Calculating compensation for emotional distress

By Member Lawyer

Calculating compensation for emotional distress


Most states, including Alabama, recognize economic, non-economic, and punitive damages in personal injury cases. Emotional distress falls in the non-economic category. 

Calculating economic damages when the plaintiff was injured because of the defendant’s negligence is straightforward. Such damages may consist of medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Calculating emotional distress damages is more complicated. 


What factors matter in compensation for emotional distress cases?


A person injured due to another party’s negligence may file a lawsuit and receive damages for pain and suffering. Pain refers to the physical aspects of the injury, while suffering includes mental anguish. Emotional distress is part of mental anguish. 


Future distress


How your life has been affected in the aftermath of the accident is one of the crucial factors determining compensation for emotional distress. Perhaps you can no longer sleep or have developed other issues due to worry and anxiety. Or you fear for your health, future employment, and how you can provide for your family.


Loss of independence 


Many accidents result in long-term or permanent disability. Such impairment often plays a large role in emotional distress consideration. The plaintiff may suffer humiliation and embarrassment because they can no longer use the bathroom independently or have someone else help them perform the simplest daily activities, such as bathing. On the other hand, an injury that results in memory loss can make day-to-day tasks difficult. These effects play a role in the emotional distress a victim endures. 


Mental anguish


When an accident results in disfigurement, the emotional distress often outweighs any physical pain. The plaintiff may suffer humiliation and embarrassment due to their changed appearance. They may avoid activities they once enjoyed. They fear how they are regarded in the future in terms of employment or social functions. Even a minor facial scar can result in severe mental anguish.


Emotional distress types


Emotional distress is an umbrella term that encompasses several side effects. Common types of emotional distress include:

  • General anxiety after trauma
  • Depression due to physical injuries
  • Despair
  • Driving anxiety
  • Embarrassment
  • Humiliation
  • Inability to work leading to financial stress
  • Mood swings
  • Terror

How to calculate emotional distress damages


In Alabama, there is no fixed amount for particular types of emotional distress. Each claim depends on its own merits and unique circumstances. The value of an emotional distress claim is not calculated by adding up a series of numbers, as with economic damages. Rather, the compensation for emotional distress is related to how the injury impacted your personal and work life. 

Because emotional distress damages are difficult to quantify, keeping frequent notes for your attorney is critical. Your attorney will recommend writing down, in detail, how you are feeling each day.

To paint a complete picture of your emotional distress:

  • Record levels of anxiety, including fears revolving around finances if you cannot work due to the accident. 
  • Note whether you feel low, moderate or high emotional distress levels at a particular time. 
  • If a traumatic flashback occurs, make sure to include it in the journal. Your notes will assist your attorney when attempting to settle your case or preparing you for deposition or courtroom testimony. 

Even further, you may find the anxiety worsens at night or when something reminds you of the trauma endured. If the anxiety is preventing you from sleeping, write that down. Include the frequency and timing of emotional distress each day.

If you were injured in a car accident, perhaps the idea of traveling in an automobile makes you feel anxious or panicked. That may also affect your ability to hold a job or care for your loved ones. These effects and more will play a role in calculating emotional distress damages.


Why tracking your emotional pain is essential


It takes discipline to keep track of such emotional pain every day, but without such documentation, proving emotional distress becomes much harder.

When life is in a tailspin, the last thing someone may want to do is keep a careful record of how bad they feel. However, it is necessary and may even prove cathartic to some degree. There are better odds of receiving emotional distress compensation the more accurate and thorough the information presented to an insurance adjuster or a jury.

It is also important to seek psychological help for your emotional distress. Your mental health appointments are part of the record presented to the insurance carrier or at trial. Your attorney may have mental health experts testify at trial, so the jury can better understand your emotional and psychological injuries.


Find out how much compensation your emotional distress case calls for


A personal injury lawyer can help you receive the maximum compensation for your emotional distress case. After an accident, you should always consult with a personal injury law firm, such as Warren & Simpson, P.C. , so you can receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries, both physical and emotional. Your compensation should also enable you to receive ongoing mental health counseling.


Trevor Neely
Author: Trevor Neely

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