Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish Damages in Personal Injury

Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish Damages in Personal Injury
emotional distress in personal injury cases

In personal injury cases, damages refers to the permanent injuries suffered by the accident victim, for which monetary compensation is sought to help make them "whole” again. Personal injury awards and settlements are designed to compensate injured people for the harms and losses that they sustain. In certain cases, damages may be sought for the mental, emotional, and psychological injuries sustained by the injured plaintiff.

Emotional Distress / Mental Anguish

Mental anguish and emotional distress are sometimes used interchangeably to describe the emotional and psychological impact of a serious injury or a traumatic accident. These damages may be categorized under pain and suffering.


When someone suffers a catastrophic injury, the resulting changes can lead to depression and other mood disorders. In particular, depression frequently accompanies a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Other times, just dealing with pain, rehabilitation, life changes, and other consequences of injuries can lead to depression.


Feelings of dread and fear frequently manifest after a catastrophic accident. For example, it is not uncommon for the victim of a motor vehicle accident to fear re-entering a vehicle as a driver or a passenger. These individuals must deal with discomfort caused by certain situations. Occasionally, these individuals can become reclusive, which can create additional problems and challenges.


Anxiety is a common side-effect of a debilitating injury. Worrying about the future, finances, recovery, family, and other injury-related issues can take its toll. Over an extended period, anxiety can severely impact one’s enjoyment of life, and may require medication and psychological intervention to cope effectively.


Irritability, bitterness, anger, and even rage can manifest when someone has been wrongfully stripped of their physical or mental faculties by a negligent party. Struggling with physical and emotional disabilities can give rise to these feelings.


The inability to fall asleep and disturbed sleep patterns are issues frequently exhibited by those suffering from severe injuries, especially TBI and chronic pain conditions. Lack of sleep can impact individuals detrimentally during waking hours, leading to many of the documented effects of sleep deprivation.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Severe trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Catastrophic accidents, such as a motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and work injuries can have a serious impact and lead to PTSD.

Loss of sexual function

Physical and emotional changes after an injury-causing accident can lead to a disinterest in sexual activity or an inability to function sexually.

Supporting Evidence

Despite the very real manifestation of mental anguish and emotional distress, proving these damages is extremely difficult due to their non-tangible nature. It is thus important to demonstrate through the testimony of expert witnesses how these conditions arose, and how they impact the victim's life.

The following types of supporting evidence and testimony can help to demonstrate these damages in court:

  • Expert testimony from a mental health professional, psychiatrist, counselor, psychologist, licensed counselor, or therapist;
  • Fact witness testimony from friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, clergy, employers and others who have spent time with the victim before and after the injury;
  • Journaling by the plaintiff detailing their daily challenges, moods, issues and emotional distress;
  • Medical records, including records of prescription medication the patient is on to deal with the psychological effects of the accident and injury.


Emotional distress typically falls under the category of compensatory damages. Placing a dollar amount on these damages can be difficult, but not impossible. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand how to value these damages, and will fight to get you a fair and equitable settlement or award for all damages and losses.

If you are struggling with pain, anguish and emotional distress as the result of a catastrophic injury, contact The Reinartz Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. We’re on your side.