Is Emotional Distress Considered a Personal Injury?

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Is Emotional Distress Considered a Personal Injury?

November 23, 2022
By Lafferty Gallagher Scott

Absolutely. Sometimes, especially since Ohio laws are so broad in this area, emotional distress is a standalone personal injury claim. More frequently, emotional distress is a component of a physical personal injury claim. Emotional distress is one of the most important components of noneconomic damages. This category also includes things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), and loss of enjoyment in life.

Regardless of the nature of the injury, victims need and deserve compensation. They need it to pay doctor bills, therapist bills, and other accident-related expenses. They deserve it because, under Ohio law, financial compensation must put victims in the same place they occupied before a wreck. A Toledo personal injury lawyer works hard to obtain this compensation in court. A lawyer’s primary job in these cases is to help victims put their lives back together and move on as best they can. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously.


Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress is unavailable, or mostly unavailable, in many states. However, NIED claimants in Ohio must only prove that the:

  • The victim’s emotional distress was extremely serious to the point of being debilitating, and
  • Defendant’s conduct was unintentional.

In this context, “unintentional” basically means “non-malicious.” Usually, when tortfeasors (negligent drivers) cause car wrecks, they intentionally or deliberately sped, drove drunk, or whatever caused the wreck. However, the tortfeasor had no malice toward the victims.

As a practical point, NIED claimants are usually personal injury bystanders. Very few victims of falls, car crashes, and other accidents emerge without any physical injury whatsoever.

Some NIED factors considered are whether the plaintiff was near the scene of the accident, whether their shock resulted from witnessing the accident directly, as opposed to learning of the accident from others after the fact, and whether the plaintiff and the victim of the accident had a relationship. Some states refer to these NIED claims as bystander claims.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress is a lot like NIED, except that, you guessed it, the conduct was intentional. Assault is probably the most common intentional tort. The law in this area is still developing. The Buckeye State was the nation’s last jurisdiction to recognize the independent tort of intentional emotional distress.

Physical Injuries That Cause Emotional Distress

Broken bones, head injuries, and other wounds not only have physical effects. They also have emotional effects. Generally, the emotional distress in a personal injury claim is related to the uncertainty these victims feel. They simply have no idea what tomorrow holds. Financial stress contributes as well. The medical bills in a catastrophic injury matter often exceed $100,000. Attorneys usually work with medical providers and defer these expenses until the case is settled. However, victims must pay these bills eventually.

Emotional distress and other noneconomic damages are difficult to calculate. Some things, like walking a trail on a sunny day or pushing a toddler in a swing, do not have price tags. Frequently, attorneys use a multiplier to calculate noneconomic damages. Typically, lawyers multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on the facts of the case, the legal theories available to both sides, and a few other factors.

Rely on Diligent Lucas County Attorneys

Vehicle collisions often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Toledo, contact Lafferty, Gallagher & Scott LLC. 










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