How and When Can I Make a Personal Injury Claim for Emotional Distress in Kansas City?

How and When Can I Make a Personal Injury Claim for Emotional Distress in Kansas City?

When an individual fails to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing emotional injury or intentionally inflicts emotional distress to another, the victim who suffers emotional distress may be able to seek compensation for their injuries.  While most states and federal tort law permit a lawsuit based on intentional infliction of emotional distress, many states severely limit the right to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  A lawsuit based on the infliction of emotional distress without physical injury generally requires conduct that is extreme and outrageous.  When mere insults or trivialities are surpassed, and the conduct of another is regarded as atrocious and beyond the bounds that would normally be accepted by a civilized society, damages may sometimes be available for emotional injury.  One such example of inflicting emotional distress would be for someone to falsely inform a husband that his wife had just been killed in a horrendous car accident.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress weighs two factors: (1) The relationship between two or more parties and (2) The susceptibility level of the plaintiff.  Infliction of emotional distress is given more weight if the defendant was in a position of authority over the plaintiff, and if the defendant knew the plaintiff would be susceptible and used this knowledge to take advantage and inflict distress in an egregious manner.

A claim of emotional distress may go forward if the following is proven:

  • The defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous.
  • The defendant, through reckless or intentional disregard, caused the plaintiff’s emotional distress.
  • It can be proven the plaintiff did indeed suffer emotional distress as a result of the defendant’s reckless disregard.
  • The cause of the plaintiff’s emotional distress is directly related to the actions of the defendant.

While virtually all jurisdictions recognize lawsuits based on intentional infliction of emotional distress, many states are far more restrictive when the claim is for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  The jurisdiction may require certain specific elements to bring a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim including:

  • The emotional distress is a result of physical injury, such as the emotional distress associated with the loss of one’s bodily function or disfigurement.
  • The person suffers emotional distress from observing a gruesome incident as a bystander.
  • The person must be within the “zone of danger” when a close family member is injured so that the plaintiff also could have been injured.
  • The action is universally recognized as causing emotional distress, such as misdelivering a death notice or mishandling the corpse of the plaintiff’s love one.

Personal injury that results in intense emotional distress can also be the result of a catastrophic car accident that can leave the victim mentally, physically and emotionally traumatized.  Personal injury law may permit an accident victim to file a claim that includes not only economic damages but also non-economic damages like emotional distress.  The law generally recognizes emotional distress as a compensable injury.  However, the availability of damages for emotional injuries can depend on the type of case and the specific law of your state.  It is important to contact an experienced Kansas City personal injury attorney in Kansas or Missouri to obtain legal advice and an assessment of your legal rights.