sue for pain and suffering and emotional distressIn the state of Washington, you can sue for pain and suffering and emotional distress if you’re involved in a car accident.

Economic and Non- Economic Damages

In a personal injury claim, plaintiffs are entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:

  • Property damage
  • Medical costs
  • Lost time from work
  • Loss of work

In other words, economic damages are verifiable objective losses that an individual has suffered as a result of another person’s negligence. This is the same for traffic accidents as it is for anything else.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are subjective losses that also occur as a result of another person’s negligence. Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Inability to do household chores
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of society

Pain and suffering can include anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression as a result of not being able to enjoy the things you once enjoyed.

What is Emotional Distress?

In general, emotional distress is a category of psychological or mental disturbances caused by another’s negligent or intentional conduct. Typically, emotional distress is a broad term that describes things like:

  • Fright and shock sustained during the occurrence;
  • Anxiety;
  • Worry;
  • Apprehension;
  • Terror;
  • Nervousness;
  • Grief;
  • Loss of peace of mind, happiness, mental health; and
  • Humiliation and embarrassment.

In addition, the Washington Supreme Court specifically identified the following symptoms as evidence of emotional distress:

  • Nightmares;
  • Sleep disorders;
  • Intrusive memories; and
  • Fear and anger.

When Should I Sue for Emotional Distress?

Do you Have a Claim for Emotional Distress?

When considering whether to sue for emotional distress, you should first evaluate whether your claim would succeed. Emotional distress actions fall into two categories: intentional and negligent. Consider whether your claim would meet the requirements of either cause of action.

Which Cause of Action Should you Pursue?

First, consider whether your symptoms constitute a diagnosable disorder. If the answer is yes, you could pursue a claim under either theory.

If your symptoms do not constitute a diagnosable disorder, your claim likely will succeed only under an intentional infliction of emotional distress action.

You may have a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress if another person’s intentional or reckless actions caused your distress.

Under an intentional theory, your symptoms do not need to amount to a diagnosable disorder. You will be required to show, however, that the conduct was extreme or outrageous and that the person acted intentionally or recklessly.

Success Under Either Theory

Additionally, you need to establish that your distress is severe and that it was caused by the conduct of the other person.

Physical symptoms of your distress are not necessarily required but such manifestations are extremely helpful in proving your claim.

Amount of Recovery

Consider the potential damages you could recover if your claim succeeds. If your losses are unsubstantial, the claim may be worth less than the costs of pursuing it in court.

If the court costs and attorney fees will likely exceed your recovery, consider bringing a different claim. You may be able to attach emotional distress as an element of damages for that claim.

When to Bring Your Claim

Washington’s statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is three years from the date of the injury. If you wish to sue for emotional distress, be sure to file the claim before the three-year statute of limitations period passes. Otherwise, you will be barred from seeking recovery for your injuries.

Proving Non-Economic Damages

Economic damages can take various forms. For instance, if you were in a car accident that resulted in severe chronic pain to your knee, this would be something you can collect on. In addition, you would also be entitled to collect on the fact that you are no longer able to play your favorite sport because of the injury. In this case, you would simply need a doctor’s report outlining the extent of the damage and the cause of the pain.

In some instances, an individual may lose the use of their legs entirely. As a result, they need both chronic care, and can no longer do the things they once enjoyed. One of those things is sex. This person would be entitled to damages under loss of consortium.

Each of these losses is calculated differently. For instance, pain and suffering can either be temporary or permanent. There may be different degrees of pain and suffering. In each instance, the plaintiff will need to prove that pain and suffering occurred, how long it occurred, and what it was.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

Insurance companies will not help you receive any of these damages. For that, you need a skilled car accident attorney.

Give us a call or contact us online and we’ll ensure you get every penny that you’re owed.


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