5 Examples of Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Cases

If you have experienced emotional distress from a car crash, you could be entitled to compensation. Read on to learn more
man sitting down with hands on his head in emotional distress after an accident

In its 2021 crash report, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles estimated that 161 people are injured daily in motor vehicle accidents in the Commonwealth. If you have been in a motor vehicle crash or any other traumatic event, you know it can impact you in more ways than one. Besides the physical pain from your injuries, an accident can fill your life with financial stress, depression, and other mental and emotional hardships. If you have experienced emotional anguish from your car crash, you can claim compensation in your personal injury case. 

In this post, our experienced personal injury lawyers from Renfro & Renfro, PLLC provide an overview of what counts as emotional distress and five examples of emotional distress in lawsuits. We understand the challenges you could face trying to get fair compensation. Our attorneys are ready to help fight for your rights and ensure you get the compensation you deserve. 

What is Emotional Distress?

In a legal sense, emotional distress or mental anguish is the mental suffering resulting from someone else’s actions, either accidental or on purpose. Typical symptoms of emotional distress include depression, anxiety, shame or guilt, weight gain or weight loss, flashbacks, insomnia, chronic pain, and more. 

Five Examples of Emotional Distress

Most personal injury victims experience some emotional distress but in varying severity levels. Here are some common examples of emotional distress:

General pain and suffering

Pain and suffering are the physical discomforts, pain, anguish, inconvenience, and emotional trauma one suffers after an injury. In personal injury claims, pain and suffering is compensable as noneconomic damages. However, suing for pain and suffering after a traumatic event can be complicated. It is always advisable to seek legal help from an experienced personal injury lawyer. 


It is common for victims of car crashes to experience depression after the injury. Depression is one of the most severe types of emotional anguish that can affect victims or witnesses of debilitating injuries. Some warning signs of depression include difficulty concentrating, pessimism and hopelessness, sleep problems, irritability, and persistent sadness. For the victims of traumatic events such as road accidents, the symptoms of depression can be worsened by factors such as the pain that prevent them from sleeping and worry about lost income. 

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders could develop after any accident or emotional trauma. These disorders create ongoing episodes of intense fear, terror, and anxiety that could interrupt your daily routine and impact your quality of life. Typical symptoms of anxiety disorders include insomnia, sweating, feeling tense or restless, stomach upset, and trouble concentrating. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Experiencing or witnessing terrifying events can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a serious type of emotional distress that can develop weeks, months, or even years after the triggering event. Common symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, fearful thoughts, adverse changes in feelings, feelings of blame, and tense or jumpy feelings. 

Panic disorder or panic attacks

Traumatic events like car accidents, robbery, or sexual assault can trigger long-term panic attacks. Panic disorder or panic attacks often occurs without warning to throw a person into a frenzy that makes them feel they are dying. Symptoms of panic attacks include chest pains, difficulty breathing, sweating, intense terror, and rapid pulse.

Can I Get Compensation For Emotional Distress Without Bodily Harm?

Generally, most types of mental anguish are tied to bodily injury. Although it is possible to get compensation for emotional distress without related physical harm, it is often a more difficult process rigged with several legal roadblocks based on your state’s personal injury laws. 

How Can I Prove My Emotional Distress?

Usually, mild emotional distress in injury claims can be claimed without a specific diagnosis. However, if you have suffered severe emotional distress resulting in symptoms such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, or panic attacks, your emotional distress damages must be reported to your doctor and supported with diagnostic and treatment records. The following is some of the documentation of your mental anguish that can help prove your claim:

  • Medical records
  • Daily journal entries
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs and videos of injuries

Emotional distress is one category of damages you can claim in your personal injury lawsuit. However, pursuing this type of claim is not always easy, especially if you are without legal representation. To win your claim, you must prepare the evidence that shows you suffered emotionally after your accident. You must also prove the severity of your injuries and include the demand for compensation in your legal filings. 

Engage a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney in Richmond, VA 

If you or a loved one has suffered mental anguish after a car crash or other traumatic incident, contact a Richmond, VA, personal injury lawyer. At Renfro & Renfro, our experienced Virginia injury attorneys will ensure you get fair compensation for psychological harm caused by others. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (804) 601-4433 or contacting us online.

We look forward to working with you!



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