Comparing Emotional Distress Vs. Pain and Suffering

Law Blog

When you speak with a personal injury attorney, there will eventually be some discussion on the topic of non-physical injuries. These break up into two classes of injuries that can sound very similar: pain and suffering and emotional distress.

For a personal injury lawyer, these are two distinct issues. However, it's worth looking at the differences between the two so you can better understand how to handle your case.

Pain and Suffering

These are injuries that arise from physical harm. If your wrist is broken, for example, and you struggle with the pain while trying to use your hand to do normal tasks, the feelings that result from that injury are considered suffering. This class of injuries also includes the immediate pain and suffering that may come at the moment you were harmed, such as the sensation of feeling your hip break when you hit a floor.

Emotional Distress

An emotional injury is generally considered to be more psychological. For example, someone involved in a car accident may experience such extreme psychological trauma that they can't bring themselves to get in a car again, let alone drive. Emotional distress covers things like anxiety, depression, or PTSD.

Typically, emotional distress has to be more than just fleeting feelings. A person must have persistent trouble that rises to the level of requiring medical care.

Distress-Centered Cases

Some states allow cases that are based on emotional distress without any physical harm involved. Suppose someone had been threatened with a weapon by a neighbor. Even if the incident didn't result in any physical harm, the claimant may have grounds for claiming what's called "intentional infliction of emotional distress." Distress can also be negligently inflicted, involving unintentional but traumatizing actions.

Documenting Pain, Suffering, and Emotional Distress

It's normal for a personal injury lawyer to ask a client to maintain a journal. The idea is to enter each day's pain, suffering, and emotional issues in the journal. Many attorneys prefer that their clients use a 1-to-10 rating system for each day, and it's common to include short notes about what was experienced each day.

Medical practitioners may also be asked to provide reports. A psychologist, for example, might explain how a traumatized client is struggling to process the events that left them injured. Similarly, pain and suffering might be demonstrated by a report from a doctor showing how particular injuries will cause pain. For example, scar tissue from burns often triggers pain long after healing is completed.

Work with a personal injury attorney to learn about your legal options.


31 March 2020

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