Accidents can result in severe emotional distress. The victims of accidents and serious injuries often experience emotional distress for years or decades, and some will experience emotional distress for the rest of their lives.
In California, emotional distress is considered a form of non-economic damages. You may be entitled to compensation for this type of loss if you were injured through no fault of your own.
What Qualifies as Emotional Distress?
Before we talk about how to quantify emotional distress damages, it is first necessary to clarify what qualifies as emotional distress. The California Civil Jury Instructions define emotional distress as follows:
“Emotional distress includes suffering, anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation, and shame. Serious emotional distress exists if an ordinary, reasonable person would be unable to cope with it.”
As mentioned above, emotional distress damages provide financial compensation for accident victims’ non-economic losses. If you need treatment for your emotional distress, this is a financial cost that makes up a separate portion of your overall claim for damages.
Emotional distress damages cover the day-to-day effects of your injuries. They are intended to compensate you for the negative impacts you experience as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional misconduct.
How Do You Prove Emotional Distress?
Since emotional distress is a form of non-economic damages, how do you prove that you are entitled to financial compensation? Unlike medical bills or lost wages, you cannot simply add up your losses.
Instead, you must prove that the accident has a direct and substantial impact on your daily life. With this in mind, some examples of evidence that can be used to prove (and subsequently quantify) emotional distress damages include:
- Medical Records – Your medical records can help prove the extent of your physical injuries and the accident’s psychological effects. These are both highly relevant to proving and quantifying your emotional distress.
- Expert Testimony – In addition to your medical records, your attorney can also obtain testimony from your doctors and other medical experts. This testimony will focus on explaining how the accident has negatively impacted and will continue to negatively impact your day-to-day life.
- Your Daily Notes – When you have a personal injury claim, it is important to try to take notes on a daily basis. By recording your daily pain levels, incidents that cause you to experience anxiety or depression, and the other ongoing effects of the accident, you can help prove your claim for emotional distress damages.
- Your Testimony – Your attorney may also recommend that you testify in a deposition or on the witness stand if your case goes to trial. In many cases, an accident victim’s own testimony can be among the strongest forms of evidence of emotional distress.
- Testimony from Your Friends and Loved Ones – Your attorney may also recommend that your friends and family members provide testimony. If these individuals can speak in detail to how the accident has changed your life, their testimony could be extremely helpful as well.
- Photo or Video Evidence – Before-and-after photos, video compilations, and other similar types of evidence can also be used to help prove emotional distress. Here, too, your attorney can provide recommendations regarding how best to prove your claim.
How Do You Calculate Damages for Emotional Distress?
Using these types of evidence, among others, an experienced attorney will be able to build a compelling case for fair compensation. In California, there are two primary methods that insurance companies utilize to calculate emotional distress damages:
1. The Multiplier Method
With the multiplier method, the first step is to calculate the current and future financial costs of your injuries. Then, damages for your emotional distress are determined by multiplying this amount by a number that is typically between 1.5 and 5. The more evidence you have to prove the severity of your emotional distress, the higher this “multiplier” will be.
2. The Per Diem Method
With the per diem method, a daily compensation rate is applied to your emotional distress. This per diem rate is determined based on the severity of your emotional distress. The number of days (which could amount to years or decades) is determined based on your medical records and expert testimony.
With both methods, the more evidence you have – and the stronger the case you can present – the more you are likely to recover. Emotional distress damages are personal, and they can vary widely from one case to the next.
As an accident victim, you do not have to handle your situation on your own. However, you do have to take the first step.
Do you have a claim for emotional distress damages? To find out, schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of Mickey at (661) 333-3333 today. Attorney Mickey Fine serves clients in Bakersfield and nearby areas of California.