Suing for Emotional Distress in Missouri: What to Know

Personal injury accidents often result in visible physical injuries like broken bones or lacerations. However, they can also leave behind emotional scars that are just as debilitating. After an accident, victims may experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that interfere with daily activities and negatively impact their quality of life.

Recognizing the effect of these psychological injuries, Missouri law allows victims to seek compensation for emotional distress as part of a personal injury claim.

Knowing your rights regarding damages for emotional distress and working with our Missouri car accident lawyers at Cofman Townsley can help you secure a settlement compensating you for the mental anguish caused by a crash.

Understanding Emotional Distress

Emotional distress refers to the significant mental suffering a victim endures as a result of a personal injury incident, such as a car crash, dog bite, or slip and fall. This distress manifests in various forms, deeply impacting an individual’s daily life and emotional well-being. Here’s what it can include:

  • Anxiety: Heightened feelings of fear and worry about future uncertainties or potential health consequences due to the accident—for example, paralyzing anxiety about riding in a vehicle
  • Depression: Persistent sadness, loss of interest in life, and withdrawal from social activities
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the accident that persist long after the event has occurred, suffered by up to 58% of crash survivors
  • Insomnia: Trouble sleeping or nightmares related to the accident, leading to chronic sleep deprivation
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: A diminished capacity to enjoy previously pleasurable activities, often due to physical limitations or emotional distress caused by the accident

When Can I Sue for Emotional Distress?

Typically, you can sue for emotional distress as part of a personal injury claim or lawsuit. This usually applies in cases where there was negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or witnessing of a traumatic event. The following breaks down these legal circumstances and what you need to prove to win damages:

Legal RequirementDescriptionWhat to Prove
NegligenceNegligence refers to the failure to act with the care that a reasonable person would, leading to unintended harm to others.   Example: A distracted driver runs a red light, crashing into your car. This leaves you with extreme anxiety that prevents you from driving or riding in a vehicle in the future.The defendant owed you a duty of care.The defendant breached that duty. The breach caused your emotional distress.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional DistressThis occurs when someone deliberately or recklessly engages in extreme behavior that causes severe emotional distress to another.   Example: An aggressive driver intentionally swerves into your lane, trying to run you off the road. This results in a serious crash, leaving you with PTSD.The defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous.The conduct was intended to cause emotional distress.The conduct caused severe emotional harm.
Witnessing a Traumatic EventThis covers individuals who suffer emotional distress by directly witnessing a traumatic event.   Example: You witness your spouse being critically injured in a head-on collision, which results in long-term psychological distress.You witnessed a traumatic event involving a family member.You were present at the scene of the event; as a result, you experience debilitating emotional distress.The distress results from witnessing the event.

Documenting Your Distress

In a personal injury lawsuit, in addition to economic damages, you can also seek compensation for emotional distress. Emotional distress differs from physical losses as it is subjective and necessitates thorough documentation to support your claim. The following measures can be taken to illustrate the emotional consequences of the accident:

  • Keep a detailed journal. Record your daily feelings, symptoms of distress, and how the accident impacts your life.
  • Obtain professional evaluations. Seek assessments from psychologists or psychiatrists who can provide expert opinions on your emotional state.
  • Gather witness statements. Friends, family, or coworkers can provide statements about changes in your behavior or emotional state since the accident.
  • Compile evidence of lifestyle changes. Document any activities or hobbies you can no longer enjoy due to your emotional distress.
  • Secure employment records. If emotional distress has impacted your ability to work, include documentation from your employer or evidence of sick leave taken.

Get a Fair Settlement With Cofman Townsley

At Cofman Townsley, we’ve been helping injured victims get fair compensation for over 50 years. If you’ve suffered emotional distress at the hands of another’s negligence, our skilled personal injury attorneys can get you the settlement you deserve.

We can assess the full extent of your damages, including psychological and emotional suffering, and negotiate for compensation to help you rebuild your life. Contact us today for a free consultation, where we can review your case and provide guidance on your next steps.