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Questions about Emotional Distress Laws

What is emotional distress? Can I sue someone for verbal and emotional abuse?

There is a civil action known as intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). As the name suggests it allows you to sue another party for outrageous behavior intended to inflict extreme mental stress. The injured party would need to prove all related damages, which may include medical costs, any therapy or associated psychiatric hospital costs, and any related physical injury which needs therapy. Without these types of damages there would be little to assess and it may be futile to file a suit. The proof required for an IIED lawsuit would be:
  • Defendant directed their conduct towards the Plaintiff;
  • The conduct meted out was intentional and extreme enough to affect the Plaintiff;
  • The behavior was offensive by normal community standards;
  • Due to this action the Plaintiff faced extreme mental anguish; and
  • The claimant had to suffered damages due to this conduct.

A postal employee insensitively yelled about my domestic violence issue while delivering my mail. Can I sue him/her for emotional distress?

it is possible you can sue this person for negligently causing emotional distress. Physical manifestation of distress needs to be proved as a result of this trauma. If you have had a need to undergo additional sessions with your therapist, this could also prove emotional distress. If there were witnesses to this incident in which other people heard what was said, you can sue for invasion of privacy as well. A personal injury lawyer would be able to help you go about this in the correct manner.

My pet cat was killed by my neighbor’s dog which escaped through a broken fence. I got bitten by my cat during this incident. I had to undergo medical treatment for this. What can I do?

You may be able to sue for negligence on the part of your neighbor for not maintaining a secure fence that would have kept the dog at bay. You may be entitled to the amount of medical expenses that you incurred due to this incident irrespective of you having healthcare insurance. You are also eligible to receive a reasonable value for the pet you have lost. However, in this case, negligent infliction of emotional distress is not applicable since the law does not extend to animals. If the victim was a human being, then there could have been a case of “bystander” negligence. There is scope for a new law to be created for pets. But for an attorney to take a case like this, it would be if you have suffered too much mental trauma which involved professional intervention to deal with your emotional suffering.

What type of lawyer should I use if I have been emotionally distressed by my ex who has also intentionally damaged my house which was on sale, thereby reducing its sale value?

Usually a personal injury lawyer would handle an emotional distress case but a general civil litigator can handle both cases, including the damage to the property. An attorney practicing general civil litigation should be able to look into the merit of an emotional distress claim and a property damage claim as they would have knowledge and expertise in both.

If a doctor delays a diagnosis of fetal anomaly for three weeks though it does not change the outcome, can you sue for emotional distress while waiting for the results?

The key in this type of scenario is to determine whether the physician could have discovered the anomaly at the beginning of the anomaly and whether the earlier discovery would have enabled the patient to avoid emotional trauma. Several other doctors or specialists from the same field will need to review the medical records to confirm if the doctor failed to act in a timely fashion as per the state and community standards. You should retain all the records for legal purposes.

Everyone goes through emotional ups and downs. Sometimes the distress can be severe and extreme, when it is caused intentionally, and in if such a scenario you may require medical attention as well as psychiatric help, the law addresses such situations and may help you claim financial damages caused by this distress.
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