" is usually what a person and the insurance company fight about the most and may cause a lawsuits to be filed because the two sides cannot agree on this amount. There are separate claims for inflicting "emotional distress" on another person. A couple of types of these claims include "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and "negligent infliction of emotional distress." While both involve "emotional distress" the requirements to prove these two types of claim are different. Emotional distress also plays a factor in other types of injury cases as well.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 11/27/2012
Law Office of Melvin Franke | Melvin Franke
Because people suffer emotional pain.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 6/13/2013
Lombardi Law Firm
Lombardi Law Firm | Steve Lombardi
Emotional distress is not "important to the legal system". It's just one element of damages involved in some cases. From a practical standpoint it's the way attorney fees get paid while allowing the injured person to be made almost whole.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 11/9/2012
Law Office of Christian F. Paul
Law Office of Christian F. Paul | Christian F. Paul
It's important because it is a genuine injury, just like a broken bone or a concussion or a lacerationit is just harder to detect and prove. The law says that if someone harms you through negligence or an intentional act, that person should compensate you for the harm.? You knowbe responsible to make up for the wrong done, which we call a tort.? Maybe someone crashes into your car, or knocks you down a flight of stairs, or scares the bejesus out of you with death threats.? Those things harm you. The law says that your harm is to be taken care of by payment of damages (always with the "s" on the end), compensation in money.? Of course, you can't make up for a concussion by giving the other person a concussion, but you can get your medical bills and medicine paid, and your lost work, maybe even permanent damage to your cognitive or physical functioning.? And anything else actually caused by the tort, including emotional distress, ED. Now, just because it's not easy to figure out whether you had ED, or how bad it was, or how much it would take to make up for it, is no reason not to include it as harm payable in damages.? That's what juries are for.? They look at the evidence what happened to you, how you reacted, what you say about it, maybe what your therapist or physician says about treating you for it, what others say was the effect on you whatever.? Then they decide how much, if anything, to give you for that, same as for every other kind of harm. Hope this answered your question.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/9/2012
WEISSMAN LAW FIRM | I.Donald Weissman
Emotional distress (non economic damages) are important to an injury claim as compensation for non physical injuries sustained. A broken arm may heal. A back problem hopefully resolves but emotional distress (e.g., anxiety, pain & suffering, fear, insomnia, trouble sleeping, depression, stress, etc.) does not always go away and often lasts as long as the physical injury and usually longer. The law provides for compensation to be made whole as if the accident did not happen. It equates to dollars, for we cannot undo the damage caused by an accident or event.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/9/2012
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    Emotional distress is an element of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury case.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 11/9/2012
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    No more or less important than other elements of damage. your emotional stability can be damaged just like your physical body sand if proved on proper evidence (medical) is a basis for money damages just like a broken arm.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 11/8/2012
    Adler Law Group, LLC
    Adler Law Group, LLC | Lawrence Adler
    That question cant be answered simply. It is a component of the damages if suffered that can be compensated for.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 11/8/2012
    Dwyer, Black & Lyle, LLP
    Dwyer, Black & Lyle, LLP | Kevin Habberfield
    Because it can be much more debilitating than physical injuries. Because people shouldn't have to suffer from it because someone else did something stupid or short changed the public to make a few $$$. Because when it happens to you or someone you love......your opinion of it will completely change. Good question though.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 11/8/2012
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm | Thomas Bulman
    A jury can award money to punish people or corporations that hurt innocent people. The circumstances must be provable and extreme.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 11/8/2012
    Blaske & Blaske, P.L.C.
    Blaske & Blaske, P.L.C. | John F. Turck IV
    It's important to the legal system because it's important to people. In other word, the law recognizes all sorts of injuries: financial, personal property, physical, psychological, mental, emotional, and probably many others. One can be injured in lots of different ways, including emotionally. That someone suffered emotionally makes it no less real of an injury than if someone suffered, for example, a broken arm or a totaled car.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 11/8/2012
    Garruto & Calabria, LLC
    Garruto & Calabria, LLC | Andrew F. Garruto
    Your question implies that you're not happy with someone making such a claim for some reason, I presume you caused an injury to someone and this injury is included in the claim against you. I'm not sure what you mean by your use of the term 'legal system' but the courts in general are merely concerned to move cases efficiently and fairly, with a universal set of rules/procedures. The laws that apply to cases apply equally to everyone. as for emotional distress, the following is the NJ law that Judges instruct juries about before a jury deliberates in a case where someone alleges emotional distress after witnesses a serious injury to a family member: NEGLIGENCE - EMOTIONAL DISTRESS FROM WITNESSING SERIOUS INJURY TO AN INTIMATE FAMILY MEMBER. In this case, plaintiff seeks to recover against the defendant on his/her own behalf, contending that defendant's negligence caused the plaintiff severe emotional and mental distress as a result of observing the injury to [victim's name] for which injury plaintiff contends the defendant's negligence was responsible. You should understand that if you have found in accordance with my previous instructions that the injury to (victim's name) was not a result of defendant's negligence, then the plaintiff who witnessed the injury cannot recover damages from the defendant for emotional distress. You the jury, must determine, whether the injury to (victim's name) was caused by the negligence of the defendant. If you find that the injury was not a result of defendant's negligence, then the plaintiff who witnessed the injury cannot recover damages from the defendant for emotional distress. These are the criteria by which you are to determine whether the defendant was negligent for causing injury to (victim's name): If you have determined that [victim's name]'s injury was caused by the negligence of the defendant, then you must consider whether the plaintiff has proven the following elements by a fair preponderance of the evidence. 1. That the defendant's negligence (fault) caused serious bodily injury (or death) to (victim's name). 2. That plaintiff in fact witnessed the accident or event which caused serious bodily-injury (or death) to (victim's name). 3. That plaintiff experienced severe emotional distress as a result of the observation of the accident or event. If plaintiff has proven each of these elements by a fair preponderance of the evidence then the defendant is liable to the plaintiff for money damages resulting from the infliction of emotional distress. You must then set an amount of money damages which will compensate plaintiff for the mental and emotional anguish, distress and harm suffered by plaintiff.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 11/8/2012
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    It is an element of damages.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 11/8/2012
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