How to Prove Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Claim?

December 14, 2020

An injury can cause more than just physical damage. Most victims also experience substantial mental, psychological and emotional harm from serious accidents. In Arizona, injured victims can seek financial compensation for emotional distress as a category of noneconomic damages. If you plan on seeking compensation for this type of loss, however, you or your personal injury lawyer will need to prove your eligibility.

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Claim?

In every personal injury claim in Arizona, it is the injured party’s (plaintiff’s) responsibility to fulfill the burden of proof. The burden of proof in a civil case is enough evidence to establish the at-fault party’s (defendant’s) negligence as more likely to be true than not true. This is less than the burden of proof in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt) in Arizona. Before the courts will award you any financial compensation for an injury, you or your lawyer will need to show clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s fault, as well as proof of your losses.

What Can Serve as Evidence of Emotional Distress?

The two categories of compensatory damages you can collect in a personal injury claim in Arizona are economic and noneconomic. Economic damages refer to financial losses you sustained due to the accident or injury, such as medical bills, property repairs and losses of income. Noneconomic damages are personal losses, not financial or tangible ones. They can describe emotional distress, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost quality of life, and other intangible losses.

To recover compensation for economic damages, you or your lawyer will use evidence such as hospital bills, pay stubs, vehicle repair estimates, letters from your doctor and receipts. When proving emotional distress, however, you may not have hard evidence available. Instead, your lawyer may utilize other types of evidence, such as your own testament as to how the accident and injury impacted your life, to establish your eligibility for emotional distress damages.

Keep an injury journal after an accident in Arizona. Describe your thoughts, feelings and emotional state as a result of your serious injuries. An injury journal can help you tell your story and describe how an injury has impacted you personally. If you see a therapist about your accident or injury, testimony from your therapist during your claim could also serve as evidence as to your mental or emotional state. Your lawyer can also use testimony from your friends and loved ones to show how you and your life have changed since the accident.

What Is the Average Award for Emotional Distress in Arizona?

If your lawyer succeeds in proving emotional distress during your personal injury claim, a jury will assign a pain and suffering award it believes matches your level of harm. The jury will analyze how the accident and injury have impacted your life, as well as how it will continue to change your life in the future. While a jury has full discretion over how much to award for emotional distress, most juries use one of two calculation methods.

The first is the Multiplier Method. If the jury uses this method, it will multiply the total amount awarded in economic damages by a number that represents the severity of your losses. If you have a permanently disabling injury, for instance, the jury may use a multiplier of five. The second method is the Per Diem Method. This method multiplies the number of days you will likely experience emotional distress from the injury by a suitable amount – usually an amount that matches your daily wage.

There is no accurate average award for emotional distress. Every case is unique. The best way to determine how much you may be eligible to receive in emotional distress damages is by talking to an attorney. Although there is no specific formula for calculating noneconomic damages, a lawyer can let you know how much you may recover based on the specific facts of your case.