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Can I sue someone for emotional distress?

You may find it surprising to realise that emotional distress and suffering inflicted on you by others is not simply something that you have to put up with. Intentionally caused emotional distress, or distress caused by negligence, is actually something that you may be able to claim personal injury compensation for. Often, a claim for emotional pain and suffering forms part of a claim for physical injuries – for example, if you have suffered serious injuries you may struggle with anxiety and depression afterwards. But it’s also possible to make a claim even if you have not been physically injured, provided you can prove that the distress caused has greatly affected your quality of life.

What is intentional infliction of emotional distress?

As the name suggests, intentional infliction of emotional distress is when somebody acts recklessly to intentionally cause you psychological harm and discomfort. It may be that you want to claim compensation for emotional distress that was not caused intentionally, but was a result of somebody else’s negligence – for example, if you have been seriously injured in an accident at work and your employer was negligent, it is normal to suffer from anxiety and depression as you come to terms with how your injury will affect your quality of life.

Common symptoms of emotional distress

It can be difficult to assess whether or not you are suffering from emotional distress, as the symptoms can vary from person to person. Having helped hundreds of people claim compensation for all sort of mental and physical conditions since 2000, here are some of the most common symptoms that Accident Advice Helpline’s advisors and lawyers have come across:

  • Sleep disturbance such as trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping more/less
  • Changes in eating patterns or fluctuation in weight
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as constipation, headaches or backache
  • Compulsive/obsessive behaviour
  • Difficulty managing anger
  • Memory problems
  • Chronic fatigue/lack of energy
  • Erratic behaviour and mood swings
  • Avoiding social activities

If you notice yourself suffering from several of these symptoms for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to see your GP for a diagnosis and to rule out any underlying physical causes. If you feel that emotional distress is causing your symptoms then you could get in touch with us to make a personal injury claim within three years of the accident or incident which led to your symptoms.

Emotional distress at work or after an accident

It may be that you have suffered emotional distress after being wrongfully dismissed from your job, or subjected to severe racial or sexual harassment at work. You may even have been on the receiving end of threatening behaviour that has left you feeling anxious and stressed. Provided you can prove that another person’s actions caused you serious distress that has affected your quality of life, it should be possible to make a claim for compensation. Harassment at work is a bigger problem than many of us would like to admit – in fact, in a poll of 1,553 women carried out in August 2016, 52% said that they had suffered from some form of sexual harassment at work.

This type of behaviour can lead to avoidance behaviour, emotional distress, anxiety and depression – it could even lead to the loss of your job if you begin avoiding going to work. Racial harassment is no laughing matter either – a survey of over 24,000 workers in the UK (the largest ever survey of race at work) revealed that racial harassment and workplace bullying are on the rise across the country.

If you have suffered distress after an accident then your claim will normally form part of a claim which also includes physical injuries. For example if you have suffered life-changing injuries such as a spinal injury after a fall from height at work or a brain injury in a road traffic accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your physical injuries and financial losses, as well as for the emotional distress your injuries have caused you. In 2015, 22,137 people suffered serious injuries in car accidents in the UK, and a fair percentage of these accidents probably led to personal injury claims.

Claiming compensation for emotional distress

Perhaps you are considering claiming compensation for emotional distress after a workplace incident, an accident or even after witnessing a violent assault. You could even claim compensation for emotional trauma after being a bystander during a domestic violence incident. Did you know that one in four women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and in 90% of domestic violence incidents at home, children are in the same or next room? If you have come under threat of violence whilst witnessing a domestic violence incident involving an immediate family member, then Accident Advice Helpline could help you make a claim for emotional suffering compensation. The claims process doesn’t have to be complicated, no matter what your reasons for claiming – we simply need to prove that you have sustained significant emotional suffering as a result of somebody else’s intentional or negligent behaviour.

How much compensation can you get for an emotional distress claim?

The amount of compensation you could receive for an emotional distress claim will depend on the severity of your distress and the impact it has had on your life – it will also depend on whether your claim forms part of a claim for physical injuries also. There have been cases where people have been awarded as much as £20,000 for emotional distress alone, and at the other end of the scale cases where a settlement of a few hundred pounds has been gratefully received.

The best way to get the ball rolling on your claim and find out how much compensation you could be entitled to receive is to get in touch with Accident Advice Helpline on 0800 689 5659 to get confidential, no-obligation advice from our expert team of advisors.