Individuals often focus on whether an injury incident leaves a victim with physical injuries when sometimes the ones that leave the most lasting impression are the mental or behavioral health ones, as is the case with emotional distress.
If you’re dealing with mental anguish, others may not know because such diagnoses often come with invisible scars. Know that you don’t have to settle for suffering in silence after your involvement in a preventable personal injury incident.
You may wonder what legal rights you have to seek accountability for the damages someone else’s infliction of harm has caused you. Below, we’ll address whether suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress in Illinois is an option available to you. Provided it is, we’ll spell out the steps you may want to consider taking in holding any responsible parties liable for their actions.
Do You Have Any Legal Grounds for Pursuing Compensation if You’re Afflicted by Emotional Distress in Illinois?
Illinois law allows personal injury victims to recover compensation for emotional distress (also referred to as emotional harm) in the same way a prospective plaintiff would file for compensation for any other damages they alleged to have suffered in a personal injury incident. However, there’s one caveat to filing a claim alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress in Illinois. Victims must be able to show that:
- The defendant’s conduct was both extreme and outrageous
- The defendant knew that their actions had a strong potential of you suffering or they specifically intended to inflict emotional distress upon you
- The defendant’s actions caused you to suffer emotional distress
You can generally take legal action if the onset of your emotional harm meets the elements described above.
What Types of Incidents Can Cause Someone To Suffer From Emotional Distress?
Almost any traumatic situation that stems from one or more parties’ negligence and causes injuries, whether mental or physical, may give way to a person suffering emotional distress. Some examples of these incidents include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including car wrecks, motorcycle collisions, and truck crashes
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Dangerous premises situations, such as slips and falls or assaults due to negligent security
- Medical malpractice incidents, which unnecessarily rob a person of their good health or cause a further deterioration of an existing ailment
These are just a few examples of situations that, had they only been averted, could have protected victims from unnecessarily suffering mental despair that inhibits their ability to live their best life.
A person’s wrongful death may also contribute to surviving loved ones also suffering emotional distress.
What Constitutes Emotional Distress?
Another key to determining whether you qualify to file a legal claim is whether the symptomology you’re experiencing aligns with the clinical definition of emotional distress.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, individuals who are suffering from emotional distress may experience the following symptoms:
- Persistent worrying
- Low energy
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lethargy or restlessness
- Guilt (without any discernable cause)
- Increased smoking and substance abuse (consumption of drugs and alcohol)
- Withdrawal from other individuals and things one likes
- Unexplained aches and pains, including headaches and stomach discomfort
Additional complaints individuals suffering from emotional distress often report include:
- A sense of being overwhelmed
- A sense of fear
- Embarrassment or humiliation
If you’ve been through a traumatic event and are experiencing the symptoms above, it’s best to seek medical assistance. A health care provider, such as a mental health provider, can diagnose and treat any ailment you may have.
Treatment Options for Emotional Distress
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who may be able to prescribe medications that can help alleviate your symptoms if they determine that you’re suffering from one of the common emotional distress-related conditions above.
While psychologists and mental health counselors don’t have the authority to write prescriptions, they do have at their disposal a wide range of therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as discussed at length in a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2018, and mindfulness, that may independently or collectively help improve your symptoms.
Proving You’re Suffering From Emotional Distress
Now that you’re clear about what emotional distress is and how Illinois law allows you to sue for compensation for your emotional distress following a traumatic accident, you’re likely wondering what evidence can be used to prove such a claim. They include:
- Counseling or medical records that chronicle your reports of emotional distress
- Journal entries or emotion logs detailing the pervasiveness of your mental anguish or emotional turmoil
- Any evidence that shows a direct correlation between the onset or exacerbation of your emotional distress and how it aligns with when your accident occurred
Taking Legal Action After Suffering Emotional Distress in Illinois
Victims who’ve endured emotional distress can file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the person who directly caused their injuries, such as a drunk motorist, or who played a contributory role in causing them, like a property owner that was negligent in securing their premises.
While victims can certainly try and pursue damages for emotional distress on their own without the assistance of legal counsel, it can be challenging. Insurance companies tend to aggressively try and fight liability whenever possible.
If you do decide to meet with an attorney to discuss your case and options for suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress in Illinois, it can be helpful for you to bring a few pieces of documentation with you. Anything that can help prove the elements of emotional distress outlined above and its impact on your life can aid a lawyer in assessing the strength of your potential case and whether an insurance adjuster will see you as deserving of compensation.