Ewing Law Group, PC

Ewing Law Group, PC

Is Emotional Distress Considered Personal Injury in California?

Ewing Law Group, PC

April 15, 2024

Being a victim of or witnessing a tragic or distressing event can leave a person with scars that go beyond what the eye can see. Sometimes, these types of injuries can far outlast the physical ones. It has often been asked, “Is emotional distress considered personal injury in California?”

The state of California recognizes that emotional distress is a relevant and important thing to be considered in cases of crime and disaster. However, receiving the appropriate compensation for emotional damages can be tricky, which is why it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced Sacramento personal injury attorney.

How Does California Define Emotional Distress?

The term emotional distress can have a broad meaning when used in legal terms. For this reason, the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions has defined this term to include, shock, nervousness, anxiety, grief, suffering, worry, shame, anguish, fright, humiliation, and horror. If your experience can be described by any of these examples, there is a possibility that you can receive compensation for that.

Is emotional distress considered personal injury in California?

How Do I Claim Emotional Distress?

In order to claim emotional distress, you must prove the distress that you are experiencing. Medical records, police records, and eyewitness testimony can be helpful evidence. It must also be proven that the defendant’s actions were outrageous and caused more grievous harm than annoyance or hurt feelings would.

Inflicting intentional emotional distress is when an individual’s actions were reckless, and the defendant knew that what they were doing would almost certainly bring harm. The defendant could also be found responsible for emotional distress through negligence but without intent. Claiming emotional distress is possible by showing that you suffered emotionally as a result of one of these two conditions.

Cases Where Emotional Distress Compensation May Be Awarded

Although each case is personal and different, some common cases in which compensation for emotional distress may be awarded include:

  • Sexual assault or sexual abuse. In cases of sexual trauma, victims or witnesses sometimes spend years recovering mentally from the treatment they endured or saw. In such cases, emotional distress compensation may be given in order to atone for the time that will be spent recovering. This can also involve domestic violence.
  • Driving under the influence, especially in cases of tragic injury or loss of life.
  • Instances in which a harmful product was knowingly made and/or distributed.
  • Assault resulting in intense physical harm.

These are only a few examples of common cases in which someone may receive compensation for emotional distress. This is not an exhaustive list, and if you believe you may be entitled to emotional distress compensation as the result of another form of crime, it is important to speak with a personal injury attorney.

What Type of Compensation Can I Get?

Compensation is generally divided into punitive or compensatory damages.

  • Compensatory damages are rewarded to compensate you for something that you lost. This category can include medical bills and the cost of your recovery, lost wages due to your mental state, and pain and suffering costs that can be calculated by an attorney and then potentially negotiated.
  • Punitive damages refer to punishing the person who caused the damages. In order for these to be awarded, it must be proven that the defendant purposefully caused distress or they were negligent in causing the distress.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You

Personal injury lawyers are often equipped to handle a variety of types of cases. For cases concerning emotional distress, their focus is on tort law, which is the area of law dedicated to harm caused by wrongful action. An attorney may be able to help you prove your need for compensation by gathering evidence such as medical files and reports, witness statements from the incident, and information from mental health medical professionals who may shed light on your particular condition.

In addition to helping you get the compensation you deserve, an attorney will also be able to help you navigate the complex legal waters of going to court and completing necessary paperwork. They can help you understand what your rights are and what courses of action you are entitled to take. Sometimes an attorney can even work with the defendant’s team to settle a case before it reaches the courtroom.


Q: Does Emotional Distress Fall Under Personal Injury?

A: Emotional distress does fall under the category of personal injury. In any situation where physical harm is inflicted or witnessed, there is a chance that emotional and mental injury has occurred as well. If you can prove liability for the cause of the damage, you may receive compensation.

Q: Can You Sue for Emotional Distress in California?

A: You can sue for emotional distress in California. If you have suffered emotional damage due to the actions of someone else, you can start a claim for compensation. The courts in California officially recognize the seriousness of emotional distress in cases of intentional or negligent infliction. It is wise to enlist the support of a personal injury attorney to help you prove the necessary elements in an emotional distress claim.

Q: How Are Emotional Distress Damages Calculated in California?

A: In California, emotional distress damages are not calculated by any specific standard of measurement. In order to determine emotional distress damages, the court will look at other factors within the case, such as the severity of economic losses, physical damages, and even the intentions of the defendant. Receiving a particular diagnosis in regard to emotional distress can also impact the compensation awarded.

Q: What Is the Cap on Emotional Distress Damages in California?

A: While California does not technically impose a cap specifically for emotional distress damages, there are other specifications about compensation that may affect someone suing for emotional distress. For example, in cases of medical malpractice, a victim is only able to receive up to $250,000 for non-economic damages. For this reason, it is important to ask for the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure you receive the maximum in damages.

Contact Ewing Law Group Today

If you or someone you love has experienced emotional distress because of the actions of someone else, it is important to seek compensation. Emotional damage can be equally or more severe than physical damages. Contact Ewing Law Group today to learn more about how our attorneys can help you get the appropriate compensation that you deserve.

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